META Report: The Business Intelligence Portal Disconnect

By David Folger

(Back to article)

Many IT groups in the process of planning enterprise portal (EP) implementations and evaluating products for SQL database reporting are blissfully unaware that separate business intelligence teams are implementing Web-based reporting systems or have already chosen reporting tool standards. Although many BI reporting systems (such as those from Business Objects, Cognos, Crystal Decisions, Information Builders) provide access control and personalized interfaces, with a few exceptions (e.g., Brio), none of these products provide the full functionality of a generalized enterprise portal framework.


Hence, to meet the information access needs of end users, business intelligence and enterprise portal teams must jointly plan information delivery efforts that span the structured and unstructured information spectrum. Indeed, by 2003/04, we expect that BI vendors will de-emphasize standalone BI portals, and integrate their offerings with standard portal frameworks (such as those from Plumtree, IBM, Sybase, iPlanet, BEA, and SAP). By 2005/06, vendors will consolidate down to a few large systems companies (e.g., Microsoft, BEA Systems, IBM), the largest enterprise application companies (e.g., SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle), and one or two independent players (e.g., Plumtree).

Within the past year, enterprise portal efforts have moved beyond tactical, departmental-level deployments, and have attracted the attention of infrastructure and enterprise architects. IT organizations (rightfully) recognize that these portals are an important component of an emerging information delivery infrastructure, which will provide business users access to needed information in the context of business processes. Enterprise portal development teams should resist adopting tactical solutions for structured data reporting problems, because business intelligence groups generally have much more experience with financial reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), and analytical applications than do typical enterprise portal teams.

IT groups should combine business intelligence and enterprise portal planning efforts into a general, enterprisewide information delivery infrastructure. This holistic architecture should address:

Ideally, IT organizations should establish an information delivery architecture and planning group that combines document and content management skills with business intelligence and data warehousing expertise. In most cases, this should take the form of an EP project management team. Business representatives on the this team should help develop comprehensive end-user information and business process automation requirements. Information delivery system design must be approached in the context of business processes that define where the information is needed and where it is derived (the information supply chain concept). Although development of an enterprise portal project management team is the ideal solution, factors to consider for this process include the following:

What About Business Intelligence Portals?
Several BI vendors have released their own enterprise portal products (e.g., Business Objects, Brio, Cognos), with extensions intended to support unstructured information in a general EP environment. We believe that the market has decisively spoken, and that BI companies will NOT play leading roles as general-purpose EP framework suppliers. Therefore, IT organizations should not pursue initiatives that use their BI tool as a portal framework. Instead, IT organizations should move to specialized portal suppliers (e.g., Plumtree, Epicentric, Corechange,), or to EP frameworks from major systems software vendors (e.g., Microsoft, BEA, IBM, Sybase, iPlanet/Sun). Indeed, we believe the large system vendors will dominate EP frameworks by 2005/06. BI vendors will be judged on their ability to integrate with a wide range of leading EP companies, rather than on their own portal features.

Business Impact: To perform management functions in a timely manner, business users need easy access to business information and key performance indicators. Improvements in timeliness can improve customer satisfaction and business efficiency.

Bottom Line: IT organizations should consider business intelligence and enterprise portal projects together, as part of an overall information delivery effort. Architecture teams should be used that involve both disciplines, thereby developing an organization's information delivery systems.