Though few folks can agree on a definition of Web 2.0, most enterprise developers seem to think it involves some type of social networking. While social networking tools can help streamline communications and collaboration, at least one analyst from e-consultancy has bemoaned the fact that few if any companies are using Web 2.0 tools to solve real-world business problems.
He wonders if this is because the technologists who create enterprise applications are more motivated by the cool factor -- "scratching an itch they have for something they can't already do" -- rather than by improving existing business capabilities or boosting the bottom line.
A similar sentiment appears to lie at the heart of some of the critical opinions of several "business intelligence 2.0" applications that Business Objects has posted on its Web site for customers to test.
As related in a PC World article, both Neil Raden of the Hired Brains consulting firm and Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge note in their respective blogs that the tools -- BI Annotator, BI Desktop, Business Objects Masher and BI Collaborator -- aren't as smart as they are pretty.
The Annotator allows users to combine external data feeds with the structured data in a data warehouse for a more contextual view of information. With Desktop, users can create widgets that sit on a desktop and display BI information. The Collaborator lets users chat and swap BI data via Windows Live Messenger, while the Masher is for combining online services.
What both Raden and Few would like to see instead of (or perhaps in addition to) these capabilities are "intelligent" BI tools that utilize a semantic model to help users better understand data instead of simply seeing it presented in different ways.
Few calls the Desktop "widgets for people who would rather play than work." Raden likens the entire set of products to a strip mall "with lots of things to offer, but no coherent thread running through it."
To be fair, the PC World article also quotes a Forrester Research analyst who offers a somewhat less critical take on the Business Objects tools, noting for instance that the Desktop should help eliminate the need for BI users to open a separate application and search.