Butler Group: Business Intelligence Needs an Overhaul

Outdated tools will find future value for organizations from the extended use of enterprise intelligence services, according to advisory firm

New York — March 21, 2006 — Butler Group, a European IT research and advisory organization, is calling for the business community to bring the era of tactical use of multiple business intelligence (BI) tools to a rapid close. This follows its investigation into how BI technology is being approached and deployed in the enterprise.

The report Business Intelligence — A Strategic Approach to Extending and Standardising the Use of BI, identified that most current BI deployments were brought in to deal with departmental data control and management issues. As a result the technology's ability to support enterprise intelligence requirements is being severely constrained.

The era in which the isolated use of multiple BI tools can be relied upon to support enterprise decision making is outdated, inefficient and must come to a close, said Andrew Kellett, senior research analyst and author of the study. The future value of BI to business organizations will come from the extended use of enterprise intelligence services that incorporate the use of products with the capacity to be used as genuine, enterprise-wide, data access, management and information delivery solutions. However, BI has consistently failed to endear itself to the end-user as it is yet to shake off its image of being a provider of solutions for the technically aware.

Why Are Enterprises Failing to Effectively Use BI Technology?

Butler Group said enterprise organizations have become incredibly good at capturing data. They have the capability to hold information about every customer that has ever transacted business with them, or every citizen that resides within their jurisdiction. They've worked hard at taking in information and building up terabytes of stored data across a variety of individually controlled operational systems and databases, but unfortunately the good news ends there.

The firm stressed that improvement needs to be made to both data quality and data usage. Furthermore, over the last five years, business has spent too much of its IT budget on the purchase of ineffective departmentally focused data interrogation tools.

In the BI arena data has no intrinsic value unless it can be used to support business decisions, according to Butler Group. BI technology already provides a strong and supportable range of business focused tools and products that are relevant to the needs of business organizations today. Utilized more efficiently, said Butler Group, BI technology has the capability to support all types of business user irrespective of their data manipulation skills.

However, core BI usage has historically been viewed as the domain of a small number of IT savvy power users. If BI in general is to force its way into becoming accepted as a mainstream data management and information delivery service, business users rather than technologists will have to determine and agree its future. In this respect Butler Group is certain the technology has both the capacity and capability to make the required leap from tactical deployments through to enterprise-wide strategic usage; but if it is to do so, the business community need to become more convinced than they are today about the operational, technological and financial advantages.

To date we have merely scratched the surface of what properly deployed enterprise BI can achieve in support of the business, but taking that extra step forward will only become feasible once a number of hard business decisions have been made, said Kellett. Business will only be able to improve its information services, and obtain real value from the ever-increasing data silos that it continues to generate, when it accepts the advantages to be gained from integrating and standardizing its approach to the management of its BI technology services. Operationally, businesses will benefit from the enterprise capabilities of BI by consolidating their requirements down to the systems resources of a selected vendor.

Cost Saving Benefits To Accrue from Consolidation BI Strategy

Butler Group said that at an enterprise level the key capabilities required to deliver end-to-end information management from a single platform infrastructure are data quality and extract, transform and load (ETL) services; data storage and management; metadata management; performance management (forecasting, budgeting and planning); query and analysis; key performance indicator (KPI) management and dashboard creation; and enterprise-level reporting.

Also, the usage and availability of enterprise BI servers from many leading BI vendors is becoming more common, as is the use of Web technology to increase information availability and simultaneously reduce the IT support load by encouraging self-service. The firm said that Web-based BI facilities provide the opportunity to encourage users to take control of their own information needs, which can have a dramatic impact on the efficiency with which information is used within businesses. In addition, the availability of enterprise reporting facilities is seen as a cornerstone component of the enterprise BI model.

Cost saving benefits will essentially come from economies of scale — simplified management, simplified maintenance and from reductions in support and end-user training costs. But this tells only part of the story. The real financial benefits to the organization, according to Butler Group, will come from the better, more consistent and more competitive use that the business can make of integrated operational intelligence — intelligence that can be delivered from a single source, and intelligence that at the same time can provide the capacity to support power users, line-of-business decision makers and all types of information consumer.

Kellett concluded: BI technology is supported by a powerful and mature set of software and solutions vendors, delivers well established and well understood solutions, and has industry-wide devotees across pretty much all business sectors. However, its usage within the wider business sense will only materialize once it breaks away from its position as a provider of technology for the power users, data miners, highly skilled finance and business managers, and the business analyst community.

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