There's always been some tension between the wants of the IT department and the desires of the end user, which seems to be a pressing issue these days when it comes to business intelligence (BI). In fact, recent surveys suggest that the whole category is pretty fragmented with IT organizations favoring BI applications from vendors such as SAP, IBM and Oracle, while end users seem to prefer software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications or open source tools that are easy to acquire and deploy.
In the latter case, much of the end-user appeal for BI tools stems from the user interface, which is an issue not lost on the folks at Jaspersoft. The provider of open source BI software rolled out a version 4.1 upgrade this week that, according to Mike Boyarski, Jaspersoft director of product marketing, was specifically designed to give users the same visual experience across every module in the suite. In contrast, Boyarski says that the visual experience in rival commercial offerings is frequently jarring because the underlying code base has been fractured by various acquisitions that vendors have made along the way.
Regardless of how anyone feels about these issues, as this fragmentation of the BI market becomes more pronounced, IT organizations are going to have to find a way to harmonize various camps within their organization. More often than not, that will mean striking a compromise that will result in various tools favored by end users winding up as the front end to the backend BI applications favored by the IT department. That may strike some as wasteful, but at the end of the day, you have to give users tools they want to use or the whole point of the exercise gets missed.
At the moment, most IT organizations appear to be a lot more concerned about actually making operational BI work within their organization. But once they do get these systems to consistently work, the user interface tool issue will once again become a front-and-center issue. And if history is any guide, IT organizations don't have much history in getting this one right.