Business intelligence is a sector that has grown up without really maturing. Until recently, different sets of users were expected to tackle distinct analytical tasks with standalone tools and applications from a multitude of vendors – vendors offering software for querying and reporting, data analysis, financial planning, forecasting, data mining and any number of other aspects of data investigation and delivery.
Even when these came from the same source, there was often little interoperability between products, forcing users to move in and out of applications or to engage in a frenzy of cutting and pasting between applications.
But adulthood is kicking in. After a wave of industry consolidation over the last two years, products are now coming to market that have unified user environments, consistent metadata models, cross-application functionality. And, for once, the BI sector's timing is impeccable.
BI buyers are hungry for products that provide broad visibility into their organisation's performance and that encourage individual and group awareness of their roles in delivering to performance goals; they want to exploit the vast quantities of operational data that are being generated by their ERP systems; and they want to ensure a higher level of corporate governance across the organisation.
As such, BI has been made the cornerstone of business performance management. Whether one term subsumes the other in coming years is anyone's guess. But with respect to maturity, performance management is doing for BI what ERP did for accounting, HR, manufacturing, supply chain management and other core business applications – take it out of the department and make it part of the DNA of business.