Must be a sign of the times. Microsoft organises a Business Intelligence conference for the very first time and the convention centre in Seattle is completely packed. Almost 3000 attendees from all over the world witness announcements of new products and strategic alliances. Also, there’s a live demo at least once an hour: Microsoft people tend to get nervous if they can’t click a mouse regularly.
Is Business Intelligence an area that should be watched more closely, now Redmond is paying so much more attention to it?
Sounds a bit rhetorical, sort of like asking if the sea level rises when the polar caps melt. Especially if you see that other important industrial players are making similar movements. Just consider the enthusiasm with which specialised companies such as Hyperion (now Oracle) and OutlookSoft (SAP) were being absorbed recently.

Business Intelligence. No doubt it is the area where we will find the most exciting, most strategic IT projects of the forthcoming years. For a start, the atmosphere has changed radically. We all know the archaic view: once every month or so, with much groaning and moaning, a new version of the data warehouse is created. It is subject to complex analysis, only understood by mathematical geniuses that have their nightly dreams filled with three-dimensional cubes. The resulting reports – typically of a financial nature only – are read by a small, elite audience. At their best, these reports function as a colourful rear-view mirror: a lot of entertaining things to see, but the information is by default too late and has very limited use in making quick decisions in the real-time, mashup business context of today.
That view is a cliché now.
The next generation of Business Intelligence applications brings information directly to the people: data that is accurate and up-to-the-minute – straight from the production systems – is made available to many more work places. This is the type of information that provides the insight that is needed to make crucial decisions over and over again, right on the spot. It is the insight that will make the competitive difference for companies in the forthcoming years.
Actually, you can’t really speak of separate ‘applications’ any more. Intelligence is seamlessly embedded in other systems. You could be working with email, a spreadsheet, or the client contact system without even realising that small particles of Business Intelligence keep raining down. It’s what you could call pervasive intelligence.
New players, new rules. If there’s Insight to the People, we just might be doing something useful with IT again. For a change.