Be a BI Expert--or Just Look Like One

This summer, leading IT research firm IDC released a report that evaluates the business intelligence (BI) tools and vendor market for the period 2003 through 2005. The study has been on the Microsoft site for a while and if you are a BI person, you might have already read it. But if you don’t think of yourself in those terms, chances are you haven’t read the full report or even scanned the executive summary.

For many of you, devouring 20 pages of BI market analysis might not seem quite as exciting as reading the sports page or the latest best-selling novel. For some, such a task might be on par with scanning the nutritional contents on the back of your morning cereal box. But trust me, reading the report is worth an investment of time if you’re a database professional, even if you’re not a “BI person.” More and more, BI and related technologies are starting to seep into everyday usage within database environments. IDC suggests that trends in the BI market happen in 15-year cycles. IDC also asserts that “the next wave in BI has now begun;” in a few years, we’ll look back to see that 2005 was the beginning of a 15-year cycle that focused on “expanding the reach of BI to more users both inside and outside the organization and a move to automate more decision processes by combining QRA (query reporting and analysis) and advanced analytics functionality.”

Probably not tomorrow or next week, but sometime sooner than you realize, you’ll find it hard to be a senior database professional without having at least a modest grasp of BI technologies. The IDC report is actually a pretty easy and interesting read, and it doesn’t presume much, if any, previous knowledge of the BI market. The market summary does a nice job of categorizing the various types of tools and market segments that exist today. A synopsis of the 20 largest vendors in the BI marker space provides market share and revenue share analysis and will help you understand how each vendor’s tools fit into the BI community at large. Also, although the report is 20 full pages, most of the core report is just 10 pages, so it won’t take as much time to digest as you might think.

The report provides some interesting market-share data that will interest BI veterans and provides a nice introduction to BI terms and jargon that will help newbies better understand the competitive landscape. Reading IDC’s report won’t make you a BI expert, but doing so might let you pretend to be one for at least a few minutes at your next dinner party. You can download the full report from

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