I’ve been inactive on this blog for a while, busy with other projects. Every now and then, though, something interesting catches my eye.
What caught my eye this morning was a report on the struggles of major BI vendors to satisfy users. In looking it over, I had two takeaways. The first was about integration versus best of breed in business intelligence applications. The second was about the state of mobile BI.
Did the big BI vendors waste effort on integration?
The long and short of it is that users appear to be more satisfied with snazzy interfaces that smaller vendors like LogiXML sport than with the kind of solid application integration that larger vendors like Oracle and SAP have spent decades and millions of dollars building. I don’t find this surprising. I suspect most firms that have a long history in using business intelligence had already built all or part of their ‘stacks’ by the time the major vendors had gotten around to committing to application integration. In my experience, this was the case for every large organization I ever worked for or consulted with.
Now, let me turn around and look at things from a financial perspective. I have to ask whether the return on investment (ROI) is really there to rip out what I already have and invest time and money to replace it with an application architecture from Oracle or Microsoft. I suspect that most firms would say it isn’t. The dilemma for the big vendors seems clear, then. They’re at a disadvantage because they spread their resources around developing diverse, end-to-end functionality while their smaller competitors focused all their efforts on building specialized, best-of-breed apps. As a user, given that I’ve already built my architecture from scratch, which would I rather have: Tableau or Excel? (What I actually wind up getting is, of course, an entirely different question.)
Why are we doing business intelligence on a postcard?
The other item of note in the article is that users are not as satisfied with mobile business intelligence as they are with the rest of the BI capabilities at their disposal. Again, I am not surprised. Frankly, unless you’re working with a tablet of decent size, you are wasting time trying to get a satisfying business intelligence user experience. No matter how good the hardware vendors get at sharpening device resolution and squeezing more display area out of a given form factor, to be truly mobile the interface still has to fit in a pocket. Therefore, the display can’t get much larger than a 3″ by 5″ postcard. I suspect the most successful vendors are the ones who have figured this out and have designed their interfaces accordingly. As I’ve stated elsewhere, smartphones are best suited to performance management applications like alerts and very simple status updates, not full-blown visualizations.
I do think smartphones, or whatever they’re called in a few years, are the future of computing, but perhaps not for obvious reasons. Maybe I’ll elaborate in a future post here.