Monday, November 24, 2008

BI 2.0, Next Generation BI, and Everythig New and Improved

My fellow blogger Bhupendra Khanal has an interesting post that mentions the challenges associated with BI 2.0/Information 2.0 (he also plugs OpenI, my open source project, which is much appreciated -- Bhupendra, may OpenI karma come back to you thousand-fold :-) 

Software industry, not unlike any other, contains a lot of hype and probably sometimes even more so with all this 2.0 buzz, which probably seems cool to the industry insiders, but is definitely confusing to the market.

Take BI 2.0 (or Information 2.0) for example - what in the world does it mean? Well, turns out, at the end of the day, to most BI vendors, it means more fancy charts and graphs and dashboards, except this time they'll have rounded corners, larger fonts with brighter colors, and maybe a fit of Flash and/or Ajax thrown in for a good measure to demonstrate live interactivity.

All this is fine and well, but all this is also pure BS if you are not helping your user make better decisions, or informing them of something new.

If BI 2.0 or Information 2.0 is to be seen as the "next generation" (it seems you cant' escape these cliches), then it needs to go beyond charts/graphs/dashboard paradigm. BI applications and tools need to be rooted in the knowledge worker's workflow - and should be cognizant of the types of decisions that need supporting. BI needs to be aware of the domain context - i.e. which industry are you supporting? which area - marketing, finance, operations, research..? Because without this, the best BI can do is to provide nice visuals and hope and pray that the user knows how to translates them into intelligence and action.

But software can be better than that if is stops being lazy. And that's my hope with our work in OpenI. We certainly started in the charts/graphs/dashboards paradigm, so we are as guilty as anybody. But as they say in any 12-step plan, "acceptance" is the first step -- and now, we are moving towards a future of BI software that caters to the root need for intelligence -- i.e. not only that you see your data clearly, but you also see it in your specific business context, and get immediate option to act upon it.

For e.g. a marketing analytics BI application - once it incorporates the data about customers and marketing campaigns and resulting purchases -- should not wait for a user to define dashboards and reports, but rather already provide a suite of analyses that answer the most typical marketer's questions - i.e. how effective are my campaigns , who are my best customers/prospects, and what tactics work the best for individual customer segments? And don't stop there btw -- if you have identified some new and interesting customer segments - it should integrate with an online campaign manager tool to immediately launch new campaigns; or publish the list of your most valuable customers to your e-commerce engine or call center platform which know how to treat them in a special way; etc. etc.

Similar scenarios can be applied to other industries and domains too. We as BI software developers just need to imagine differently. And that's what 2.0, new version, or next generation is all about - next level of imagination.

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