Business intelligence is failing firms

User firms are taking a year out from buying business intelligence products as they clear up the mess they have built up over the past few years, says Gartner Group

Business intelligence is failing, according to analyst firm Gartner Group. Speaking to ZDNet UK in advance of Business Intelligence Europe, which starts in Amsterdam on Friday, research director Frank Buytendijk said vendors have largely failed their customers. "Enterprises have invested millions over the past few years," said Buytendijk, who will be co-hosting the event and presenting a keynote speech. "But they have been disappointed with what came out. They are now taking a gap year out to make some sense of the mess." It all went wrong, according to Buytendijk, when vendors started moving their products to the Web. This -- largely unsuccessful -- process, from 1998 to 2000, contributed to "the lost years of business intelligence," said Buytendijk. "The first versions of all these products were crappy, and even now the best vendors have only 80 to 90 percent of the functionality in the Web-enabled software that they had in the desktop-based versions." Most damagingly, these Web versions actually took control away from users. Before 1998, business intelligence was largely user-driven. "Departmental heads could buy a nice little OLAP tool, ask the IT department to provide the links to the corporate data, and with a few days of training were able to generate their own reports," said Buytendijk. "Now everything is on the Web, so all of a sudden you have this notion of centralising everything, which is good for IT departments, but the users have been left with nothing." As companies see an increased need to share information with more people inside and outside the organisation, said Buytendijk, vendors will have to rediscover what he calls self-deployment. "You need a centralised manageable, scalable infrastructure owned by IT on top of which users can deploy their own reports." Few business intelligence vendors are delivering the goods, according to Buytendijk. Business Objects and SAP come top of Gartner's list, with Cognos a close third. Gartner's real criticisms are left for the big software houses. "Oracle's integration in many cases is not much more than putting all products on the same PowerPoint slide," said Buytrendijk. IBM, which is has one of the biggest services practices delivering business intelligence solutions, does not even feature on Gartner's magic quadrant. "IBM is a considerable force in databases and data warehousing, but in business intelligence it does not really have its own products -- it just has partnerships," said Buytendijk. The trouble is, he says, IBM has too many partners. "They have so many that it is hard to speak of an IBM strategy in this area... it's more a strategy du jour, with different consultants recommending different partners."


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