If BI Users Aren't Happy, Nobody's Happy


Earlier this year, I wrote about Gartner's contention that the business intelligence market is entering a period of flux, characterized by slowing growth rates, largely due to companies' reluctance to make major new BI investments as they wait for vendors to create roadmaps for products purchased during a flurry of acquisitions in 2007.


Slowdowns are natural in maturing markets, and particularly those that have experienced lots of acquisition activity. Still, is it possible that BI could be entering the dreaded "trough of disillusionment," one of five stages of Gartner's Hype Cycle? It sure seems like it, based on an ITWeb article recapping some of the findings of the latest BI Survey, an annual piece of research produced by the Business Application Research Center.


Nigel Pendse, author of the survey, notes that despite companies' ostensible aim to extend BI to users throughout their organizations, the current BI user adoption rate stands at about 7 percent. Adoption is highest in the retail industry, at 12 percent. Users are "not happy" with BI products, says Pendse. Twenty-three percent of users report poor query performance, a poor statistic for one of the most basic BI functions.


A big part of the problem, I'll venture, is that BI still isn't intuitive enough for most people. I wrote about user dissatisfaction last spring, citing Ace Hardware's decision to swap out its existing BI system for new software that integrated well with Excel, a favored application of Ace users.


Companies aren't rushing to input growing volumes of data into their BI systems, says Pendse. Instead, most BI implementations involve between 4 and 6 gigabytes of data, a figure that has remained constant since 2002. Large BI implementations drive up costs and management complexity, and don't yield results that warrant the added effort.


Says Pendse:

Vendors seem to have a more favorable impression of their own products than users do. Enterprise BI remains elusive. There have been many acquisitions, giving the illusion of dramatic change in the industry. But things change more slowly in the real world than most industry analysts, the press, vendors and consultants would have you believe.