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Mashups Make You Smarter
A new Forrester Research report encourages organizations to embrace self-service business intelligence and mash it up to get even more intelligent.
Posted Aug 5, 2009
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The ever-expanding Web 2.0 universe is colliding with the business intelligence (BI) market. And according to Jim Kobielus, senior analyst with Forrester Research, the Web 2.0 concept of giving users the power to do it all, "is coming to BI in a major way." Kobielus' latest report "Mighty Mashups: Do-It-Yourself Business Intelligence For The New Economy" outlines the impetus for users to take charge with BI tools and to take self-service to the next level of sophistication and flexibility in the form of mashups. 

"[Mashups] allow users to do more heavy lifting without it being heavy lifting," Kobielus says, explaining that mashups are the newest and hottest trend in terms of self-service BI. "Self-service is at the heart of BI for the new economy," he writes in the report. "People want the power to get all the intelligence they need, and they want it all ASAP."

The benefits, he says, reach far and wide. Self-service BI -- or "do-it-yourself" BI -- allows organizations to:

  • Unclog the BI bottleneck: Delivering traditional analytical applications is expensive and takes time -- both for IT and for end users. 
  • Cut BI costs: Self-service BI reduces the need for report requests and for maintenance. Also, it provides a less expensive option for small companies without a lot of IT resources. Users can tweak pre-existing report templates that come bundled within BI environment
  • Enhance BI decision support: "Drag and drop visualization tools to allow users and build new reports and make modifications from data already there within the corporate data warehouse," Kobielus says. "Basically the user can have what he or she needs with very little muss or fuss and extremely low costs."

"BI is being adopted mostly bottom up," Kobielus relays. "Users are demanding these tools." The analyst says that allowing users to build reports by themselves speeds up delivery and henceforth, allows IT to focus on value-added, complex development projects. "It's a win-win," he says. Mashups allow customization in the forms of data and presentation. Users can choose which analytical components to add to their dashboards -- and they can choose the manner in which they'd like to view them. 

Kobielus writes in the report about traditional BI environments: "In a sad irony, the 80/20 rule applies. Only a small percentage of the requested BI features are used all the time." However, with a mashup capability, users essentially build the user interface themselves and only include features they need to use on a daily basis. 

According to Forrester, collaboration is the next evolutionary step in the development of BI mashup capabilities. Although Kobielus says widespread adoption of collaborative and social BI capabilities might take another one to two years, the demand is becoming apparent. As organizations become strapped for resources, they will increasingly look to users to pick up some of the slack in terms of creating and sharing reports and dashboards. Kobielus notes, though, that enterprise collaboration might not become a mainstay until a generational shift occurs within enterprises. Most users are accustomed to being consumers of reports -- they don't have interest or experience in writing their own applications.

However, as a younger generation more adept and accustomed to Web 2.0 technologies climbs the workplace ladders, collaboration efforts are likely to increase. Kobielus notes that several enterprise-class BI vendors such as IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects and TIBCO Spotfire are already embracing mashup BI and collaboration technology. He notes that as vendors improve their offerings, mashups will move beyond silos and become more like "sandboxes." 

The analyst sheds light on the upcoming release from Microsoft now being called Gemini. The product, which is a 2010 deliverable and is currently being demoed, enables the end user to build extremely sophisticated analytical charts and graphs using interactive tools for navigating complex data sets that Microsoft pulls from its SQL server environment. "[Gemini] will set a new standard in terms of user-friendly mashup tools integrated with BI and back-end warehouses," Kobielus says.

Microsoft is bringing it all together in terms of collaborative mashup business intelligence, Kobielus shares. "Microsoft controls more pieces of that overall stack in terms of office applications," he notes. "It's coming further along [than its competitors] in pushing the state-of-the-art BI arena." Microsoft's future release will push the industry further down the path which users are demanding. Kobielus points out that SAP and IBM are pushing along the same lines and within the same timeframe as Microsoft.  

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