RESEARCH & RESOURCES

The Year Ahead: Information Technology in Transition, Business Intelligence Rising

The CEO of Jaspersoft gazes into his crystal ball to reveal five key trends to watch in 2010.

By Brian Gentile

As I look back on the year that was 2009, I see the themes emerging that we’ll be tracking in 2010 -- and it’s shaping up to be a fascinating time to be in information technology, especially in the business intelligence sector.

It’s transition time for the entire industry. The worst of the economic crisis is behind us, and although it’s anything but smooth sailing as we launch into 2010, companies of all stripes are looking for the strategic investments necessary to position themselves for growth. Much of that investment will fall into IT, but the spending will remain reined in -- at least in comparison to the last decade or so -- but the technology innovation, especially in BI, will be hotter than ever.

Here are the five biggest trends I see coming to light in 2010.

1. The CIO Reports (again) to the CEO.

We’re going to see a return of the CIO reporting to CEO -- as opposed to the CFO -- in 2010.

We’re past the sting of the technology implosions of this decade and at the same time, information is starting to be seen as the strategically important asset that it is. Meanwhile, the sheer amount of data both being generated within and coming into the organization has increased more rapidly than anyone could have predicted. All these factors will prompt the CIO’s role to become more strategic and more important to the CEO.

Are CIO’s ready for this higher profile role? I would say as a group they may lack some of the skills necessary to successfully report to the CEO, but it will go slightly better than it did during the end of the last decade, when IT first made the transition from cost center to strategic initiative.

2. The CIO's vendor perspective is forever altered.

CIOs have reached a breaking point with traditional enterprise software licensing models. During the past year, numerous CIOs have remarked to me that they can no longer spend seven figures on software on the hope that it will create a positive ROI down the road. These CIOs are now demanding a more graduated approach to complex systems investments and are more interested than ever in open source alternatives, subscription pricing, and participation in the development process.

To this end, the simpler and far more cost-effective approaches that have emerged in recent years -- open source software, SaaS, and cloud solutions, to name three -- have proven their mettle. There’s simply no reason to go backward.

Further, IT teams have learned how to build next-generation infrastructure without breaking the bank and you can bet that budgets will never be bloated again. Instead, the money will be spent on those strategic initiatives where the project approach is incremental and greater control is in the hands of IT.

3. The open source philosophy extends its reach.

Building on the last trend, the principles of open source -- and by that I mean the methods and practices of transparency, community participation, and collaboration, not just the adoption of open source software -- will become entrenched in the mainstream throughout the tech sector.

Commercial open source software has risen to prominence in recent years, proving its value as an enterprise-ready technology that delivers flexibility and leading-edge capabilities at an attractive price. However, the mainstreaming of open source has also led to a new mindset in the industry.

In 2010, watch for more open APIs from even the most stalwart proprietary providers to extend the reach of their products. Watch them take a page from the open source world by making use of community development models. Watch them come down from their hill and start a collaborative dialog with the people who care about their product and want to actually extend or modify it.

Two interesting case studies to watch next year in light of this trend will be the rise of Android-based phones -- with their open architecture and open application development process standing in stark contrast to Apple’s closed iPhone ecosystem. It’s no wonder that forecasters expect Android to quickly become a popular mobile operating system. Google Wave already stands as a siren call to all those who’ve pined for an open set of Web services that can synthesize the variety of social and collaborative tools we use today -- available entirely as an open source toolset. Similar scenarios will play out broadly across the industry.

4. It’s time for real-time BI.

There’s been a lot of talk in the last year about real-time technology, whether it’s about the real-time Web or applications to exploit the increasing amounts of streaming data available. The rise of real-time technology will find a home in 2010 in the form of real-time business intelligence.

Streaming data will start taking the place of ad hoc queries in more BI-based systems. Real-time BI will be defined as business intelligence driven by complex events and intelligent access to streaming data that makes constant analysis possible. For very large data sets and additional dimensions, new analytic data warehouses can provide very fast access to trends and calculations that yield new meaning and lead to decisions being made throughout the business day with up-to-the-second intelligence, not intelligence based on last year, last month, or even yesterday.

In 2010 we’ll see some interesting use cases for real-time BI that will shine a light on just how this technology can be harnessed to solve business problems in novel ways. For example, a consumer products company could use a variety of social media-based data to create real-time sentiment analysis dashboards. Similarly, multiplayer game companies could track online gaming behavior so that their games can adjust in real time to the most popular activities in the environment and increase players and visitors in the process.

5. Collaborative BI will finally arrive -- and stick around.

The BI industry has been talking about the use of “Collaborative BI” for several years now, but it was a case of the terminology being a few steps ahead of the technology.

Today, not only has the technology caught up, but the social construct -- driven by the rise of social media and a new focus on sharing and community participation -- is also in place to finally make collaborative BI a reality. Fortunately, this is happening just as BI practitioners are awakening to the fact that business problems are solved collaboratively, and BI is just part of the answer.

In 2010, the use of BI technology and collaboration will start to bear that fruit. The fundamental Web-based technology (Exhibit A is Google Wave) is in place to allow collaboration across analysis, reports, and any variety of other enterprise information that will help users make decisions faster and better. The key will be to design the reports and analysis into the collaborative environment so that it is shared consistently and broadly. In this sense, “enterprise social computing” will approach the mainstream.

In 2010, expect to see collaborative BI extend the reach of data-driven strategic decisions throughout organizations resulting in an even greater return on corporate investment in BI.

Brian Gentile is the CEO of Jaspersoft. You can contact the author at bgentile@Jaspersoft.com.

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