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Business Intelligence's Intelligent Leap
Not every step toward a best-in-class BI deployment is going to be a smooth transition.
Posted Nov 21, 2007
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CHICAGO -- As enterprises move forward from the initial stages of using business intelligence (BI) to some of the more advanced stages, in which BI drives the enterprise itself or even the industry, there are some large leaps along the way rather than a smooth transition from one stage to the next, according to Jim Smith, senior sales consultant for Business Objects, who discussed the company's Edge product here this week. Edge is aimed at midmarket companies, defined as those generating annual revenue of between $15 million and $1 billion. Unlike the Business Objects product for larger firms, Edge is designed to run on a single device rather than on multiple servers, Smith says. Typically, there are several jumps that a company has to make as it progresses in its use of BI, Smith explains. Though he doesn't label them explicitly, they can be broken down as follows:
  • From Information to Insight;
  • from Individual to Integrated;
  • from Internal to Industry; and
  • from Insight to Incentive
From Information to Insight: The first comes when a BI application moves from simply informing executives about the performance of a business unit or the company as a whole to actually empowering workers to perform better. Sometimes this marks the company's move from using spreadsheets for their BI needs to using applications that enable them to run ad hoc reports, Smith says. Yet this is a small leap compared to the much larger jump needed as BI spreads from a single, early-adopting business unit to the entire enterprise. From Individual to Integrated: Among the challenges a company faces in making this second jump is that different business units may have different ways of naming similar items. "One unit of a supplier to IBM may list the company as 'IBM' in the data, while another business unit may refer to the company as 'International Business Machines.' A third may list it as something else," Smith says. Similarly, individual departments may have different measures or definitions for different data elements. The definitions have to be uniform in order to get an accurate picture of enterprisewide performance, according to Smith. A BI application can help managers by including definitions of different terms in a pop-up window or drop-down menu.
Enterprisewide data may provide insight that is more mission-critical than that provided by data gathered at the business-unit level, says Bill Dunn, president of Dunn Solutions Group, a Chicago-based firm that helps companies implement Business Objects technology. For example, several different business units of a manufacturing firm may each conduct a small amount of business with Wal-Mart. Taken individually, these sales to Wal-Mart may be insignificant. But combined, they could comprise a significant portion of the enterprise's total sales, Dunn explains. From Internal to Industry: Sometimes, in order to see the results they want, companies have to put in additional effort. After extending a BI application across the enterprise, the next step is to extend it to other members of the supply chain, according to Smith and Dunn. One hospital distributor, for example, extended its BI application to enable a supplier to learn the distributor's volume need for a specific product. That information enabled the supplier to ramp up production, while the distributor was able to enjoy volume discounts. From Insight to Incentive: Once data is gathered and analyzed at that level, BI can be used to motivate as well, adds Dunn, citing an example of a municipality considering outsourcing work that previously had been handled by city employees. If those employees had known their productivity was being measured, it may have improved, Dunn contends.

Related articles: Feature: The 2007 Market Awards: Business Intelligence As the market for business intelligence matures and users become more sophisticated, more companies are buying into BI; Business Objects is named a Leader. SAP to Acquire Business Objects The friendly takeover folds new business intelligence capabilities into one of the leading enterprise software platforms; amidst differing opinions, rumors loom of a counteroffer from Oracle or IBM. Business Objects Will Acquire Inxight and Align with IBM The BI provider will now supply customers with enhanced search capabilities for unstructured data; an alliance with IBM will help tap the Asia Pacific market. Business Objects Plans to Acquire Firstlogic An industry analyst says the move validates data quality's role in BI, and makes more sense than the purchase attempt of Firstlogic by Pitney Bowes. Oracle Is Set to Purchase Hyperion The $3.3 billion acquisition would be Oracle's largest since Siebel, and continues Oracle's focus on BI while undermining rivals; more BI acquisitions are to come, according to analysts. IBM Acquires Cognos The $5 billion deal marks ongoing consolidation in the Tier One business intelligence market; a "significant change" in IBM's direction, one analyst notes. Cognos To Purchase Applix The $339 million acquisition is the latest example of the convergence of business intelligence and performance management. Feature: The BI Tools Bonanza Simple BI tools have been developed over the past three years, quietly accelerating marketers' ability to see and hear. BI Tools Market Shows Continued Growth A study by IDC reveals that BI software is both popular and necessary; Business Objects and SAS continue to lead the field. The MDM Effect: Who Stands to Gain? Master data management solutions will improve business intelligence results; data governance best practices are still key. Business Objects Makes Baby's First BI Business Objects announces its plan to dip into the midmarket with a product line targeted at helping SMBs begin their first BI intitiatives. Cognos Brings BI to Excel The BI vendor adds search and analysis capabilities for business users of Excel; analysts say more vendors will follow. Editorial: You Drive Intelligence There's an unfortunate eagerness to view business intelligence as a business panacea. SAS Tops Gartner's BI Magic Quadrant The market will experience more growth; application and suite providers enhance their own offerings. BI Will Be Pervasive Gartner analysts predict more business intelligence usage throughout enterprises, with increasing focus on seamless deployment into strategy and business processes. Bigger BI Budgets Are CIOs' Priority for '06 Gartner predicts strong growth for this rapidly expanding market, but not before companies start to look at BI as the means to strategic IT planning. Gartner Releases Its BI Magic Quadrant Business Objects, Cognos, Information Builders, and SAS Institute are setting the standards in BI. Business Objects' Polestar Guides Information Search The business intelligence vendor released an updated version of Crystal Reports at its user conference this week, along with the schedule for the release of a new information-search tool. Business Objects Moves to Master Its Data-Product Portfolio The BI vendor releases a new product- and region-focused data cleansing solution as it continues to expand its Enterprise Information Management line beyond customer data. Business Objects Extends Across the Board The BI company announces a host of new data integration, cleansing, and dashboard products targeted for the SMB and enterprise market. Business Objects Leads the Pack in BI ROI An evaluation observes that standardization is growing as a trend, but that dashboards are driving BI adoption. Business Objects: Refocusing BI's Role? An OEM partnership for predictive analysis and a new retail solution indicate positive implications for operational BI and upped emphasis on verticals.
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