It's the Data, Stupid

Loraine Lawson

Intelligent Enterprise recently released its State of Business Intelligence report. Given that CIOs told Gartner in 2006 that BI would be their second technology priority, you'd expect the report to predict sunny weather for BI projects and vendors.


But, as the report points out, BI is growing much slower than you would have expected. Only one in four of the potential BI customers have actually invested in BI tools.


The report goes on to enumerate possible reasons why BI hasn't taken off and then outlines what vendors plan to do about it. But what caught my eye wasn't in the report: It was in a related Intelligent Enterprise blog.


"Data Integration: How Times Have Changed," by blogger Rajan Chandras, looks at how data integration tools have evolved over the last few years. In doing so, Chandras politely (or possibly inadvertently) reminds us that SOA, BI, BPM and the newly coined CPM (corporate performance management) are all about delivering, producing and using data more efficiently.


Let's face it: The business value of any and all of these enterprise endeavors -- even SOA -- is only as good as the data foundation they're built on. As James Kobielus of Current Analysis pointed out in a recent Q&A:


"When you talk about corporate resources, people usually assume you're referring to application functionality like services you can assemble or orchestrate into various configurations. That's important -- that's critical -- but corporate master reference data is also a critical resource. That's the data that you run the business on, like customer records, HR records, financial information. In an SOA environment, you want to maximize the sharing of the master, cleansed, official data of record throughout your organization. So it only makes sense that you start any project by first ensuring your back-end data integration is solid."


Data integration remains something of a problem for businesses, thanks in large part to rice bowling by business users and their Excel spreadsheets. While most vendors -- and many IT departments -- struggle to convert the spreadsheet-addicted, Microsoft and a few other BI vendors have accepted the Excel problem as a business reality and given up converting the business users, according to the State of Business Intelligence report. Instead, they're developing ways for their BI tools to work with the spreadsheet-addicted.


Chandras gives a debriefing on what's changed in data integration in recent years. Mergers and buyouts in the data integration space have created better, easier solutions. Kobielus offers further suggestions about data integration, including a list of key vendors. Check out what they have to say, even if you think you've got data under control.

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