There was a somewhat humorous example of the uncertainties involved in predicting the future of an IT market sector, even when there's plenty of data. In this case, the issue was trends in business intelligence (BI).
AMR Research has BI expenditures going up 9 percent this year, while Gartner says "many firms are scaling back their BI plans as time and cost factors spiral out of control."
Only the future will tell us who's right, but clear trends in BI have emerged in the high-tech media during the past year or so. Three that are of particular interest and inter-related:
Real-Time BI. The technology for supplying business data in real time not only exists, it's up and running in real-world applications. And it is this technology, particularly real-time ETL, that leads to the next trend.
Democratization. It's easy to understand why moving BI beyond the purview of highly trained business analysts is a popular idea. From the buyer's perspective, real-time data can improve the performance of front-line employees such as call center agents or logistics managers. From the vendor's perspective, democratizing BI means a huge market opportunity. One way BI vendors are pursuing this opportunity is via the third trend.
Microsoft Office Integration. In the past, enterprise application vendors shied away from integrating with Microsoft products, but they have finally given in and are accepting the fact that many potential users would like to access enterprise data via Excel. At the same time, Microsoft seems friendly towards the idea of integration, as evidenced by its recent Duet effort with SAP, to mention just one example.
The bottom line is that the real-time enterprise, a solution looking for a problem only two or three years ago, is now becoming a reality.