The Information Access Times Are a-Changing

How new “information access” applications will help drive growth for the business intelligence (BI), search, and discovery markets.

Sometimes even the most astute of market watchers seems to get trapped in a Captain Obvious moment. Consider a recent study from market researcher International Data Corp. (IDC), which says that the emergence of new “information access” applications will help drive growth for the business intelligence (BI), search, and discovery markets.

That’s what some prominent industry watchers—such as TDWI’s Wayne Eckerson—have been saying for more than a year now.

Or is it? After all, what does IDC mean by “information access?” To a degree, what Eckerson means when he talks about pervasive BI—BI capabilities that are embedded into custom or packaged applications.

According to IDC, a rise in demand for unified access to enterprise information—fueled in part by a perception that the BI status quo is riven with gaps—has spawned the creation of a new breed of “information access” applications designed to consume data and content from multiple sources.

This sounds a lot like pervasive BI: reporting and even analytic capabilities embedded in enterprise applications and consuming data from a wide variety of sources. There’s more to it, though, because pervasive BI is itself a byproduct of unified information access – that is, a sheer abundance of information, culled from both structured and unstructured data sources, and exposed by means of both data integration (ETL, EAI, EII) and content integration technologies. You can have unified information access without necessarily having pervasive BI; but not vice versa.

“The content markets took off in 2005, growing at over 35 percent,” said Sue Feldman, vice president for content technologies research at IDC, in a prepared release. “Organizations now realize that they must have a complete and up-to-the-minute view of the state of their business. Responding to this need, search and discovery application vendors have developed new approaches that unify access to both data and content. In the process, they have begun to muscle their way into the business intelligence market. It will be interesting to see who will dominate this new unified access market.”

Nor are the BI Powers-that-Be deaf to this ongoing transition, IDC indicates. For one thing, the researcher argues, BI vendors will start adding content technologies—including categorization, fuzzy matching, and text analytics—to their applications, probably by dint of acquisition, or (just as likely) by means of partnerships with content vendors. As a rule, IDC anticipates, few content vendors will successfully go it alone in this marketplace: while they clearly have an edge in functionality, the researcher argues, the BI players have greater market share. As a result, IDC predicts an ongoing convergence between the BI and content management markets and technologies.

There’s a further wrinkle here, IDC indicates: because while most BI vendors are hip to the importance of content management, at least as a complement to their own technologies, relational database vendors seem to be at least somewhat in a state of denial. “Both content and business intelligence [and] database vendors need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their technologies and the synergy that combining them provides. Both sets of vendors also need to move from the hype to the hard facts in educating the marketplace. An educated marketplace that understands the different approaches to information access, discovery, and analysis will shorten the sales cycle and boost sales.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.