If you're not a BI expert (like me) and you went to Gartner's recent BI Summit in Las Vegas to feel good about BI, you would have been terribly disappointed. This had nothing to do with Gartner, they put on a great conference. It was more about the state of affairs of the BI market. "We have to align the Business with IT for better results." I wish I had a $10 chip for every time I heard this said by analysts and customers alike. Seriously? I would have sworn that this is now common sense in the IT world, not some new age enlightenment: If you are building for the business, make sure the business is intimately involved. We've been aligning IT with the Business for the last decade, haven't we?
I'm being flippant and serious at the same time. I do believe IT wants to give the business what they want, but the problem is the nature of how BI systems must be built. Sure, the marketing is sexy: 'Instant Insight into your Business. Realtime Enterprises need Realtime Data. Optimizing your Value Chain with Analytics.' But the devil is in the details. The amount of work to get the data, cleanse the data, normalize the data, and build efficient queries on the data can be massive and take years. One customer at the conference (of one of the 'big 4' BI vendors) said it best: "We spent four years building out our BI system. We ended up with 1,000 BI reports and zero business intelligence." Four years to find out you failed!
I'll go out on a limb and propose that the BI problem is much the same as the traditional 'big bang' ERP implementations: large software systems require so much work to fulfill the core requirements that there is little time left to incorporate flexibility and agility. Sure, some in the BI industry have made efforts to address their problems. For example, some are trying to reinvent the way BI does ETL, data warehouses and data marts. Or to empower business users to help solve the problem "self-service" style through solutions like Microsoft's upcoming PowerPivot Excel plugin.
But I got really excited by Gartner Analyst Kurt Schlegel when he cited "data mashups" as one of the nine BI technologies to watch. I couldn't agree more. I had the chance to listen to Seth Grimes, the deep-thinking BI pundit at Intelligent Enterprise, talk about the natural synergy of Enterprise Mashups and BI. He called it 'Nimble Business Intelligence' and described it as 'flexibility, self-service, speed-to-insight.' Seth concluded with perhaps his most important point: Enterprise Mashups do not replace BI solutions. They sit side-by-side, complimenting each other. Certainly, Enterprise Mashups can consume BI services and make them part of mashup apps. And the opposite is also true.
BI and Mashups? I admit I am no BI expert but there seems to be a lot of potential for synergy between the two technologies, I think. I see this as the perfect way for the BI industry to get closer to the business user and farther away from the four-year-BI-doesn't-meet-our-user's-needs debacles. Mash on!