Portals eNewsletters Web Seminars dataWarehouse.com DM Review Magazine
DM Review | Information Is Your Business
   Information Is Your Business Advanced Search

Business Intelligence
Corporate Performance Management
Data Management
Data Modeling
Data Quality
Data Warehousing Basics
Master Data Management
View all Portals

Scheduled Events

White Paper Library
Research Papers



DM Review Home
Current Magazine Issue
Magazine Archives
Online Columnists
Ask the Experts
Industry News
Search DM Review

Buyer's Guide
Industry Events Calendar
Monthly Product Guides
Software Demo Lab
Vendor Listings

About Us
Press Releases
Advertising/Media Kit
Magazine Subscriptions
Editorial Calendar
Contact Us
Customer Service

Technology's Vortex

  Article published in DM Direct Special Report
April 11, 2006 Issue
  By Jim Ericson

From BI Review Newsletter February 23, 2006

While we cover many straightforward stories at BI Review, readers know that our focus on business intelligence is often cast in the context of two other issues, business process management and various aspects of technology integration. That is because data, process and integration are related, interdependent and increasingly entwined within the companies we profile and study. For example, an understanding of operational business processes must precede their end-to-end integration; elevating data within processes allows measurement and optimization; and structured and unstructured data is what's being aggregated and integrated in support of knowledge and productivity. Large organizations - the Fortune 1000 and beyond - are safely assumed to be pursuing separate or combined data, process and integration initiatives. What's interesting - and where we are finding our best stories for BI Review - comes from observing where these three pursuits are rubbing up against one another. This is where we often see executive strategy turned into business outcomes. Thankfully, seeing these intersections clearly over time will also help clear us up the noise in technology marketing.

First, consider the linkage between data and business process. Later this year, IDC will hold its second conference called the Business Intelligence and Business Process Forum. IDC's logic is sound. Rather than running straight to "BI for the masses," or "operational BI," IDC stepped outside the data bubble to properly emphasize both domains. In the old BI conference paradigm, business process would be an ancillary topic, a "bolt-on" to business intelligence. We find our own examples of this merging, such as our profile of Emergency Medical Associates in a story last year. In that case, a manager took a traditional process mapping approach to emergency rooms, and then attached performance metrics to key process chokepoints, such as time spent waiting to be admitted, waiting to see a doctor, and waiting for lab results. In this way, business intelligence could be used to help optimize a process by adjusting staffing, which led to increased customer satisfaction.

Next, consider the linkage between business process and integration. I just returned from IDS Scheer's ProcessWorld conference in Miami, which over the years has helped to shape my thinking on many technology issues we write about. This year's emphasis was solidly on service-oriented architecture (SOA), the widely talked-about, component-based approach to technology integration. The focus of many presentations was on the use of business process tools to orchestrate SOA technology components into operational processes within logistics, procurement or compliance. While there's a long way to go on this front, good case studies and a heavy executive attendance testified to the changes afoot. When I first attended this conference four years ago, there was general distain for the idea that technology could enable business processes. These days, big companies are buying into the SOA integration approach for the long haul, but are identifying and building foundation services that support the business processes that affect corporate performance today. (See our recent profile of Citigroup. -ed)

Finally, the link between data and integration sounds largely like a technical exercise, and it is, until you consider more than the plumbing involved. In the working world, there is human-to-human, human-to-system and system-to-system integration. The goal of all of these is not just to aggregate information, but to put it at the fingertips of those who use it and share it in their organizational duties. The resurgent topic of Information Management, as espoused by the Accentures and IBMs of the world, appears to be largely about marrying structured (BI) and unstructured (workflow-centric documents) data into an interface (portal) that contextually addresses the user, improving knowledge and productivity.

If I seem to be hammering on these intersections, let me return to the point of clearing up the noise of technology marketing. While this is a problem we'll never completely outrun, among very large enterprises the connections between data, process and integration have already superseded the focus on application platforms. While transactional, CRM, supply chain and other systems are surely relevant, it is the orchestration of these things in horizontal processes that outweighs their individual value. The idea of first identifying a business issue, assessing and quantifying underlying processes and then carrying that back to technology components in measurable solutions is a different approach than the succession of three-letter acronyms we've previously been offered. This is something Rungson Samroengraga of Pitney Bowes points out quite elegantly in the upcoming March issue of BI Review.

While we have our work cut out, we are surely moving on. The good folks at IDC and elsewhere get this, but other consultants and analysts insist on segregating data, process and integration as if they must be played from opposing sides of a game board. I recently heard a respected business process analyst from a leading research firm dismiss business intelligence as "driving by rear-view mirror," when I know for a fact that his BI counterpart in the same firm would laugh at such a statement. As it is in the business world, analyst practices addressing data, process and integration are interdependent, and also competing. Crossover terms such as "performance management" and "business activity monitoring" have long been used within domains of data and process, but usually with parochial subtext more important to the industry analyst (studying vendors) than the business (studying problems). What we're waiting for is common nomenclature to describe the same things. Another issue is how these intersections will be managed in our "competency centers," which have been espoused for all three domains. Technology consolidation will help, but as usual, business will be the ones seeing a need, leading the innovation and plugging solutions together. Sooner or later, the owners of discrete product domains will give up and get on the bus with everyone else in service of wider business outcomes.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), Business Intelligence (BI), Business Process Management (BPM), Data Integration and Enterprise Information Portal (EIP).

Jim Ericson is editor in chief of Business Intelligence Review (www.bireview.com) and editorial director of DM Review, SourceMedia publications. You can reach him at James.Ericson@sourcemedia.com.

E-mail This Article E-Mail This Article
Printer Friendly Version Printer-Friendly Version
Related Content Related Content
Request Reprints Request Reprints
Site Map Terms of Use Privacy Policy
SourceMedia (c) 2006 DM Review and SourceMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
SourceMedia is an Investcorp company.
Use, duplication, or sale of this service, or data contained herein, is strictly prohibited.