“Decision support”, “information centers”, “business intelligence”, “analytic technology”, and “information services” have been around, in one form or other, for 35+ years. For most of that time, there have been two fundamental ways to sell, market, and position them:
- Access to information
- Application software
More recently – especially the past five years – there’s been a third way:
- Infrastructure upgrade
as early-generation implementations get replaced by newer ones.
At the 50,000 foot level, here’s some of what I see going on:
- Classical BI marketing is floundering. BI vendors don’t know whether they’re in the business of quick/easy information access, analytic apps, or better-enterprise-system-software.
- A few areas of analytic application are being packaged and marketed well, with solid business-process stories and good customer acceptance of same. The biggies are budgeting/planning and CRM analytics. On the whole, however, analytic apps are floundering, or else are little more than reporting front-ends on operational systems (e.g., in network management).
- Data warehouse software startups are on a roll. Especially at the high end, this is a pure infrastructure-upgrade business. There’s plenty of room still for improvement, but multiple vendors each are doing good jobs of marketing on the basis of:
- Speeds and feeds
- Ease of deployment
- Ease of administration
- Data integration is mainly an infrastructure improvement play. After all, that integration COULD be hand-coded. Automating the process is usually a better-infrastructure story.
- Text search is still an information-access story. There are multiple niches where search is booming. But in all cases the story is information access. Evidently the technology and/or market aren’t mature enough yet for strong infrastructure stories. And in the limited cases where text search gets integrated into general application software packages, it’s usually just for information access rather than a real business process.
- Data mining and predictive analytics are mainly information access plays. Yes, the information being accessed is calculated rather than raw. Yes, I believe that the heart of the data mining market is continuous process improvement. Even so, what users buy from the vendors is usually little more than information toolkits.
- Text analytics is mainly an information access play. Text mining and information extraction have two main uses right now. Either they resemble – and indeed often feed into — data mining, or else they are used to enhance search and search-like document access.
- Information services have always been an information access play. When you think about it, the financial-quote-machine business is a huge part of the whole decision support market. Lexis/Nexis is no slouch either. And they’re all about providing information access.
- This three-headed taxonomy of strategies is similar to one I previously postulated for Microsoft, SAP, and IBMOracle.
- I covered analytic business processes at length in a November, 2004 white paper. Unfortunately, industry progress since then has been relatively slow.
- I’ve written voluminously about data warehouse software startups on DBMS2.
- One example of infrastructure focus is the ease-of-deployment trend.
- Web search and generic enterprise search aren’t the only search areas to focus on information access. (And yes, they’re most definitely separate areas.) Even customer-facing structured search does; the information is just tailored according to different criteria.