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Better than free food at TDWI San Diego

Two BI leaders walk into the Sunday night reception at the TDWI conference in San Diego. Each is as eminent as you get in BI, and they hadn’t seen each other in months. After hello, they got into what’s more important to them than the free food. One says, “Business Objects and Cognos just don’t get it,” by which he meant all the once-standalone vendors that disappeared last year. As these companies get dragged further into the new parent, they’ll get it less and less.

The other added, “They don’t get collaboration, and they don’t get visualization…The big vendors just can’t innovate fast enough for the market…The next generation of BI will come from a new generation of vendors.”

I just happened to witness this conversation, but the same thoughts seemed to be just under the surface for several other industry experts I’ve talked to here.

On Monday, I talked to one of those innovators. LucidEra CEO Ken Rudin uses an analogy for business intelligence I like: owning a car shouldn’t require fixing it yourself. He hopes that within the next five years, conferences like TDWI’s deemphasize the technology and instead discuss effective metrics.

His company’s offer is intriguing. Give LucidEra access to your data, and within 48 hours his people will deliver two things: a full analytic environment in which you can see your data anew, plus the BI equivalent of an EKG.

Earlier Monday, Howard Dresner said after his keynote that there’s a “vacuum” of innovation and it’ll be filled from the little vendors who’re now sprouting.

This afternoon, Mark Madsen presented “Clues to the Future of Business Intelligence” at the Executive Summit. (See his slides here.) Among other clues, he compared the clumsy map of Oakland crime—developed by the city for more than $300,000—with an intuitive, almost Google-like map developed by a developer in his spare time. (The city’s response was to ban his IP to stop the developer from collecting data.)

The iPhone, the Mac, Google, YouTube and others have shown users much better interfaces than BI vendors have been delivering. And they’ve allowed people to interact online.

That’s what users expect of their BI interface now. He says it’s what they’ll demand.

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