BI, KM vendors converge on Web

BI, KM vendors converge on Web

By Paul Montgomery

The previously separate software disciplines of business intelligence (BI) and knowledge management (KM) are coming together in several guises - most notably, through the enterprise information portal.

The unifying force behind this movement seems to be the Internet, which has been a catalyst for change in the way back end applications look for some time now, but is now paying off on architectural issues as well.

The most prominent marriage of the two technologies is in the merger between Hummingbird and PC DOCS, which has now been completed with Hummingbird buying 92 per cent of PC DOCS's stocks despite a counter-bid by fellow Canadian vendor Open Text (see March/April 1999, pp 3 and 81).

Scott Kadlec, vice chairman of PC DOCS, said that the focus of the combined company was on the long term, trying to avoid the "bubble" effect, but he did make some daring comparisons with one bubble company.

"Yahoo! is the consumer side of the world, and we intend to be the commercial side of that world," he said.

PC DOCS released version 3.0 of its flagship DOCSFulcrum product suite during the merger process, but the hard work is still ahead of the development teams.


SAS Institute is also getting into this convergent field, although it is striking alliances rather than engaging in takeovers. It has agreed to use four-year-old US-based developer Intraspect's Knowledge Server with its BI software to create what it calls Collaborative Business Intelligence.

This concept marries BI with functions normally associated with workflow and document management, or in the company's words, uniting "the structured world of numbers with the unstructured world of text".

"Business users need information in context, such as who wrote a report, why they wrote it, and what the report means. This is the essence of knowledge," said Barrett Joyner, president of SAS Institute North America.

While the more established players are moving in the right direction, their smaller brethren are being more adventurous by embracing the concept of the enterprise information portal.

Information Advantage's heritage is in business intelligence reporting, but its portal product, MyEureka!, includes a "channel" feature, one of only a few portal solutions which incorporates the narrowcasting features of the now-dated "push technology". The content for these channels can come from inside or outside the firewall, consolidated onto a standalone content server. Jim Fisher, MD of Information Advantage Australia, said internal data sources would need to include metadata keywords for this server to realise that a particular document or report was relevant.

"The technology is starting to blur the lines between BI reports and document management," he said.

Mr Fisher said there would be a divide along industry lines between portal providers from the business intelligence area and from the knowledge management area - with the former tending to be more attractive for retailers, manufacturers and primary industries, and the latter finding the professions and other service- and knowledge-based industries to be more receptive.

"I don't see us competing with the knowledge management vendors," he said.