James G. Kobielus By James Kobielus

In one of my recent tweets, I commented that Forrester has developed a maturity model for enterprise adoption of mashup-style, self-service development of business intelligence (BI) applications. Indeed, we have, and it will appear in my forthcoming Forrester report, “Mighty Mashups: Do-It-Yourself Business Intelligence for the New Economy.”

Another tweeter–an astute, but sadly, non-Forrester BI analyst–scoffed that “BI mashup maturity model” is an oxymoron. Respectfully, I must disagree. Enterprises are adopting self-service BI approaches for many reasons–principally, to cut costs in a tight economy, to unclog the development backlog, and to speed delivery of actionable, targeted intelligence to decision makers. Also, companies are providing users with BI tools to do interactive, deeply dimensional exploration of information pulled from enterprise data warehouses (EDW), marts, cubes, transactional applications, and other systems. Furthermore, organizations everywhere have adopted browser-oriented BI environments that leverage the full Web 2.0 interactivity and collaboration.

Sitting at the convergence of those trends is BI mashup, which Forrester sees as the new paradigm for truly pervasive decision-support systems. What throws off some people is the term “mashup,” which sometimes gets pigeonholed as simply referring to using, say, Google Maps to display geocoded performance metrics and sundry Internet-sourced data in a browser-based dashboard. Yes, BI mashup encompasses that approach to presenting and integrating diverse data, but its application is much broader.

Just as important, BI mashup is not bleeding edge. Rather, BI mashup leverages the in-memory BI clients, semantic virtualization layers, data federation middleware, automated data discovery, and other next-generation BI tools and platforms.

No one vendor or user has yet put together an end-to-end BI environment that is entirely focused on mashup-style self-service development. However, Forrester sees the BI industry converging toward as mashup-oriented architecture over the coming 2-3 years. With that in mind, we sketched out a BI maturity model that encompasses the following four levels (the first 3 of which are represented in case studies in the upcoming report):

  • Level 1: Lightweight presentation mashup against transactional applications: This basic maturity level is for companies that have no prior BI or EDW; have little in-house BI expertise; and are comfortable with allowing casual users to use their browsers to customize parameterized reports from data from packaged business applications.                                                                
  • Level 2: Deep presentation mashup against EDW: This level is for organization that do have prior BI and centralized EDWs, but have an understaffed BI development group and/or  power users and data modelers urgently require the ability to mashup and explore historical and current data within sophisticated BI workspaces.
  • Level 3: Full BI mashup in federated environment: This level is for organizations that have decentralized, dynamic data management environments, and have the expertise to design reusable, composite data services to seamlessly mashup internal and external information.
  • Level 4: Full collaborative mashup with IT governance: This level is for organizations that want to encourage subject  matter experts and operational users to collaborate on analytics created through mashup, but who are also concerned that all mashups be controlled, governed, and monitored in accordance with enterprise policies and best practices.

As I said, it will take a few years before we see a substantial number of enterprise case studies that implement the pinnacle of collaborative mashup with tight governance. Nevertheless, when you follow the evolution of next-generation solution portfolios from leading BI vendors such as SAP, IBM, Microsoft, and others, it’s clear that self-service user-centric mashup, to varying degrees, is a core theme.

BI mashup has such a strong business case that we’re confident it’s more than simply a “down economy” theme. It will almost certainly grow in importance for information and knowledge management professionals as the economy improves.