Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In Search of BI Mashups

An area that has had a tremendous impact on the consumer aspect of the web is the concept of a “mashup”. The history of the term goes back to DJs and mixers combining different songs together to create new music. The term has evolved to more generically represent an application that is built by combining two or more data sources (if this isn’t the definition of a business intelligence application, I am not sure what is). The Senior Director of Engineering at Adobe put it best when he said

“a lot of talk about Web 2.0, web mashups, Ajax etc., which in my mind are all facets of the same phenomenon: that information and presentation are being separated in ways that allow for novel forms of reuse.” - Sho Kuwamoto

The same statement can be applied to enterprise data…separate the organization’s data from the different ways it can be presented. Where mashups come into play is when enterprises start presenting this data beyond grids and charts. In addition, as I have discussed on this blog, enterprises can combine traditional and non-traditional data sources to provide further context. Thus, the case for BI mashups.

If you perform a quick search for examples of BI mashups, you primarily find sample applications from different BI platform vendors. The first example I came across was from open source BI vendor Pentaho, which combines sales data with Google Maps to plot customer performance. Additional examples from Information Builders
and Oracle offer similar examples. The trend with the majority of these examples is that they plot spatial data into geographic maps to show enhanced visualization. Not quite what Tufte would recommend, but certainly an enhancement over traditional BI. Adding non-structured data into the mix such as blogs and customer surveys through RSS feeds would enhance the experience even more.

For the technical audience,
here is a very in-depth article by Larry Clarkin and Josh Holmes on mashups including examples, architectural components and key considerations when developing your first enterprise mashup. There is a wealth of information within the article, but one of the key elements applicable to a BI mashup is providing “rich visualization of data” for users that they won’t get from a typical chart or grid of data. If you are considering your first enterprise mashup, I would get familiar with this article as a first step.


There are some great resources available if you are looking for more examples of mashups. The most well known site is Programmable Web, which tracks interesting mashups, Web 2.0 applications and new web platforms. And if you have a short attention span and would prefer to see a video, check out this YouTube video.

1 comment:

Josh Holmes said...

Thanks for the plug and kind words on the article! Feel free to reach out to Larry and me with any questions - josh (dot) holmes (at) microsoft (dot) com