Schwarz Examines "The Parallel Evolution and Convergence of Enterprise Content Management and Business Intelligence" By Patrick Henry, Executive Editor, WhatTheyThink April 26, 2007 -- In Wednesday’s (4-18) opening keynote, John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, discussed how organizations can marry "business intelligence" (BI) solutions to database content for better decision-making and improved performance across the board. His company is a $1.3 billion provider of BI software company with more than 42,000 customers and a network of more than 3,000 partners and resellers. "Information access and sharing is the core of our business promise to you," said Schwarz. "We are in the business of making your business more intelligent by making sure that you have an end-to-end view of what you are doing." This is accomplished by managing information in a way that makes it transparent and universally available to everyone in the organization. With the help of BI solutions, said Schwarz, organizations become "less dependent on processes and more dependent on data." BI makes it possible to work with "the right data at the right time, and with the right focus" for optimal results. Schwarz said these solutions are emerging against the backdrop of what he called the "Business Intelligence 2.0 Revolution": a growing awareness of how structured and unstructured information within an organization can be leveraged. Harnessing BI software to referential matter in databases illuminates new ways to use the data. When access to information is made democratic, employees at all levels are empowered to serve the organization’s customers more effectively. Gone MISsing? As the business intelligence revolution progresses, added Schwarz, the concept of centralized, rigidly structured MIS is "going away." It is being replaced, he said, by applications and functions that are "mashed up" at the user level where everyone can access them freely and put them to immediate use. Business intelligence thus requires non-proprietary solutions that are "broad, open, heterogeneous" and applicable to business environments of all kinds. Schwarz noted that organizations need intelligent access to unstructured data—for example, e-mail messages and personal documents—as well as to the structured kind that resides in databases. Unstructured information is rich in potentially useful content, and there is too much of it for any organization to ignore. There is, according to Schwarz, "five times as much information in the unstructured world as there is in databases. He also spoke about the concept of "operational BI": a strategy for linking every data element to its source so that users can always be sure of working with real-time, trusted data. Using a BI solution in this way does not mean re-inventing existing data infrastructures, Schwarz emphasized: "The BI sits on top of backbone apps that have been around forever." He offered a number of Business Objects customer anecdotes to illustrate the power of BI in action. • Owens & Minor, a $5 billion distributor of hospital supplies, intelligently managed its database to make just-in-time (JIT) ordering practicable for the 5,000 hospitals that are its customers. As a result, the hospitals were able to cut their bills for supplies by 30% and eliminate two-thirds of the suppliers they had been using. Schwarz called the JIT streamlining an example of a "network revolution" brought about by the intelligent management of internal and external data. • Striving to improve its weak profitability, Disneyland Paris turned to Business Objects for a way to better deploy resources in the theme park. The solution was a virtual model containing 900 data points where Disney managers could instantly access information about visitor traffic, utilization of attractions, and other operational factors. Park employees, equipped with BlackBerries, then could be dispatched from point to point whenever and wherever the need for additional help might arise. Schwarz said Disneyland Paris likes the results so much that it is thinking of extending the model to visitors’ cell phones with instant messages about wait times for rides and similar information. • Organic Valley Farms, a 1,000-farm cooperative, uses a collaborative system that enables members to track weather conditions, monitor competition from other farmers, and track changes in market demand for the co-op’s dairy products. The system also can manage product and distribution data in ways that help the members fulfill their FDA compliance requirements. • R.R. Donnelley, the largest mailer as well as the largest producer of print in America, has used BI to "purify" its mailing lists by reducing the number of inaccurate addresses in its databases by more than one-third. Schwarz said Business Objects is preparing these and all of its other customers for the business intelligence revolution with new tools for searching, querying, accessing, and managing data—including on-the-go solutions for use with mobile phones. Solutions also will be aimed at enabling users to manage data and collaborate without leaving basic documents, making it possible for them to practice BI from within their spreadsheets and word processing files. Whatever is developed, said Schwarz, will be "open, broad, and integrated," and built upon existing data management structures and processes. "It’s the basic mantra of what we do."