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Colin White

I like the various blogs associated with my many hobbies and even those to do with work. I find them very useful and I was excited when the Business Intelligence Network invited me to write my very own blog. At last I now have somewhere to park all the various tidbits that I know are useful, but I am not sure what to do with. I am interested in a wide range of information technologies and so you might find my thoughts will bounce around a bit. I hope these thoughts will provoke some interesting discussions.

About the author >

Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Colin's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

June 2006 Archives

As individuals, search has become a way of life when accessing the Web on the public Internet. To Google has become a part of the language. Corporate users of portals and content management systems are also familiar with using search tools to locate the business content they need in their jobs. In this case, however, generic searching doesn't work, and instead developers have to create business taxonomies that can be used to personalize search results to each person's role in the organization.

Google has not been as successful in the enterprise users as it has with consumers. This is because it has lagged behind competitors in providing tools for taxonomy development, content categorization, and personalized search. Google also faces strong competition in this area from database and content management vendors like IBM and Oracle. Nevertheless, Google is improving its enterprise presence through its Google Search Appliance and Google OneBox Enterprise Initiative.

The business intelligence (BI) market has largely ignored the use of search techniques for accessing business information, analytics and reports. Instead, BI vendors have relied on familiar browsing and navigation techniques to locate business content. In some cases, BI vendors have provided portal-like capabilities, or have provided connections to enterprise portal products. Mostly this support is mere lip service to satisfy RFP requirements. Microsoft and SAP are notable exceptions here. Both vendors market their own portal products and realize the benefits of a business process and workflow approach to working with business content. Search is an important component of this approach. Most other BI vendors, however, remain locked in their data-centric mindset.

Some BI vendors are beginning to see the light. In the last few months Cognos, Information Builders and SAS have all announced relationships with Google to add search to their products. Of course, as I have already pointed out, organizations need more than search, they also need to add BI taxonomy development and content categorization. Data and text mining technology should help here. IBM's work in this area shows promise, and it is interesting to note that Cognos has also announced a relationship with IBM in this area.

Some vendors are obviously confused about this direction. Seth Grimes in his latest Intelligent Enterprise article "Will Search Deliver Better BI" reports that James Thomas of product marketing at Business Objects stated that "the concept of BI portals has always been a failure. Portals are about controlling information. Google is about embracing freedom." Business Objects clearly doesn't understand that portals, search and BI need to work synergistically together. There is no question in my mind that all BI developers in the future will need to become familiar with portal, search, taxonomy, and categorization techniques.

Posted June 30, 2006 12:17 PM
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It's fun when hobbies and work matters have some commonality. As a robotics fan it was interesting therefore to see Microsoft's recent announcement of the Microsoft Robotics Studio. To quote the press release:

"Today at RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition 2006, Microsoft Corp. showcased the community technology preview (CTP) of a new Windows-based environment for academic, hobbyist and commercial developers to easily create robotic applications for a wide variety of computing platforms. The community technology preview of the Microsoft Robotics Studio is available for download at http://msdn.microsoft.com/robotics."

The Microsoft Robotics Studio includes a visual programming tool (supports Visual C#, Visual Basic .NET, Jscript, and the Microsoft IronPython programming languages), a 3-D robot application simulator, and a light-weight services-oriented runtime based on .NET. Key vendors supporting the initiative include the LEGO Group, Fischertechnik and Parallax. Universities involved include Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Cornell, Stanford, and Georgia Tech.

As with any Microsoft announcement feedback falls into two camps. On one hand people are very enthusiastic about a set of powerful tools for doing robotics education, development, and deployment. While others are saying the model is too complex, too resource intensive, and yet another example of Microsoft trying to control the world. Regardless, this is fun way of explaining services-oriented architecture to people!

Posted June 26, 2006 6:23 PM
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Microsoft continues its assault and focus on the BI marketplace with the announcement of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. This product combines analytics and scorecards with business planning, forecasting, budgeting and consolidation. This announcement continues the marketplace trend of bring planning systems closer to BI applications. It also represents a major threat to the planning products of other BI vendors like Business Objects, Cognos, and Hyperion given Microsoft's emphasis on integration with Microsoft Office and Excel.

The analytics component of PerformancePoint integrates technology acquired from ProClarity. The ProClarity acquisition is now complete and Microsoft will continue to sell and enhance the ProClarity product set. ProClarity customers, however, will be offered a migration path to PerformancePoint.

The scorecard component is based on Microsoft's existing Business Scorecard Manager product. A new "2007" version of BSM will be released concurrently with PerformancePoint.

The brand new component of PerformancePoint supports business planning, budgeting, forecasting and consolidation. The component consolidates and secures planning data on the PerformancePoint server. The planning data is integrated with both BI analytics and scorecards. The interface is very similar to Microsoft Excel, and Excel 2007 is tightly integrated with the product, as are other Microsoft Office 2007 components. The planning tool comes with the Microsoft Business Modeler.

PerformancePoint operations are defined as Web services and provided service APIs enable access from Microsoft and other third-party products. The Microsoft Dynamic ERP application will employ the capabilities of PerformancePoint, for example.

PerformancePoint will enter beta in the Fall of this year and will be released mid-year 2007. The early announcement of this product is apparently because certain features will be visible in the release of the Office 2007 product.

Posted June 6, 2006 3:57 PM
Permalink | 2 Comments |