Editor's Note: For this special issue, we asked our columnists to cover a variety of e-business topics. Their insightful commentary provides a well- rounded outlook as to the benefits and challenges of the e-world. Regular column format will return next month.

Special thanks to Nancy Stewart who contributed to this month's article.

T he latest item to be found in the alphabet soup of the business of business intelligence is EIP, which stands for enterprise information portal. There is a move afoot to rename it BIP (business intelligence portal), but frankly Scarlett, we don't give a damn. The notion is the same: to provide an easy-to-use, easy-to-configure means of allowing all sorts of people to access all that great data tucked away in various warehouses or drifting through cyberether.

EIP has captured the minds and hearts of many IT vendors, both small and large, who view it as the next big buck opportunity. From luminaries such as Microsoft and IBM to wannabees such as Covia and SageMaker, the race for the new holy grail is just beginning to gather momentum. In an attempt to sort out what was really going on, Survey.com surveyed more than a thousand IT-user organizations about their current and future plans for EIP. It found that although the market is truly in an embryonic state today, the long-term opportunity may well justify the large investments that are being made by both vendors and users to deploy EIP technology.

The survey found that about 15 percent of users have or are in the midst of deploying an EIP, while another 68 percent are planning to do so in the near future. Although motivational factors vary from enterprise to enterprise as one would expect, many of these factors are relatively consistent throughout the survey population. Figure 1 contains a list of the top five reasons for deploying EIP. Those readers involved in preparing a business case for EIP take heed: access, analyze, control, share and distribute are the operative words.

Figure 1: Top Five Reasons for an EIP Solution

I Want to Buy an EIP, but Quicken Shopper Can't Find It

About fifty vendors are competing for some piece of your EIP buck. Most of them no doubt fall into the "I never heard of them" category. These smaller vendors have come out of the woodwork as it were, purporting to offer more innovation at less cost than the more recognizable names. Many of them will function behind the scenes, selling their wares through major vendors while remaining largely hidden from the end consumer of their products.

Since the installed base of EIP solutions is very small, it is premature to talk about winners and losers at this juncture. Suffice it to say that there are no companies assured of dominance in the market, although it is probably safe to say that Microsoft and IBM will each have a significant piece of the action no matter how the market evolves. The survey polled respondents to find out which vendors had the greatest mind share in the EIP business. The top ten companies appear in Figure 2. All of these companies were cited by at least 20 percent of the survey population.

  1. Microsoft
  2. IBM
  3. Hummingbird/PC DOCS
  4. SAP
  5. PeopleSoft
  6. Brio
  7. Netscape
  8. J.D. Edwards
  9. Sybase
  10. BroadVision

Figure 2: Ten Best-Known EIP Solution Vendors

What Do I Do with an EIP?

If you read the marketing hype, you may well have envisioned an EIP making and serving breakfast in bed in response to your voice commands or hand signals. It turns out that while that particular application is not terribly practical, there are many applications for which an EIP is particularly well-suited. Figure 3 contains a list of the top ten applications uncovered in the survey. With some minor ranking adjustments, this list is basically identical to the one that appears in almost any analysis of the BI market.

Figure 3: Ten Most Popular Applications for EIP-Based Solutions

Whether or not an EIP is simply an extension of the BI delivery process or a separate business category is debatable. Nonetheless, in the majority of cases, BI data will comprise a significant component of EIP content. In such cases, it may make sense for users to spend time with vendors that integrate EIP into complete BI solutions rather than those that offer EIP as an end product unto itself.

The survey found that executives are the single most important group to have EIP access. (Other groups, such as customers, managers, salesfolk, etc., are also important, of course.) This is really cool, because what executives want, they usually get. Therefore, an EIP should be a relatively easy internal sale!

As DM Review readers know all too well, the world of IT has three quintillion real industry standards, de facto industry standards and proprietary standards. Sorting out which ones ought to be supported by an EIP- based solution is, let us say, challenging. Survey respondents were asked to identify those standards they believed were critical to EIP deployment. In the open-systems environment, XML is the most important technology followed by LDAP, SSL and CORBA. In the proprietary arena, Java is mentioned most frequently as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Five Most Important Proprietary Standards

Survey respondents indicated that deployment of an EIP solution to an office of 100 users should take an average of 11 weeks and an average of 21 weeks for a department of 1,000 users ­ in other words, roughly three to six months from initial implementation to operational status. Although few respondents had sufficient time to evaluate the return from an EIP-based solution, the average expectation is that it should pay for itself within nine months. If you are accustomed to the usual 30- month cycle for a big data warehouse, no doubt EIP sounds like a walk in the park.

If you even casually perused this article, you now know that EIPs are probably going to be a big deal, but not as big a deal as some in lalaland would have you believe. Clearly, EIP offers significant benefits in rapid applications deployment and ease of use. Further, it is likely to engender a lot of support from the kind of people who approve budgets. We advise you to try it. We think you'll like it.

Nancy Stewart is senior analyst for BI/DW Research at Survey.com and can be reached at nancy@survey.com.

This will be Michael P. Burwen's last contribution to DM Review as he is retiring. DM Review wishes to thank Michael for his monthly View from the Market column. Michael wishes to thank the hundreds of readers who took the time to send him e-mails in response to his columns, especially those who disagreed with him. To the latter he says "find somebody else to pick on," along with other (unprintable) remarks.

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