Business Intelligence: 5 Things to Watch for in 2010

Updated: December 15, 2009

1. BI will become more pervasive and more visible - and more invisible.

CRM, SFA and other applications focused on sales, service and support will increasingly act as "feeders" into core BI applications and functions. This increasing integration offers the prospect more complete and comprehensive views of business operations, in part by hiding BI functions behind other applications and interfaces familiar to users.

Ensure that all of your current and potential solutions for CRM, SFA, help-desk management, contact-center management and other business-critical functions can "talk" to your BI solutions and processes. Also, work to drive adoption of those "feeder" applications to as close to 100 percent as possible. This will help to ensure that, to paraphrase a recent U.S. president, no BI information is left behind.

2. BI functions will increasingly "live in the cloud(s)."

As more collaboration, CRM and sales/marketing automation functionality is delivered as cloud-based services, BI functions will follow suit. This should give you more options for expanding the reach and adoption of BI and related applications, in many cases more affordably and with lower management overhead than possible with previous alternatives.

If you're already using cloud-based solutions for CRM, SFA or related functions, work with your vendor(s) and/or reseller(s) to make sure those solutions interoperate with incumbent or planned BI solutions. If your organization is not yet in the cloud, educate yourself and your colleagues about what's available; what works with what; and what makes the most sense given your organization's specific needs, goals and resources.

3. BI and business collaboration will grow closer.

During 2010, numerous innovative collaboration-centric solutions will likely appear, built upon platforms such as Google's Wave, Salesforce.com's Chatter and SAP's 12 Sprints/"Constellation" project, now in beta testing. SAP's alternative is particularly interesting, given the company's long leadership in ERP and BI. Also, early reports indicate that SAP plans at least some integration with Google Wave, and to support real-time collaboration with information aggregated from multiple sources, presumably including those within and outside of an organization. Given SAP's legacy, the company will likely enable users to employ a hybrid approach combining cloud- and premises-based resources. All of these emerging platforms offer the promise of enhancing real-time collaboration with real-time and near-real-time BI and business analytics.

Keep an eye on developments related to these and other such platforms. Pay specific attention to how and whether the providers of your most business-critical applications adopt and/or respond to those developments. And make sure those responsible for those business-critical applications at your organization sign up for access to the emerging platforms, so your organization has as much practical information as possible about potential specific BI-collaboration integrations.

4. BI will gain a larger "voice."

The growing use of IP telephony creates new opportunities to gather and leverage information about who calls whom and what happens before, during and after each call. This information can be a very valuable addition to BI and analytics efforts - but only if a company's phone system and that system's vendor, reseller and/or integrator are sufficiently strategically focused on the company's business needs and goals.

Take a strategic approach to VoIP, and make sure that your chosen and candidate solutions - and their vendors - understand your business needs and goals. You want to make absolutely sure that all relevant information about voice traffic at your organization is as accessible to your BI- and analytics-related solutions and efforts as is information about e-mail and other data.

5. BI will continue to challenge business decision makers to take full advantage of its benefits.

While growing numbers of companies will achieve success with BI in 2010, many will find their efforts stymied. Impediments will include disjoint solutions, inconsistent integrations with other key applications and information sources, lack of complete solution adoption, lack of managerial support or some combination of these factors.

Stay the course and remain focused on your business goals. Evangelize the business value of effective, comprehensive, enterprise-wide BI and analytics to all key constituencies at your organization, from senior management to sales and support teams. Strive to focus on solutions and vendors that support and encourage interoperability, ease of use and management, and effective integration. And keep at least one eye on technological and business developments among BI solution providers.

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