BI, Mashups Are So Right for Each Other

Ann All

Those of you without preteens at home likely won't get this reference, but business intelligence and mashups are the Freddie and Carly of the enterprise.


Yesterday Nickelodeon aired a much-promoted episode of "iCarly" in which heroine Carly finally realizes she cares for Freddie, the geeky guy who produces her Web show and has long admired Carly from afar. Those of us who have watched the show for a while, thanks to our children, have long realized these kids are perfect for each other. We've tolerated lots of episodes where Carly dated hunkier guys and even one in which Carly's best friend and Freddie share a kiss.


Hopefully the fact these two finally revealed they "like like" each other won't ruin the show the way the release of sexual tension usually kills adult shows. ("Northern Exposure," "Moonlighting," etc.)


What does all that have to do with BI and mashups, you ask? BI is a lot like Freddie: It's solid and hardworking, perhaps more popular with parents (executives) than other kids, but with a lot to offer for kids willing to consider it. Mashups are like Carly: Edgier and more fun than Freddie, even though her grades are just as good as his.


About two months ago IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson asked the question Could Mashups Solve Problems Plaguing Business Intelligence? Her answer: Mashups can make it simpler for business users to produce their own reports by solving some of BI's data-integration issues.. More business users will want to use BI if they realize what it has to offer and don't have to run to IT for help integrating disparate data sources.


IBM seems convinced and recently connected its Cognos BI software with a new and more user-friendly version of its Mashup Center. In a demonstration at a user conference, IBM managers dragged Google Gadgets into the Mashup Center along with Cognos data to create a case for sales projections. Adding social elements, they showed how users could view recent changes to the mashup, ratings of mashups, tags, a list of most-discussed mashups and a wiki. It's also possible to integrate data from Microsoft's SharePoint and IBM's WebSphere MQ and FileNet into the mashups.


IBM isn't the only vendor thinking along these lines. Writing on the company blog, Quentin Gallivan, CEO of BI software-as-a-service provider PivotLink, taps mashups and social media as two of five trends he predicts will shape the SaaS BI market this year. (The other three: SaaS BI growth will outpace on-premise BI. Business users will demand more pre-packaged analytics. Companies will insist upon SAS-70 Type II certification a non-negotiable requirement for security.)


Regarding mashups, Gallivan says they can help integrate on-premise data with data from SaaS applications. He offers an example of linking sales pipeline data from a SaaS provider with demand-forecasting data from an internal ERP system. Gallivan calls the cloud "a natural place to integrate data for business analysis purposes."


Like IBM, PivotLink is promoting the value of both mashups and social data. Writes Gallivan:

For more operational decisions, mash-ups will allow users to assemble all of the relevant data to make a decision, while social capabilities will allow users to discuss the relevant data to generate "crowdsourced" wisdom. As a result, business users will be able to make decisions with greater confidence and understand how their decisions impact both the company's and their individual performance.

The beauty of mashups, writes John Crupi in an eBizQ column, is their ability to reverse the usual 80/20 equation of IT doing 80 percent of the heavy data lifting by allowing users to do more for themselves. I like Crupi's breakdown of responsibilities for both IT and business users in this brave, new, mashup-enabled world.


For IT:

  • Install, configure, set up security and governance.
  • Publish "core" data sources (such as Web services).
  • Assign roles and permissions for functions and core sources.
  • Create more complicated mashups, widgets and mashup dashboards, when required.


And for business users:

  • Publish personal data sources (from Excel, news feeds, etc.).
  • Visually create mashups, mashup widgets and mashup dashboards.
  • Share mashups, mashup widgets and mashup dashboards with others.
  • Rate, use and personalize mashups, mashup widgets and mashup dashboards from others.


Social tools obviously could help users with the latter two tasks on their list. Without the foundational core infrastructure established by IT, user adoption of mashups would be chaotic, not secure and not scalable, Crupi cautions.

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