Titans spearhead BI resurgence

With companies looking to rip out 20-year-old reporting products and replace them with deeper analytics and Web-based reporting tools, it appears business intelligence (BI) may be in the midst of a major replacement cycle.

The changes to BI are happening on two fronts: the creation of industry-specific applications and the development of integrated BI platforms for reporting, analysis, and business monitoring.

IBM, Cognos, and MicroStrategy will release new products this week, whereas Business Objects made a major announcement earlier this month.

Reflecting the enterprise need for vertical solutions, IBM will unveil by the end of the first quarter a retail data warehouse co-developed with Cognos. It will join other vertical solutions for banking, telecommunications, and insurance introduced last year.

Jacque Coolidge, AMR Research's director of research, explained that although packaging up the content offers a quicker time to market, it won't provide a competitive advantage. "Some companies want to build their own. They don't want to share with competitors," he said.

Cognos and IBM this week unveiled the vertical Crime Information Solution. Karen Parrish, vice president of business intelligence solutions at IBM, said more companies are buying BI based on vertical needs. IBM is building data models that reflect the operational activities of a specific industry; in this case, law enforcement.

"These models define the operational environment in which you are working. We can do this because we know how a bank, an insurance company, or (a) law enforcement agency operates," Parrish said.

Rupert Bonham-Carter, director of global strategic alliances at Cognos, said IBM technology understands how to find the transactional data that is captured in various department silos. "Once the data is collected (in a data warehouse) it becomes available for analysis by Cognos," he said.

Late last week, IBM also partnered to integrate the MicroStrategy BI Platform into two of IBM's retail industry solutions.

This week MicroStrategy will issue MicroStrategy 8, its first major upgrade in three years. According to Sanju Bansal, COO at MicroStrategy, Version 8 will deliver one integrated platform for reporting, analysis, and continuous business monitoring.

"A business user can surf between all three components with full surety that the data that underlies those three different formats are defined the same way," Bansal said.

Two weeks ago, Business Objects launched a major upgrade, Business Objects XI (Extreme Insight), which integrates the acquired Crystal Reports.

The question remains whether the new BI technology is ahead of demand, said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

"Companies that understand the new capabilities and the new interrelationships between applications are going to need to upgrade," Greenbaum said.

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