META Report: The Business Intelligence Portal Disconnect

Many IT groups in the process of planning enterprise portal (EP) implementations

and evaluating products for SQL database reporting are blissfully unaware that

separate business intelligence teams are implementing Web-based reporting

systems or have already chosen reporting tool standards. Although many BI

reporting systems (such as those from Business Objects, Cognos, Crystal Decisions,

Information Builders) provide access control and personalized interfaces, with a

few exceptions (e.g., Brio), none of these products provide the full

functionality of a generalized enterprise portal framework.

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Hence, to meet the information access needs of end users, business intelligence

and enterprise portal teams must jointly plan information delivery efforts that

span the structured and unstructured information spectrum. Indeed, by 2003/04,

we expect that BI vendors will de-emphasize standalone BI portals, and integrate

their offerings with standard portal frameworks (such as those from Plumtree, IBM, Sybase,

iPlanet, BEA, and SAP). By 2005/06, vendors will consolidate down to a few large

systems companies (e.g., Microsoft, BEA Systems, IBM), the largest enterprise

application companies (e.g., SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle), and one or two

independent players (e.g., Plumtree).

Within the past year, enterprise portal efforts have moved beyond tactical,

departmental-level deployments, and have attracted the attention of

infrastructure and enterprise architects. IT organizations (rightfully)

recognize that these portals are an important component of an emerging

information delivery infrastructure, which will provide business users access to

needed information in the context of business processes. Enterprise portal

development teams should resist adopting tactical solutions for structured data

reporting problems, because business intelligence groups generally have much

more experience with financial reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP),

and analytical applications than do typical enterprise portal teams.

IT groups should combine business intelligence and enterprise portal planning

efforts into a general, enterprisewide information delivery infrastructure. This

holistic architecture should address:

  • Information categorization: This involves integrating taxonomy

    creation and maintenance tools – from vendors such as Semio, Autonomy, and

    Verity – with BI reporting and OLAP servers (e.g., Acutate, Crystal). The focus

    of these vendors must now extend beyond unstructured text to include structured

    reports and OLAP models. BI engines and categorization systems currently require

    custom integration.

  • Content management: Although content management technologies (e.g.,

    Interwoven, Stellant, Vignette) can be used to support this effort, content

    management involves development of business processes that are frequently absent

    in both business organizations and IT groups. A joint effort to establish rules

    about who can publish, what approvals are needed, and what legal and marketing

    review will be needed (particularly for external publishing) must take place,

    supported by technology. Currently, there is no out-of-the-box integration

    between content management players, business intelligence reporting, and OLAP

    servers. Users will be left with parallel publishing paths, with integration

    provided by the portal.

  • Document management: Again, business intelligence integration with

    document management systems such as FileNET, Documentum, or Open Text is not

    available from BI vendors. Users should consider these products as parallel

    information sources and, in most cases, provide integration only at the portal.

  • BI servers and data sources: Business intelligence efforts must also

    be considered in the context of this broader information delivery architecture.

    As technologies are chosen, integration with enterprise portals and unstructured

    information technologies (e.g., categorization, collaboration) provide new

    selection criteria for BI teams.

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  • Unified management: Most business intelligence products have

    relatively mature system management facilities, which in many cases duplicate

    those of enterprise portals and, in some cases, go beyond what EPs provide

    (e.g., field-level data-access control). Integrating these facilities becomes an

    important part of a comprehensive information delivery implementation. Until the

    portal market consolidates (2004/05), users will be left with multiple

    management consoles and limited LDAP integration.

Ideally, IT organizations should establish an information delivery architecture

and planning group that combines document and content management skills with

business intelligence and data warehousing expertise. In most cases, this should

take the form of an EP project management team. Business representatives on the

this team should help develop comprehensive end-user information and business

process automation requirements. Information delivery system design must be

approached in the context of business processes that define where the

information is needed and where it is derived (the information supply chain

concept). Although development of an enterprise portal project management team

is the ideal solution, factors to consider for this process include the

following:

  • An EP project management team-PMT must coordinate with an enterprise program

    management office (PMO), if it exists, as a central coordinating hub.

  • The EP-PMT must also coordinate with any data warehouse and BI groups and

    departments that are already present in the organization. Frequently, reporting

    is coordinated by both IT groups and other groups in the CFO’s office (or in

    other end-user departments) and all involved groups must be included in

    coordination efforts.

  • Any major application upgrades (e.g., ERP or CRM installations) can drive

    major changes in business intelligence/reporting architectures and

    organizations. Groups or PMOs coordinating these rollouts must be contacted and

    their plans included in the EP project management team’s efforts.

  • Users become very dependent on particular business intelligence products and

    the reports that are implemented on in-place BI systems. The EP-PMT must

    frequently give more care to preserving existing BI investments than to

    greenfield-oriented, unstructured information management issues.

  • Absent a high-level directive to develop an EP-PMT, business intelligence

    and enterprise portal teams should seek each other out and coordinate

    informally, wherever possible. Failure to do so will result in difficult and

    expensive after-the-fact integration of BI and EP systems.

What About Business Intelligence Portals?
Several BI vendors have released their own enterprise portal products (e.g.,

Business Objects, Brio, Cognos), with extensions intended to support

unstructured information in a general EP environment. We believe that the market

has decisively spoken, and that BI companies will NOT play leading roles as

general-purpose EP framework suppliers. Therefore, IT organizations should not

pursue initiatives that use their BI tool as a portal framework. Instead, IT

organizations should move to specialized portal suppliers (e.g., Plumtree,

Epicentric, Corechange,), or to EP frameworks from major systems software

vendors (e.g., Microsoft, BEA, IBM, Sybase, iPlanet/Sun). Indeed, we believe the

large system vendors will dominate EP frameworks by 2005/06. BI vendors will be

judged on their ability to integrate with a wide range of leading EP companies,

rather than on their own portal features.

Business Impact: To perform management functions in a timely manner,

business users need easy access to business information and key performance

indicators. Improvements in timeliness can improve customer satisfaction and

business efficiency.

Bottom Line: IT organizations should consider business intelligence and

enterprise portal projects together, as part of an overall information delivery

effort. Architecture teams should be used that involve both disciplines, thereby

developing an organization’s information delivery systems.

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