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Barry Devlin

As one of the founders of data warehousing back in the mid-1980s, a question I increasingly ask myself over 25 years later is: Are our prior architectural and design decisions still relevant in the light of today's business needs and technological advances? I'll pose this and related questions in this blog as I see industry announcements and changes in way businesses make decisions. I'd love to hear your answers and, indeed, questions in the same vein.

About the author >

Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities in the world on business insight and data warehousing. He was responsible for the definition of IBM's data warehouse architecture in the mid '80s and authored the first paper on the topic in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988. He is a widely respected consultant and lecturer on this and related topics, and author of the comprehensive book Data Warehouse: From Architecture to Implementation.

Barry's interest today covers the wider field of a fully integrated business, covering informational, operational and collaborative environments and, in particular, how to present the end user with an holistic experience of the business through IT. These aims, and a growing conviction that the original data warehouse architecture struggles to meet modern business needs for near real-time business intelligence (BI) and support for big data, drove Barry’s latest book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics, now available in print and eBook editions.

Barry has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, mainly as a Distinguished Engineer for IBM in Dublin, Ireland. He is now founder and principal of 9sight Consulting, specializing in the human, organizational and IT implications and design of deep business insight solutions.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Barry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel and blog. Be sure to visit today!

February 2007 Archives

It used to be the case that version 2.0 software delivered the function that was originally promised for the product and you had to wait until at least 3.1 before it performed. Now that Web 2.0 is all the rage, it seems that "2.0" can be applied to just about anything. So it wasn't much of a surprise to see DW 2.0™ (and the TM is important, believe me!) from Bill Inmon last year and now Business Intelligence 2.0 as described by Neil Raden in his recent article.

In truth, Neil has got much closer to the new spirit of "2.0" as he recognises the impact of the changed paradigms of social computing, collaboration, mash-ups and other Web 2.0 approaches on traditional data warehousing. He's also spot-on when says that "better ties between analysis and action" will emerge.

But my question is - will it be Business Intelligence 2.0 or will it simply be "Business Intelligence to zero"? If everything a business user needs is going to be mashed-up into a user-defined portal interface, and analysis and action (aka informational and operational) are intimately linked, why have Business Intelligence as a separate entity at all?

Two forces are acting simultaneously to change the face of BI beyond recognition. At the back end, SOA is gradually redefining the way applications interact, driving more integrated data and allowing more pervasive access to that same data. Data modelling, cleansing, extraction and transformation - traditional preserves of the data warehousing IT department - will become part of the mainstream IT business. Out on the user-facing side, business people increasingly expect an integrated view of all their tasks - without having to think if they are analytical or action-oriented.

As an example, take a look at the IBM Workplace Dashboard Framework, where traditional BI user function is delivered through a standard portal. Now recall that traditional action-oriented, operational applications can be surface through the same portal; and the portlets can exchange information! Where will the boundary exist between informational and operational in such a portal?

Neil is absolutely right when he says in conclusion: "Prepare for the inevitable". It seems to me it's the inevitable re-integration of BI into the mainstream of IT.

Posted February 8, 2007 11:15 AM
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