by December 4, 2007 0 comments

This year is a significant landmark in the history of BI. Many significant
acquisitions took place this year, which will have a tremendous impact on the BI
market in the future. SAP acquired Business Objects, a leading player in BA
solutions. Likewise, IBM recently acquired Cognos, one of the oldest players in
BA. Earlier this year, Oracle acquired Hyperion Solutions, and HP acquired
Knightsbridge solutions late last year. Microsoft also did a few acquisitions,
and added another element to its Microsoft Office 2007 suite, the
PerformancePoint Server 2007. It doesn’t require any rocket science to figure
out why all the key IT players have done the same thing. So next year should be
really interesting.

Evolving Trends
Apart from acquisitions, there are lots of exciting things happening in BA.
For one, it’s no longer meant for just large enterprises. Every company, large
or small can benefit from BA. This has been possible because of two things. One,
there’s a whole range of BA solutions available at various price points, and
two, BA tools have become easier to use. For instance, today you’ll find BA
tools that mimic an ordinary spreadsheet, but are much more powerful. Microsoft
for instance, has released tools that allows you to to anlayze business data in
Excel. This is in strict contrast to the earlier days, where one had to pull out
data from a Business Intelligence software or a data warehouse, and give it to a
data analyst to generate reports.

The story so far:
  • Lots of company acquisitions happened in
    the BA domain this year by BI solutions companies, which will shape the
    market in the coming years.
  • BA tools are becoming more mainstream, and
    not just an exclusive domain of large enterprises.
  • More Intelligent BA solutions expected in
    the coming year

Another key trend in BA is that the tools are readily available off the shelf
for specific industry verticals. Earlier, it used to take ages to customize a BA
tool to an industry’s requirements. This move allows task-specific knowledge to
be incorporated into the BA tools. For example, in a manufacturing scenario, the
BA tool would be able to analyze the supply chain data and quickly predict the
demands or other things from it.

BA is a subset of the larger domain of Business Intelligence. In order for a
BA solution to work, a strong base for data reporting is required. This comes
from a robust data warehousing and data mining back-end. This area has also seen
many developments to make data management easier.

For instance, the third generation of data warehousing solutions support
technologies like Massively Parallel Processing(MPP) on commodity hardware like
blade servers, In-Memory Querying, and Query workload management. MPP is about
distributing the workload across multiple nodes and using a RDBMS with a strong
BI solution to manage it. In-Memory querying refers to pre-fetching the data
into memory that improves the performance of a BI solution. Query workload
management is of course about efficient handling of this setup.

Business Analytics software
comprises of several types of performance management tools, which work on
information from a Data warehouse

Future Trends
We can all make our own guesses about what will happen in this market in the
future, given all the acquisitions. Just to ease the thought process, we’ll put
down our own thoughts on this market.

In the coming two to three years, we’ll see considerable momentum in the BA
market. For one, we will see lots of new BA tools released. Second, BA will not
remain the exclusive domain of top management and large enterprises. It will
trickle to the masses, and will be accessible to organizations of all sizes.
Third, large enterprises who have implemented multiple business applications
like ERP, CRM, etc, would require a solution that can analyze data across the
spectrum. That’s because the data from these applications would be in different
data-stores. Such monolithic applications can provide reporting capabilities
within their own environment, but cross-platform data-querying and data-mining
is not possible. To enable different business processes and functions to
interact with each other, SOA based applications would be required. Such SOA
based analytics tool will gather data information across heterogeneous
application environments and then help in analysis. Next year, we’ll see BI
systems becoming more SOA compliant.

BA is an extension to BI?
This confusion is always there,
if BA and BI is one and the same thing. The fact is where the BI reporting
ends, BA begins. While BI is a tool which turns the organization’s useful
data into useful business information, BA is a tool with which scenario
based and predictive analysis could be done on this information to analyze a
business opportunity better. BI traditionally works with aggregated data and
provides reports to monitor the assumptions and key performance metrics that
are part of long-term organizational plans. Business users cannot rely
solely on aggregated data coming from BI reports. They also need the
details. BI systems are based on pre-determined key-performance metrics and
planning assumptions on which automated reports are generated. BA tools are
not meant for simple report generation, but rather work and interact on data
from generated reports to do calculative analysis to aid the decision-making
process. By combining BA tools with an organization’s BI system, a sales
representative could for instance, evaluate the probability of a lead by
doing predictive analysis (BA) on the data report. This data report is
generated by data-mining algorithms from the customer behavior database, so
as to detect customer patterns.

Another interesting trend is that BI solutions are becoming more mobile
device friendly. Intelligence is being built in BI systems to identify the type
of device that’s sending BI query, so that the query report can be generated in
the appropriate format. This could for instance be an Excel file if the query is
coming from a PC, ora WAP compatible table if the query comes from a smart
phone. Or, it could be sent back as SMS if the query comes from a mobile phone.
We’ve seen some successful implementations of such solutions this year, and next
year we’ll see them becoming even more intelligent.

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