In my previous column ("Defining BISPs,", May 5, 2000) introduced a new category of service provider – the business intelligence service provider, or BISP. This column continues the definition of BISPs and the segmentation of this market niche.

  • Management and administration. For BISPs that offer an analytic application, centralized management enables the provider to roll out new releases transparently, whether major or incremental, with zero administration (or close to it) for both provider and users.
  • Packaging. Some BISPs dangle the ease and speed of hosting as the lure that hooks their customers. This lowers barriers to evaluation and adoption. However, many customers want a BI solution in-house, for reasons of security, performance, liability or shear paranoia. To satisfy both types of customer, some BISPs (following the lead of a few ASPs) architect their systems so they can be deployed in either ASP or turnkey models. When both models are supported, there is typically a migration path between the two. In other words, the customer begins with the hosted BISP as a convenient medium for prototyping, then installs the turnkey solution at a later stage.
  • Niche BISPs. Some of the niche services that a few BISPs provide include data cleansing, matching and authentication, performed online to ensure high quality for data coming from Internet sources such as Web page forms. Other BISPs focus on providing or enhancing customer profiles online to support the cross-sell and up-sell efforts of e-commerce Web sites.
  • Platform requirements. A BISP platform must deal with Internet-based data collection, which is typically high-volume, requires considerable processing and is loaded into databases that are both aggregated and highly granular. A BISP platform also must give its users access to this data through browser-based analytic tools, which entail Web-based queries, large multidimensional result sets returned via the Internet and the high-performance and high-availability expectations of impatient Internet users. BISP implementers must carefully choose hardware and software systems that are designed for the Internet and can address these issues.

THE HURWITZ TAKE: Some users want to see only their data, while others are interested in seeing their corporate performance in the context of a larger market. A BISP is communal by nature, such that there is the possibility of aggregating data across all subscribers so users can see how they compare to other members (possibly competitors) of the community. Hurwitz Group sees aggregated communal data as one of the greatest benefits of a BISP because it helps avoid the "data myopia" that is too often designed into business intelligence systems.

Most ASPs, Internet-based portals, Internet trade exchanges and other types of dot-coms are well positioned to collect and add value to data representing the online behavior of the members of their online business communities. Yet, they are – almost categorically – ignoring this opportunity for adding value to their offerings. End users contemplating a subscription to any of these communities should ensure that there is an analytic component that helps them avoid myopia. Likewise, providers of online communities should give their customers added analytic value by including the capabilities of a BISP, whether built by the provider or supplied from a partnering BISP.

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