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BI Continues to be an Intelligent IT Tool for Many Businesses

biBusiness intelligence, or BI, has long been a valuable mechanism for helping companies better understand how they’re performing, how well products are developed, marketed and sold, and even what their competitors are up to. I’ve covered business intelligence for many years, either directly or as an (important) offshoot of other technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID).
Back in the mid-2000s, for example – when I was a technology journalist focusing on enterprise software including enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), and customer relationship management (CRM)—many of the vendors were adding BI modules to their software.

Then, organizations were trying to get BI tools into the hands of more users, those employees who worked on the front lines serving customers or managing supply chains. Typically, BI had been the domain of just a few analytics experts, and the BI tools they used were not particularly user-friendly. The vendors also worked on improving the timeliness of the analytics tools they provided. Real-time information was needed so that more prudent business decisions could be made at the speed of business, not days later.

Truth be told, I spend a lot less time investigating and evaluating the BI market. But it comes as no surprise that BI continues to be an important and relevant IT tool. Just a few days ago I came across a predictions list for 2011 from Hubspan Inc., a provider of cloud-based business integration solutions. Among its list of five top trends is BI… albeit this is clearly next-gen BI (Hubspan calls it BI2, by the way). Hubspan talks about companies needing BI bundled into the on-demand channels they are using to exchange information with customers, partners, suppliers and more. The BI tools (hopefully) will be more advanced than providing analytical data, but will actually be able to automatically trigger specific business events based on the analysis gleaned from the integrated BI module. Not just business intelligence, but event-driven intelligence, Hubspan says.

Of course, all this information sharing and on-demand computing and more has amplified the amount of data out there, making effective and real-time, integrated BI more complex. According to an article in USA Today earlier this month, the amount of digital information created and replicated this year is expected to hit an astounding 1.2 zettabytes. That's 1 trillion gigabytes, enough data to fill a stack of DVDs reaching from Earth to the moon and back, according to researcher IDC.

The need for BI to analyze and leverage all this data is growing fast and furiously. According to Forrester  Research, the BI market is much less affected by the current economic crises than most other software markets and will continue to grow to $14 billion by 2014, up from about $9.4 billion this year. The market research firm predicts that new categories of advanced analytics will fuel the growth and merge into the core BI market, including business performance solutions, text analytics, predictive analytics, and complex event processing.

Lots of vendors are angling for their share of the BI pie. According to the USA Today article, IBM is aggressively pursuing BI, having spent $14 billion in the past five years to make 24 BI acquisitions. Moreover, IBM has 10,000 BI software developers, 8,000 BI consultants, and 200 BI mathematicians, the newspaper reports. That’s a lot of brain – and  money – power being put to business intelligence!
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