Q&A: Market Forces That Will Mold BI in 2009

It’s been a year of great change, and there’s more ahead. JasperSoft’s CEO takes a look at four key trends for 2009 that will have an impact on BI.

Anyone who watches the business intelligence sector closely has seen plenty of change in the last few years, from major acquisitions by every large vendor, to a surge of interest in BI software, who can use it, and what it can accomplish.

We spoke with Brian Gentile, CEO of JasperSoft, an open source vendor that produces what Gentile says is now the world’s most widely deployed BI software, for his perspective on what is happening in the market both for open source and for BI and technology in general.

BITW: What are some major factors that you see shaping the business intelligence market now and into 2009, especially as they relate to open source?

Brian Gentile: During the past 18 months, we’ve seen several major forces exert significant influence on the BI sector. Specifically, I think that four of those forces will become even more pronounced in their effect on BI during 2009: consolidation, technology shifts, what I call The Besieged CIO, and the consumerization of information.

Consolidation is certainly something we’ve seen in 2007 and 2008, so let’s start with that. What effect does consolidation of the largest BI vendors continue to have?

We’re continuing to feel a ripple effect. Since Business Objects, Cognos, and Hyperion were acquired by SAP, IBM, and Oracle respectively, we’ve seen meaningful opportunities open up for smaller, faster, and more modern BI software providers who fill specific niches of functionality, particularly where the largest players have been weak. I expect that as the largest (now consolidated) BI vendors continue to rationalize and publish road maps based on old technologies, more customer unrest will result -- which creates still more opportunity for emerging BI software vendors.

You cited technology shifts as another force. What are some examples, and how are they changing the landscape?

In the last two years or so we’ve seen some important new technologies emerge and begin to influence BI, and I believe they’ll have an even more significant effect in the coming year. Some examples include SOA/Web services (and overall componentized design), in-memory analytics, integrated search, and the use of rich media services to provide more compelling (Web-based) user experiences.

For BI tools and software, the question has become: Which vendors will be able to deliver a more modern, dynamic experience using these new technologies? The more dated a product and its architecture, of course, the more difficult it will be to deliver new functionality that truly takes advantage of these new technologies to create superior features and capabilities for the customer.

What about that “besieged CIO”? The first two shifts you’ve cited certainly affect him or her, as does the current economy.

Right. We can’t forget that with all this change, the Besieged CIO is under increasing pressure and scrutiny. I use that term because for whomever is in the top IT position at a company, the pressure never ceases to continue doing more with less. The CEO is constantly pushing to drive the company to innovate and create top-line growth. The CIO’s budget, however, isn’t growing proportionately.

So what’s a CIO to do? The answer is to find capable, lower-cost alternatives in all technology categories. This is where I believe new development and delivery models will become even more popular. That benefits open source and software-as-a-service vendors because, in most cases, the up-front and on-going costs are just lower (especially in the case of open source). This phenomenon will also drive continued growth in the rapidly maturing space of virtualization, as well as the latest hype area: cloud computing.

What role will the difficult economic environment play as these trends emerge in the year ahead? Will it slow progress?

I don’t think it will slow progress for those software providers who are well aligned with these four forces. I’m not being a Pollyanna here. The crisis in the global financial system and the resulting economic downturn will certainly place greater scrutiny on all projects and spending in the enterprise.

However, on the upside, this is precisely what puts good BI -- BI that informs business decisions -- on the top of a CIO’s must-have list year after year, regardless of the economy. Market forces will put needed pressure on BI vendors to find ways to transform technologies to better meet the needs of those besieged CIOs.

We’ve left the growing importance of consumers and how they use information and technology for last -- what you’ve called the consumerization of information. How do you see consumers and their hunger for more and better information shaping the year ahead?

The most important force to impact BI in the year ahead may indeed be the consumer’s effect on information -- how it’s collected, handled, and delivered. The concept is based on the evolving workforce and its expectations for software, which will drastically transform software development and usage, including the enterprise software market.

The consumerization of information is based on the very real workforce demographic shift under way presently: As an aging workforce in the largest economies continues to retire (in the U.S., it’s the baby boomer generation) and more young workers enter and climb higher, we’ll see a widening gap between the expected behavior of enterprise applications and their actual behavior. I call it the “expectation gap.”

The fact is, younger workers have grown up with computers and the Internet. They’ve always been connected. Therefore, their expectations for how software systems should behave are vastly different from an older worker who has grown into computers and software over the course of a career.

One example of this demographic shift is startling: 10 percent of the world’s population today is an Indian under the age of 25. Software vendors who design products that work according to principles that those workers understand and expect will fare well with this younger generation. Those vendors that don’t will be forgotten.

Although consumerizing information certainly will have a big impact on BI tools in 2009, that effect will compound each following year, as more baby boomers retire and more Gen X and Gen Y workers replace them.

That’s a lot of coming change. How does JasperSoft address these colliding forces?

Fortunately, JasperSoft is in a very good position to capitalize on these four forces. I chose to become CEO of JasperSoft this year precisely because I started to foresee these trends coming to an intersection. These four forces practically beg for an established BI vendor that is supported by a massive community of developers and partners.

JasperSoft is now the world’s most widely deployed BI software, because of both the size of our community and because our software is embedded in so many software applications and systems in enterprises all around the globe. Being an open source BI vendor used to be about disrupting the proprietary business models of yesterday. For JasperSoft, that mission is accomplished. Today, it’s about being able to adapt quickly to the customer’s evolving requirements with modern software that comes at the right price point. Our BI tools combine a complete Web 2.0 interface and infrastructure with advanced BI functionality and then deliver unsurpassed support and value. Now that’s pervasive BI. For us, it’s a very good time to be in this business.