When it comes to the business intelligence (BI) market, it can be inordinately difficult to arrive at a single view of the truth. This is ironic, given that the promise of BI is that it will present an unvarnished, generally accepted single view of corporate reality, says Nigel Pendse, author of The BI Survey and The OLAP Report.
Now in its seventh iteration, The BI Survey, formerly The OLAP Survey, sheds light on some uncomfortable home truths which remain prevalent in the BI market.
"It's hard to arrive at the truth in the BI market because so many different constituencies have their own vested interest in pushing their particular line," says Pendse, who will be in South Africa on 17 April to present the findings of The BI Survey 7 at VIBE, an industry event being hosted by Harvey Jones.
"Vendors, consultants, industry and financial analysts, journalists and users all tend to have a reason to over- or under-state the state of affairs."
It's not hard to understand why:
* Vendors want to sell more of their particular product, and so they will exaggerate its performance, particularly with reference to the competition. They will invoke TPC reports and claim outlandish breakthroughs for their clients.
* Consultancies, often tasked to implement these products, will claim breakthrough results and alignment with corporate metrics, especially when it comes to performance management.
* Analysts, drawing their revenues as they do from the market they serve, are disinclined to dig too deep, so they perpetuate some of the myths which abound in the BI market.
* Journalists are easily swayed, generally lacking the insight to analyse reports or separate the wheat from the chaff.
* Users, having extracted millions in funding for their BI project, are unlikely to blow the whistle on themselves when BI fails to deliver its expected value. So they boast of their successes and downplay their failures.
"We're not saying people are being overtly dishonest," adds Pendse. "But what we have observed in all emerging markets, and BI is one of them, is that most parties in the market are swayed by hype. That's hardly surprising: If you hear the same 'facts' often enough, you tend to start believing them without question or critical examination."
The BI hype-cycle is characterised by commonly perceived "truths" such as: data volumes are growing exponentially; users are enjoying sub-second response times against complex data sets from some offerings; and bigger BI vendors are safer.
"The BI Survey can report without bias, fear or favour on what is actually happening in the real world," says Pendse. "And it can do this because we asked 1 900 end-users and consultants for their honest input into the BI market. A minimum of 50 responses each was received from users of 16 products, making this the most statistically valid survey of the BI market to date."
This is the second time Harvey Jones has brought Pendse to South Africa to make the findings of the BI Survey available to the local market. Last year, a representative cross-section of the local BI market attended, and MD Keith Jones expects an even stronger turnout this year.
"We are fully committed to growing the BI market in a responsible way, and without any of the hype that may have disillusioned customers," says Jones. "For this reason, we are delighted to work with Nigel on his second trip to South Africa."