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Dashboards, Decisions and Wall Street

by Maroushka Kanywani, Editor, Dashboard InsightThursday, September 18, 2008

By Doug Henschen, Intelligent Enterprise

Today I'm at the Gartner Event Processing Summit in Stamford, Conn., and much of the buzz here is about what's going down on Wall Street. That's no surprise given that about 70 percent of the attendees here are from financial institutions. There have been plenty of jokes about not being able to buy paper clips, let alone enterprise technology. That said, I did see at least some tire kicking in the exhibit hall, and among the 15 vendors exhibiting at this smallish, 150-attendee hotel event, almost every one of them seemed to be showing off a dashboard-style interface.

As Gartner analyst Roy Schultes observes in this week's in-depth Q&A interview, dashboards showing current (or at least near-real-time) business metrics have never been hotter. We're seeing these types of interfaces from BI vendors, BAM vendors and complex-event-processing (CEP) vendors alike. It's a healthy sign of a meeting of the minds between business and IT.

In the BI camp, most vendors want to highlight their ability to deliver "real-time" (a.k.a. operational) insight. Information Builders Inc., for instance, is helping many customers move toward "near-real-time" deployments through data warehouse trickle feeding and hard-wired integrations offered by its iWay unit. iWay also has an iWay Activity Monitor business activity monitoring (BAM) tool, though Michael Corcoran, Chief Marketing Officer at IBI, admits that "BAM" can be a tough sell.

"We can't sell BAM to a BI audience, but we get better traction if we talk to operational folks about having a BI monitoring engine and dashboard as part of our integration technology," Corcoran explains.

Part of the problem, Corcoran says, is that the people who buy, implement and use conventional BI technology are not generally interested in business processes. "There's interested in 'real-time,' but they're not hung up on "BAM" — the latter being a term that has more currency among process managers.

At least one vendor here in Stamford says he's seeing signs of convergence between CEP and BI. The BI tools and batch-oriented processes are just too slow, says John Morrell of Coral8, so he foresees event processing engines integrated with the BI stack to provide real "real-time" insight into what's happening now. That could be through analytic services as well as human-facing dashboard displays.

Whatever camp they are coming from, dashboards are a good sign of progress. Whether built on BI tools, BAM tools or CEP implementations, dashboards are broadly understood to be timely displays of actionable business metrics. The timeliness of the insight is all relative and varies by application, but the important psychological shift is to stop thinking about reporting information and to start thinking about supporting decisions.

This shift in thinking will be a central theme at next month's Enterprise Decision Management Summit, so performance-minded BI practitioners and process managers alike should consider attending.

About the Author

Doug Henschen is Editor-in-Chief at Intelligent Enterprise. He joined Intelligent Enterprise as Editor in 2004 and was named Editor-in-Chief in January 2007. He has specialized in covering the intersection of business intelligence, performance management, business process management and rules management technologies within enterprise applications and architectures. He previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Transform Magazine, which covered content management and business process management challenges. Also see Doug's blog: In Context By Doug Henschen.

Source: Intelligent Enterprise

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