• December 27, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Opening a New Window on Business Intelligence

Discussions of business intelligence (BI) in the CRM industry invariably result in somebody mentioning that the useful data in most companies is still locked away in spreadsheets. As such, it's fitting that Ventana Research has released two reports on BI, one assessing market trends and the use of BI in operations and the other investigating the practices and needs of individuals and organizations that use spreadsheets and how they can use them more appropriately. "Requirements for 21st Century Spreadsheets: Uses and misuses of a critical business technology" confirms the widespread use of spreadsheets and details the problems they pose. Errors and outdated information are common, even in a company's most critical spreadsheets, according to Ventana. Unfortunately, people are either unaware of the inefficiencies and risks spreadsheet errors pose, or are in denial over them. "One of the most striking findings from our research is the degree to which people who use spreadsheets have become numb to the real risk of losses and difficulties they pose," said Robert Kugel, senior vice president of Ventana Research, in a statement. "Individuals do not realize the extent to which using spreadsheets hinders their efficiency." The report notes that half of Ventana's survey participants reported they find major errors in data and formulas in the most important spreadsheets they use, and 42 percent find out-of-date information in spreadsheets frequently or all the time. Despite this, it's acknowledged that spreadsheets "have no equal when it comes to one-off, ad-hoc reporting." To combat the problems, Ventana recommends replacing or augmenting spreadsheets with newer technology where possible; dedicated applications, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and workflow tools are among the suggestions. In "Operational BI: Assessing market trends and use of business intelligence in operations," Ventana finds that BI usage is growing, as are operational business user requirements to access multiple data sources and to have available more up-to-date information. Some data points from the BI research include:
  • 66 percent of participants said it is very important for their organizations to make BI technology accessible to all relevant functions in operations, while an additional 30 percent called it somewhat important;
  • 60 percent of participants ranked improving customer service as the most important objective in deploying operational BI;
  • The two most common methods for accessing information through operational BI deployments are prebuilt reports viewed on a Web page (74 percent) and running reports using custom parameters (63 percent); and
  • 25 percent of participating companies were ranked at Ventana's highest level of maturity (Innovative) because their operational BI deployments enable users to trust their information and apply it immediately. (Innovative companies typically update their operational BI information once an hour or more often.)
"Our research shows that driving BI to frontline workers requires access to more data sources more often," said David Stodder, a Ventana Research vice president and research director, in a statement. "Such deployment challenges are creating market opportunity for vendors who understand the differences between traditional and operational BI and have technology to meet the new demands." Related articles:
The Democratization of Technology New systems will unleash a new round of creativity in business applications. Pay Day You track your sales team's numbers -- and so does each member of the team. Here's what you need to know about the business of sales compensation, and how you can make it work for all of you. Cognos Brings BI to Excel The business intelligence vendor adds search and analysis capabilities for business users of Excel; more vendors will follow, according to one industry analyst. (Spread)sheet Music Despite what reporting vendors might want enterprises to believe, spreadsheets are here to stay--the key for coping is to understand and manage them. The BI Tools Bonanza Simple, rewarding BI tools have been developed over the past three years, quietly accelerating marketers' ability to see and hear. Spreadsheets That Aren't a Pain? Actuate unveils version 9 of its e.Spreadsheet software, challenging Excel with scalability and security.
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