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Business intelligence and the consumerization of information

The more information, the more necessary it is to understand what it means. Enter business intelligence.

As information proliferates, so does the need to understand what it means. Business intelligence has long played a role in discerning customer behavior and defining how businesses define metrics.

But, BI is typically pretty boring (if not an oxymoron)--that is until you start applying the techniques and software to information that's interesting.

JasperSoft CEO Brian Gentile provided some insight into the opportunities available for upstart vendors to take advantage of consolidation as well as the "consumerization of information" -- where users expect to have their business info available just as they would any other internet-based data.

The consolidation of the largest BI vendors will continue to have a ripple effect on the market. Since Business Objects, Cognos, and Hyperion were acquired by SAP, IBM, and Oracle respectively, "we've seen meaningful opportunities open up for smaller, faster, and more modern BI software providers who fill specific niches of functionality, particularly where the largest players have been weak."

Key technology shifts have been in play for about the last two years and have begun to influence BI. Examples include SOA/web services (and overall componentized design), in-memory analytics, integrated search, and the use of rich media services to provide more compelling (web-based) user experiences. For BI tools and software, the question is "which vendors will be able to deliver a more modern, dynamic experience using these new technologies?"

With all this change, the "besieged CIO" is under increasing pressure and scrutiny. So, what's a CIO to do? Answer: "find capable, lower-cost alternatives in all technology categories."

This is where new development and delivery models will become even more popular, which benefits open source and software-as-a-service vendors because, in most cases, the up-front and on-going costs are just lower (especially in the case of open source).

But potentially the most important force to impact BI in the year ahead is what Gentile calls the "consumerization of information". This concept is based on the evolving workforce and its expectations for software, which will drastically transform software development and usage, including the enterprise software market.

The consumerization of information is based on the very real workforce demographic shift under way: as the aging workforce in the largest economies continues to retire (in the U.S., it's the baby boomer generation aka "The Olds") and more young workers (aka "The Youngs") enter and climb higher, we'll see a widening gap between the expected behavior of enterprise applications and their actual behavior.

Younger workers have grown up with computers and, by and large, the internet. Therefore, their expectations for how software systems should behave are vastly different from an older worker who has grown into computers and software during the course of his career.