Business intelligence products are on the up. The worldwide market for data warehouse analysis tools is expected, by analysts IDC, to expand by around 27% a year to 2005, when it will be valued at just under $26 billion.
The Asia-Pacific market is expected to account for 13% of global data warehouse software sales by 2004.
End-user query and reporting tools, such as Brio, will dominate that growth, targeted as they are to diverse organisations with diverse staff requirements, says the senior analyst for IDC’s data warehousing and information access programme, Dan Vesset.
As e-commerce takes flight, online analytical processing (OLAP) tools and services, including products like Cognos, will take 27% of the worldwide BI market by 2005, say IDC.
Other online business intelligence services include web traffic monitors like analysts Hitwise, Red Sheriff and marketing information giant AC Nielsen’s Netratings service.
One problem, says Auldhouse Computer Training OLAP lecturer Glenn Wilkin, is finding a useful medium between various sources.
“I think the big issue is that people are realising they need the data, and they’ve been accessing the data bowl through all kinds of weird means in the past, but now they’re wanting to have a unified way of analysing it,” says Wilkin.
But BI tools, often similar in appearance to portals, have become more user-friendly, and indeed many OLAP tools are picked up by staff in a matter of hours. The tools are also easier for management to control.
Products can be policed and audited to ensure confidentiality – say manufacturers – while also remaining intuitive for even low-level users and statistics novices.
“People can come to grips with data warehouses quite quickly, without not necessarily being experts in relational databases,” says Wilkin.
Within a few clicks staff can “drill down” into deep detail regarding company performance, demographic sales data, and so on.
But is the industry aware of the implications drilling-down into potentially sensitive client information holds?
“Hard to tell. I would say in some cases not,” Wilkin says. “I think people don’t necessarily consider data to be as important as it is, or as sensitive as it is, and if it’s not mission-critical to their daily routine they might not accord it the sensitivity it deserves, from a privacy perspective.
“There’s a growing trend in industrial espionage, with people sneaking out secrets and data like names or credit card numbers. If you are known to house this kind of information, people are going to want to look at it."