BI: Information out of control?

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BI: Information out of control?

Businesses need to improve their data management capabilities to deal with a new breed of information, Gartner analysts say.

Speaking to a media roundtable at Gartner's Business Intelligence and Information Management Summit in Sydney this morning, Research Director Neil McMurchy warned of a bevy of compliance and regulatory demands that may drive a need for improved information management systems and processes.

As data collection technology becomes more readily available, regulators and managers are demanding more information about their businesses. In response, software providers have rushed to provide data with greater garrulity, speed and accuracy than ever before.

"Business Intelligence is really starting to shift from a must-do type of thing, to the true use of information as an asset," he said.

Still, the true use of information as an asset is a rare sighting in businesses today, McMurchy said.

Sometimes, businesses make demands resulting in information loads that are larger than what is manageable, he said, mentioning an experience with one organisation that collected data on a total of 531 key performance indicators (KPI).

"There's no possibility of the organization doing anything meaningful with these statistics," he said. "And there's no point in measuring something if you can't do anything about it."

Currently, the BI software industry is dominated by the consolidation and acquisitions of industry giants such as IBM-Cognos and Oracle.

Noting that the uptake of BI tends to be driven by external business departments such as risk analysis, McMurchy speculated that the financial services industry currently is best positioned to capitalise on BI technology.

"As industries get more information, the argument for BI will get stronger," he said, forecasting many opportunities for BI consulting work.

"Most enterprises have spent quite a lot of money on BI software, and they also need services to go with it," he said.

Research analyst David Mario Smith agreed with what McMurchy described as a case of "information out of control".

"There's really an info-glut that's happening right now," Smith said.

Besides the technologically-driven information load, Smith expects a rise of social software in businesses to put more strain on data management in the enterprise.

Businesses are recognising the potentials of social software in the enterprise, he said, noting new offerings from traditional e-mail software vendors that offer similar functionality to popular consumer sites like Facebook and Wikipedia.

IBM's Lotus Connections is advertised as social software for business that allows users to create and manage their own profiles, join online communities, share bookmarks, and maintain blogs.

Microsoft's SharePoint also capitalises on the social software trend by allowing users to collaborate on an online document management platform.

"We're seeing the ability to take social software and have that information exposed to different people, who can collaborate on that data and make corporate decisions with the wisdom and stability of crowds," Smith said.

"Because of the consumer takeup, traditional vendors who own the e-mail infrastructure are getting into the social software space and are starting to provide similar software and services for the enterprise," he said.

Noting new trends in collaborative data use and creation, as well as the need for improved data management tools such as search functionality, Smith said current times may be "the end of BI as we know it".

"As the access to information increases, so do the compliance issues," he warned.

"Wherever content is, you're going to have to make sure that you're managing it. Managers will do well to understand where they [net-native employees] are getting their information from, because it will affect the corporate decisions that they make."

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