The Executive Guide To BI Tools And Solutions
In the past, business intelligence was seen as collective thinking
and sharing of information using collaborative tools.
Today, advanced BI tools have expanded on this concept to become
advanced decision making support and corporate performance management
No longer are BI tools restricted to use by Executives, Senior
Managers and Analysts.
BI Tools are becoming more readily available to large and mid-sized
organisations, and are capable of enhancing the performance of 90%
of all employees in an organisation.
In technical terms, BI is the capability to extract ing real time
data from transactional and enterprise systems, transform it into
usable analytical data, then present it to users in a meaningful
way capable of supporting rapid decisions.
This has lead many organizations to approach business intelligence
from the technology approach, as has historically been the typical
approach for operational systems recording transactions.
However, Business intelligence requires a more 'information' based
approach, changing the focus from tools to the business decisions
that the users and stakeholders are currently making, and will need
to make in the future, to manage the operation and performance of
It is important for business managers and decision makers to understand
the type of BI tools available, and the extent, and the limits of
The ultimate purpose of any BI tool is to help the organization
deliver improved performance. The tool itself acts purely as an
enabler, to provide sufficient information to enable fast decisions
and rapid actions. It is these consequent actions that leads to
Business Intelligence [BI] tools commonly refer to the presentation
application used by the business user to interact with BI data.
However, it also includes the underlying application engine that
manages access to the data and how the data can be manipulated and
Many organizations are now recognizing that BI software is an
essential tool for maintaining their competitiveness, regardless
of the industry in which they reside.
Business Intelligence [BI] tools include all those components, that
together, provide a user with analytic capability and visual representation
of enterprise data. They can be split into two groups: IT managed
tools and User managed tools
IT Managed BI Tools
Business intelligence tools managed by IT include:
- ETL – Extraction, Transformation and
Load tools to extract data from transactional, ERP, CRM and other
operational systems, and transform it into formats suitable for
loading into the BI Data Warehouse.
- BI Data Warehouses – to store enterprise
data, making it available in a high performance BI environment
- BI Data Marts – work akin to mini BI
data warehouses to provide rapid access to information by a single
- Data Mining Tools - to support ad hoc queries
- OLAP Tools – Online Analytical Processing
Business User Tools
- Advanced Visualisation Tools – Scorecards
and Dashboards to provide rapid, quick on page glances at performance
at any level.
- Scorecards - provide KPI measurement across direct
[hard data] and in-direct [soft measures]
- Dashboards - a one page view of information portlets,
that may either be static or able to be manipulated by the
user [dynamic dashboards]
- Ad Hoc Query Tools - to allow drill down to
lower levels of greater detail
- Analytic Tools – to examine data from
different perspectives [dimensions]
- Reporting tools – enable users to author
and publish scheduled and ad hoc reports
Having the most appropriate tools is a critical factor in any
Performance Management System and using the right tool for the right
purpose, is a key enabler. The user must be able to, for instance,
view a high level performance dashboard, run an ad hoc query to
get more detail on an area of concern, use analytical tools to examine
the data from different perspectives to better identify root cause
and potential impact of changes, then author a scheduled report
and alerts on the area of interest to ensure action is monitored
Business Intelligence Solutions
BI solutions are a suite of BI tools [both IT and User] to enabled
a prepackaged implementation of BI capability. They vary considerably
in their performance, largely based on their level of integration.
The level of integration depends to a large extent on how the
BI solution suite was developed:
- Innovation – purpose built from the
ground up – gives a high level of integration
- Acquisition – most BI suites are a conglomeration
of distinct toolsets, bundled together for marketing puposes.
These BI solutions have a much lower level of integration, and
therefore a higher cost of deployment and maintenance.
Over the past 12 months, the rate of acquisition as dramatically
escalated, markedly changing the BI vendor landscape. In particular:
- Oracle acquired Hyperion
- Cognos has agreed to purchase Applix
- Cognos launched Cognos 8 BI, claiming it to be the only fully
integrated BI solution on the market.
- SAP has reached an agreement to acquire Business Objects, potentially
paving the way for ‘Smart Apps’ with BI fully integrated
into ERP solutions.
The total BI Solution is also commonly referred to as Business
Performance Management [BPM] Software, or Enterprise Performance
Management [EPM] Software.
Using BI Software, business users can create, modify and distribute
simple reports based on complex data, customised to present real
time feed back on key performance indicators [KPI's] pertinent to
Today, Bi solutions are more sophisticated than ever. And with
products such as Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007, the integration
is extending right into desktop applications.
BI tools are no longer specialised and expensive products, requiring
significant training, and IT intervention. They are now user constructed,
published and driven by data owned by the business user. No IT required.
And they are no longer confined to C-suite. The use for BI tools
extends over at least 80% of the organisation.
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