Business intelligence getting smarter

The face of business intelligence tools is changing dramatically, and you need look no further than the announcements coming out of recent BI vendor user conferences to see the alterations in action.

What these upcoming changes could represent to IT organizations is an increase in the number of capabilities that the concept of BI can offer. The technology no longer involves merely generating streams of data and pouring over numbers to find links upon which business patterns emerge.

If the promises that the vendors are spouting to their respective faithfuls truly live up to their stated potentials, BI offerings could end up playing a vital role in creating robust business strategies that can keep a company ahead of its competition.

At this month’s Information Builders Inc. conference in Las Vegas (see our story on page 6), the company outlined its push around Operational Business Intelligence (OBI). According to the company, this concept will allow IT departments to more quickly take action on problems as they occur and thus tend to those problems in a more timely fashion.

This is accomplished, IBI says, through OBI’s ability to operate at a higher layer on the networking protocol stack. Instead of merely focusing on the data layer, this technology works at the application level. This allows for real-time monitoring of apps and, conceivably, quicker and more efficient cleanup of any problems that may have been detected.

This is pretty useful stuff, but IBI isn’t the only vendor that is looking to take BI to another level. In April, Hyperion Solutions Corp. used its annual user conference to tout its next-generation BI concept, known as Business Performance Management (BPM). Offerings around this idea allow customers to take raw data and quickly turn it into business rules and procedures — essentially taking ones and zeroes and turning them into easily digestible concepts that can guide a company into the future.

It seems fairly safe to conclude that such concepts, given their novelty factor, still have some growing pains to endure: users will give their feedback in the coming months and years on the products’ imperfections and will hopefully see them rectified. It will be interesting to see, however, what the BI landscape will look like in five years: most likely one that is much more practical — and useful — that that of today.