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December 18, 2006

Ambient BI with collaboration

A while ago we witnessed the emergence of enterprise search as the must-have functionality for business intelligence (BI) when, one by one, BI vendors joined the 'search party' by introducing their own solutions for finding intelligence. Now, collaboration is becoming the latest key feature in the marketing of BI applications, as Business Objects demonstrates.

By CBR Staff Writer

Earlier this year, it emerged that Microsoft is re-positioning Excel firmly in its BI stack with improved functionality in Excel 2007, and server-side operation with Excel Services, a component of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. The marketing campaign for the 2007 launch consistently highlighted the importance of collaboration functionality in the Microsoft platform that allows BI users to share BI with colleagues and partners, located in other offices across the globe, as if they were sat in the same room – thus throwing down the gauntlet for collaborative BI.

Although collaboration functionality is to be found elsewhere, such as in Oracle and IBM platforms, neither of those companies has so far made much marketing capital out of their own capabilities in conjunction with BI. This is in stark contrast to Business Objects, which has taken up Microsoft’s collaborative BI challenge by launching a prototype solution based on Windows Live Messenger that can be downloaded via Business Objects Labs’ website.

The solution, the BI Collaborator, enables users to communicate with colleagues and partners to detect presence, and view and share reports. Business Objects’ demonstration depicts a map-based report that uses Google Maps, with drill-through functionality.

Furthermore, collaboration is to be a key part of the company’s strategy for the future; it is positioned as a core element of its newly-published vision for BI 2.0. That vision is encapsulated by the term ambient BI. It defines pervasive BI beyond 2006 that has easy visualization, with analytics, search, and collaboration that can be embedded in applications. In the Business Objects world of ambient BI, structured and unstructured data are brought together as input, including data from external websites. BI output is delivered in a flexible way to any device, mobile or not, and/or via mashups.

Ambient BI will see customers taking control of BI functionality through mashups, collaboration, and instant messaging. Business Objects sees this as the ‘community revolution’ of BI 2.0 that is coming about as a result of the phenomenal success that community and social websites have had outside the corporate world.

Another angle to ambient BI is the ‘user revolution’ underlined with Google-like search capabilities, and single purpose, easy-to-use gadgets/widgets. This is demonstrated by Business Objects’ desktop BI widgets that are currently available in prototype form.

Earlier in 2006, Business Objects launched a series of new products that address data quality and integrity issues under the banner of enterprise information management. The company’s ambient BI vision and latest prototypes show that it is attempting to address BI issues at every stage: input, usage and output.

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Business Objects is clearly not content to rest on its laurels. Instead, it is leveraging its experience and insight into BI to revive its reputation for innovation.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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