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BI and DW: Crossing the Millennium

Published
  • April 01 1999, 1:00am EST

Regular readers no doubt know that I make my living analyzing the comings and goings of the business intelligence/data warehousing (BI/DW) marketplace and reporting the results of that analysis to the leading vendors. We do this mostly by organizing huge surveys of knowledgeable users who have been willing to participate in something we call the BI/DW Summit Panel. We ask these folks a lot of questions about their experiences and future plans. Then we aggregate all the data into a mini-warehouse and write reports based on the findings. Bruce Love, Teradata and Gartner Group alumnus, well-known author and expert on enterprise applications, took a look at the data in our warehouse and noted that it continued a wealth of information that could benefit the user community. After hitting Bruce over the head with a shovel a few times, he agreed to put on his user hat and write such a report himself. Three months later, Bruce emerged with a 265-page report he calls Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing: Crossing the Millennium.

Frankly, the depth of the information Bruce carved out of our warehouse blows me away. There are 175 charts in the report, and the list of exhibits alone runs six pages ­ a terrific example of what one can do with good data. I thought I'd devote the rest of this column to exposing you to a few of Bruce's nuggets.

First, rather than providing only a broad view of trends and issues, Crossing the Millennium dwells on those industry-based characteristics that differentiate types of user organizations. Bruce's analysis clearly shows significant differences in application adoption and motivation as a function of industry sector. Because he had a lot of data to work with, he was able to get away from the macro-stuff and get down to the nitty-gritty.

Although it is clear that many lessons can be learned from the experience of those who have "been there, done that," it is also clear that it is very dangerous to generalize. While enterprises may share similar motives and objectives, they may have very different IT infrastructures, operational systems, internal organizational structures and ways of doing things. BI/DW application goals and strategies that do not take these factors into account are headed for trouble.

Therefore, it behooves managers ­ from all organizations within an enterprise that are likely to influence or use a BI/DW application ­ to work together to arrive at a clear definition of objectives and approach before beginning the implementation process.

Our analysis shows that financial and sales/marketing applications are the most popular BI/DW applications in use today. Although these applications will continue to be the leading examples of what can be done with BI/DW technology for the near future, many other BI/DW applications can and will be deployed, including applications not yet conceived or developed.

As companies adopt and further expand their BI/DW programs in financial and sales/marketing applications, the trend is for them to move ahead by adopting new applications in the operations/product and supply chain/purchasing areas of their enterprises. Good BI/DW implementations will recognize the need to accommodate this expansion as well as the dramatic rise in the size of databases and the number of users ­ both for the applications currently running and for those applications to be implemented in the future.

Certain industries, particularly banking, insurance and telecommunications, tend to be leaders in the use of BI/DW applications. This does not mean that there are not leaders in other sectors, but that these industries tend to deploy more applications than do other sectors. It may be instructive for any enterprise to look at these industries to determine what characteristics tend to put them in leadership positions and to discern how they went about being successful.

Another of the more significant trends relating to the deployment of BI/DW applications is that during the next several years, users of these applications will be employees, customers, prospects and suppliers. No longer will the utility of BI/DW be confined to the relatively few managers and so-called "knowledge workers" that currently comprise the majority of BI/DW users.

The implications of this fundamental shift are considerable. BI/DW applications will be used to empower virtually every individual that has dealings with an enterprise. Systems that support thousands, even hundreds of thousands of users, rather than a few hundred will be necessary. To provide these many users with the appropriate access and tools will be a challenge for every organization. Internet, intranets and extranets will become the standard BI/DW communications vehicle, and most people will think of these BI/DW applications as inherently Internet-based. An enterprise-wide BI/DW strategy must go hand-in-hand with an Internet deployment strategy.

Well, there you have it. If you want to gaze at any of those 175 charts so you will be smarter than the guy down the hall, you'll have to fork over hard cash. Bruce is real adamant about that. However, you can get free copies of the table of contents and list of exhibits by visiting our Web site: www.pamg.com. While you are there, sign up for the BI/DW Summit Panel. (It's free!) You too can be heard.

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