Intelligence not in tune with information downpour

In a time where we have more data at our fingertips than ever before and information is pouring in from all sides, business intelligence is not keeping up the pace, according to Howard Dresner.

Dresner, vice-president and research director for Gartner Group, said most large organizations have too much business intelligence (BI) and many stovepipe implementations.

He told a group at Information Builders Inc.’s Summit 2001 that BI initiatives have to go through some kind of rigor in return-on-investment testing.

As part of a panel discussing the state of the union for BI in the global marketplace, Dresner also noted there is an opportunity for organizations to find applications or programs that measure BI.

“We buy one application for financial analysis,” he said. “Then we want to do something else and the vendor doesn’t sell that function. So, we are back to building.”

He warned people to make sure they are buying applications that are open. “The theme for the next couple of years will be convergence.”

Dresner stated there had been a recent downturn in enterprise BI, but predicted that will soon reverse itself.

“We see B2B continuing to move along. I think that will pick up dramatically,” he said. “B2C, there is a little downturn for these applications, but that should turn around too.”

He also predicted businesses will start to invest in universal BI.

Henry Morris, vice-president appliances and information accessibility with IDC, said there is a mistaken notion of what BI information systems should achieve.

He said business needs to have a policy hub – where people decide if changes will be made after the analysis of all information has gone through.

“Analytic applications have to prove themselves – either by control: increasing efficiency; or by opportunity: revenue growth etc.,” Morris said.

According to Morris, IDC thinks the build market for analytic applications will always be growing, but he said we may never be able to find applications that fill all of our needs.

Mark Allen Smith, principal and founder of Full Circle Strategies, said BI has become more strategic, but at the same time, companies have to look to deploy it on a broader scale.

But how companies provide accessibility and deployability may pose a challenge, he said.

“These are critical pains and challenges within companies,” Smith said. “As we take a look forward, most companies have an understanding of business wants, but there’s a long way to go before there’s a convergence in the marketplace.”

He suggested that people first look at their functional requirements and then look to products that align with them. “We’re seeing companies with a gluttony of products without looking at the value of them within the organization.”

Morris said one other aggravation of utilizing reporting and BI tools is that the sharing of information can be difficult.

Dresner added that BI can be hard to measure in terms of ROI.

“It’s easy to measure if there is money coming in. Or if you have an existing process where you can save money, that is measurable,” Dresner said. “There are many useful systems that don’t show you the money right away. Systems that are relied upon are clearly of value even though there is no financial gain that can be assessed.”

Smith agreed companies need to work to find ways to measure intangible contributions.

As far as companies not trying to make ground with BI – Dresner noted, “Market forces will take care of companies that don’t want to see the light. For the companies that want to change, it has to come from the top down.”