Gartner: BI and CPM together for the long haul

Gartner analysts explained why integrated business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM) is a strategic imperative at their Business Intelligence Summit.

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CHICAGO -- Listening to the opening keynote speakers at the annual U.S. Gartner Business Intelligence Summit, it seemed like the conference might need a new name.

Throughout the introductory address, analysts from the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm made frequent references to "business intelligence (BI)-corporate performance management (CPM)." Analysts used the term "BI-CPM" (or simply "BI-PM") throughout the presentation -- in many places where attendees might have expected to hear simply "BI." The new terminology is indicative of a major shift in the industry, said Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner.

"By 2012, the BI-PM continuum will drive business transformation from the strategic to the operational levels," Burton said in her address.

Integrating business intelligence and corporate performance management has benefits, challenges

BI and PM integration means that companies can closely link insight from analytical tools with business objectives and processes, she explained. Whether through integrated applications or converging vendors, companies will begin to see the technologies as inextricably linked. BI-PM combinations will become pervasive in operational and workplace applications, Burton predicted, and companies will use embedded BI tools for more than just measuring their business. Businesses are moving toward this type of "process-centric BI," as she also described it, and will deploy it across the enterprise from executive management to operations departments. The goal is to enable better daily decision-making -- rather than current norm of using BI primarily for post facto, static analysis. It's all part of the trend toward the democratization of BI, which Gartner focused on during last year's summit address.

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"By 2012, users will interact with BI as an element of 85% of every business application," Burton reported, citing a Gartner study.

Implementing an enterprise-wide BI-PM system (and culture) will not be easy and will require the all-important cooperation of business and IT. Gartner's concept of a business information competency center is very important in driving a company's overall strategy, she said. Businesses must carefully plan their long-term BI goals and should work to standardize their BI architectures and application portfolios.

Burton identified additional technological trends over the next five years that included: the "Office-izing of BI," as companies seek to integrate BI with familiar end-user applications like Microsoft Office; development of tools and processes for "business activity monitoring;" BI integration with event-level process management; increased use of predictive models embedded in corporate processes and BI applications; service oriented architecture (SOA) enabled BI; integration of more unstructured data into BI applications; and, the "Google-izing of BI," which refers to incorporating more sophisticated search capabilities into BI applications.

Companies will shift away from "monolithic BI applications," Burton said. Mirroring the trend in enterprise infrastructures in general, BI platforms will become much more service oriented and will sit on top of a componentized architecture.

"That should make you nervous," Burton said to attendees. The way that applications are constructed and designed will change and many companies probably aren't ready for that just yet, she said.

"Skills are one of the largest impediments to BI [projects]," added Bill Hostmann, research vice president with Gartner.

Many companies lack internal skills for designing, building and simply using BI applications. Use of service providers will increase, he predicted, especially as BI and CPM continue to merge.

"The concepts of who is a BI-PM vendor will change," Hostmann said.

BI is a growing landscape, including pure-play specialists and major application vendors. Expect major market moves by Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and heretofore "missing in action" IBM, he said, referring to Big Blue's rather uncharacteristic silence on their BI strategy. Open source BI is at the edges of the market, he added, and still an unknown. Overall, the landscape is growing and this changing environment will force companies to scrutinize their vendors and their strategies carefully, he said.

The keynote's ideas about merging BI and PM were interesting, but it all seems very far down the line, said attendee Patricia Camino, a member of the information competency center at American Greetings, a Cleveland, Ohio, greeting card maker. Their team is at the beginning stages of figuring out their overall BI strategy, she said. And while aligning BI with performance and process management sounds valuable, Camino sees many potential challenges in getting there.

"All this process stuff is completely out of IT's control," Camino said. It's difficult to contemplate the major culture change that would be required at her company to achieve the vision laid out in the keynote presentation, she said.

"But the good thing about this stuff is that these are the things we've got to get the business to think about," Camino said. "We need to be thinking now about how BI is integrated into all of [the business]."

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