Stephen E. Arnold: Business Intelligence – A Functional Barrier

Commerce, Commercial Intelligence, Ineptitude, IO Impotency
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

Business Intelligence: A Functional Barrier




I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees. (Robert Frost, Mending Wall)


Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

A reader sent me a link to an item that appeared in Phi Beta Iota. You can find the graphic at The original document appeared on 2010 at I thought again of walls.


In late 2014, O1Business published a short item that provides more back up for the apparent slow down in some business intelligence markets. You can find that original article at My take on the 01Business story by Marie Jung appeared in December 2013 at


I don’t have a dog in the fight, a cranky neighbor, or a ground swell. There is a LinkedIn thread that contains an assertion that search and content processing are heading toward a cornucopia of sales, revenue, and bliss.


Several observations:


  • IBM, despite its $1 billion bet on Watson, essentially a business intelligence system, is struggling to hit its financial targets. IBM, however, is confident that it will make Watson into a multi-billion dollar a year business and much more quickly than Autonomy labored to get close to $1 billion in revenue.
  • HP Autonomy is motivated to generate a return on its purchase of IDOL, the Digital Reasoning Engine, and other meaning-based computing technology.
  • Palantir, Recorded Future, and other cutting-edge intelligence software vendors are working very hard to generate a return for their stakeholders.
  • Incumbents like SAP Business Objects, Oracle, and SAS are ramping up their marketing activities.


Promising companies may find themselves out-gunned in terms of industry clout and marketing revenue. Are we entering a time when there are too few customers and too many purveyors.


So what?


I think the future of consultants and financial professionals who are brokering deals for companies in the business intelligence or “intelligence” sector may be able to sell their consulting and advisory services.


However, I am not confident that most of the companies with software in this “business intelligence” category can generate robust organic growth. Furthermore, I am somewhat skeptical that the claims of vendors making the rounds on the conference circuit can provide hard facts that provide cash-strapped, somewhat cautious prospects that “value” will result from certain types of smart software.


As the diagram prepared by Stephen Few makes clear there is a barrier in business intelligence. The problem in France may be an early warning that the economic malaise exists. Like the passengers on a cruise ship with a mysterious disease, there is not much those affected can do. The vessel has to return to port, disinfect, and start over.


I anticipate considerable acrobatics from business intelligence vendors as they labor to generate organic revenues, differentiate themselves from a legion of me-too providers, and return a payout to their stakeholders.


The recent news assertions that fancy data analysis does not deliver results. I saw one report that used the word “useless.” See


Strong words, which—obviously—may be incorrect.


Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2014

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