A couple of years ago, I gave a series of keynote speeches on the concept of inter-organization data integration. The speech focused primarily on the fact that every customer is a shared customer. I had experience in the field implementing inter-organization data integration and discovered the value that could be unleashed by understanding not only your customer touchpoints, but those of other organizations.

This presentation resonated with some of my colleagues. In our resulting discussions, we soon took the concept beyond the point-to-point integration of business-to-business and extrapolated it into a general-purpose data integration and analysis service that we called Analysis, Inc.

We believed that the real value of business intelligence (BI) would be unleashed when it went beyond the limits of proprietary systems custom-built for individual businesses and into the realm of a generally available service that any application or system could call upon for data integration, transformation, quality and analysis services. Unfortunately for us, the enabling technology to give life to this vision was not widely available or adopted in those years. Happily that situation has changed, and we are now moving rapidly into a world where the basic infrastructure and standards to support such an idea are becoming part of the fabric of our technological world.

Finally, we will have the opportunity to make advanced, industrial-strength integration and analysis available to any user, any system and any application. In the near- to mid-term, we will have the ability to make calls to a wide variety of advanced services that will provide both exciting and powerful new capabilities. This will also require us to rethink most of the foundational tenets of our comfortable BI world.

Up to now, if we wanted to integrate data between organizations, we had to construct point-to-point interfaces. These interfaces were usually batch- oriented, intricate, challenging to construct and labor-intensive to maintain. Due to its high resource cost, this inter-organizational information integration was naturally limited to small subsets of data from close business partners or providers of value-add data, such as credit profiles.

Such handmade and maintained inter-organization data integration has limited most organizations in their efforts to seamlessly analyze their supply chains. Because it has been so difficult to build and maintain data interfaces between companies, most sites have been limited in their ability to gain visibility beyond the first layer or "hop" of supply chain partners.

An even more challenging scenario has been to provide data analysis services on demand. In order to sell data analysis services, the same point-to-point data interfaces had to be constructed with each data analysis customer, along with appropriate security models. These systems were limited in impact and failed to reach broad market penetration due to the case-by-case architecture constraints and the resulting complex and costly maintenance.

The emerging world of BI Web services will allow us to tap into a vast BI services backbone which other organizations are also tied into. This BI services backbone will be one of the most powerful and important information innovations since the Internet. Open standards, such as UDDI directories, will enable visibility into a wider range of partners' data, as well as much easier access and utilization of third- party data suppliers' rich information inventories. Not only will companies built on the sale or rental of information thrive, but any BI system will now be able to realize its potential in a "data-as-revenue" scenario. The BI services backbone will also enable multiple hops across your supply chain, providing open access into all of your partners' information. In addition, by enabling "calls" for services across the interconnected systems interfaced to it, the BI services backbone will allow organizations of any size to perform advanced data analysis and data mining on their available information. This pay- per-play capability, meaning you only pay for the advanced analysis functions you actually use when you use them, frees organizations to focus on their core competencies and to leave the challenges of software research, development and maintenance to those dedicated to that task. Perhaps most importantly and powerfully, the BI services backbone will enable full realization and leverage of the shared customers between organizations.

Obviously, the power of the BI services backbone will require much rethinking of BI architectures and approaches. What was once required to be an integral component of BI systems will now be a service subcontracted on demand. What was once a confined, defined world of internal data with a smattering of third-party data will now be one component of a giant worldwide collection of BI systems connected to the BI services backbone. Tools such as ETL and information quality will become focused on enabling access to the directories of available services.

When I was delivering the keynotes that covered the concepts underlying Analysis, Inc. and the power of the shared customer, only the forward-looking organizations pursued those goals. In the near future, we will all be able to easily tap into the power of the BI services backbone.

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