META Report: The Business Intelligence Portal Disconnect
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:
- Information categorization: This involves integrating taxonomy
creation and maintenance tools - from vendors such as Semio, Autonomy, and
Verity - with BI reporting and OLAP servers (e.g., Acutate, Crystal). The focus
of these vendors must now extend beyond unstructured text to include structured
reports and OLAP models. BI engines and categorization systems currently require
- Content management: Although content management technologies (e.g.,
Interwoven, Stellant, Vignette) can be used to support this effort, content
management involves development of business processes that are frequently absent
in both business organizations and IT groups. A joint effort to establish rules
about who can publish, what approvals are needed, and what legal and marketing
review will be needed (particularly for external publishing) must take place,
supported by technology. Currently, there is no out-of-the-box integration
between content management players, business intelligence reporting, and OLAP
servers. Users will be left with parallel publishing paths, with integration
provided by the portal.
- Document management: Again, business intelligence integration with
document management systems such as FileNET, Documentum, or Open Text is not
available from BI vendors. Users should consider these products as parallel
information sources and, in most cases, provide integration only at the portal.
- BI servers and data sources: Business intelligence efforts must also
be considered in the context of this broader information delivery architecture.
As technologies are chosen, integration with enterprise portals and unstructured
information technologies (e.g., categorization, collaboration) provide new
selection criteria for BI teams.
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- Unified management: Most business intelligence products have
relatively mature system management facilities, which in many cases duplicate
those of enterprise portals and, in some cases, go beyond what EPs provide
(e.g., field-level data-access control). Integrating these facilities becomes an
important part of a comprehensive information delivery implementation. Until the
portal market consolidates (2004/05), users will be left with multiple
management consoles and limited LDAP integration.
- An EP project management team-PMT must coordinate with an enterprise program management office (PMO), if it exists, as a central coordinating hub.
- The EP-PMT must also coordinate with any data warehouse and BI groups and departments that are already present in the organization. Frequently, reporting is coordinated by both IT groups and other groups in the CFO's office (or in other end-user departments) and all involved groups must be included in coordination efforts.
- Any major application upgrades (e.g., ERP or CRM installations) can drive major changes in business intelligence/reporting architectures and organizations. Groups or PMOs coordinating these rollouts must be contacted and their plans included in the EP project management team's efforts.
- Users become very dependent on particular business intelligence products and the reports that are implemented on in-place BI systems. The EP-PMT must frequently give more care to preserving existing BI investments than to greenfield-oriented, unstructured information management issues.
- Absent a high-level directive to develop an EP-PMT, business intelligence and enterprise portal teams should seek each other out and coordinate informally, wherever possible. Failure to do so will result in difficult and expensive after-the-fact integration of BI and EP systems.
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.