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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.