I thought I might have been too far in front of the curve with my last column, "BI for the Real Masses," which talked about the potential of turning elements of business intelligence and analytics back to the consumer. By the consumer, I meant looking past the four walls into the channel and beyond, figuring there was a good deal of scrutable processed and unprocessed corporate information of value to both. I did receive a fair amount of feedback, which is why we'll have one more look at the topic before moving on. As it turns out, only one person wrote to say the column was irrelevant to the current state of the market. Another other four or so readers commented specifically on efforts in their companies to turn certain databases of information and attendant tools back to the channel or consumer directly. I can't quote the specifics readers passed along because I didn't have time to get permission, but I hope to follow up on them.

The efforts described to me by readers are all over the map, but directed at cost containment and revenue generation and I think a couple of factors are driving the effort. The first is the notion of centralized repositories of information, which is a tenet of business intelligence. Just five or six years ago when topics such as BI and even customer relationship management (CRM) were still on the fringe of the mainstream, we talked and wrote a good bit about "buy-side" and "sell-side" applications. The former tended to draw on supply chain technologies for planning and optimization, the latter on CRM for sales force automation, service management and the like. Each was coupled to its own database and possibly to electronic data interchange (EDI) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

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