Taking care of Business


American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead compared life in this century to a parachute jump. “You have to get it right the first time.”

Mead’s observation applies equally well to corporate decision making.

In the past decade or so, examples abound of once flourishing companies that aren’t around anymore because of flawed decisions. The timeliness of a decision is as vital as its accuracy.

Kant may not approve, but we could call them the two new categorical imperatives of the corporate world: the need to make the right decisions at the right time. They explain the tremendous interest today in “real time analytics” as a subset of business intelligence (BI).

It’s a phenomenon we’ve chosen to highlight this month on the ITWorldCanada.com site.

From an editorial perspective, there are various ways one can cover this topic.

One can discuss the features and relative merits of the latest “BI at your fingertips” tools and technologies out there. Alternatively, you can adopt a “show rather than tell” approach, and present a few carefully chosen success stories (our own tracking indicates readers tend to find value in these). Finally your coverage can be more strategic, and discuss BI in the context of related industry trends – burgeoning data growth, the impending IT talent crunch, increased interest and adoption of service oriented architectures et al.

Each approach has its merits, so guess what: we’ve adopted them all.

The BI carte du jour we currently offer on our Web site includes a range of stories, case studies, news items, and profiles on various aspects of real time analytics.

Here is a sample of what we offer. You’ll find much, much more in our “BI Special Report.”

Data at your service by Drew Rob

This feature is all about the growing interest in “transaction level” BI technology. To gain better insight into their service to customers and employees, many companies are turning to a new set of appliances and software tools that let them monitor – not just overall service levels – but the level of service for each transaction. This is especially of value to companies that do a lot of business online. As one successful adopter of transaction level analytics puts it: “Unless you are in a unique industry, Internet users probably have hundreds of options, and they are all a mouse click away. Every interaction must be handled quickly and flawlessly.”

Two technologies and a forecast by Joaquim P. Menezes

Putting all your BI eggs in one basket may not always be the best approach. As this success story demonstrates, sometimes harnessing the best features of two or more vendor technologies may bring home the bacon. This case study comes from the recent SAS Business Forecasting Conference in Cary, NC. that I attended. A keynote speaker was Thomas Tileston, vice-president of global forecasting at Warner Home Video Inc. Tileston has a tough job. He and his team need to accurately estimate the demand for new movie titles, so the right number of DVDs and videos can be shipped to retailers across the world. Tileston cobbled together a forecasting system based on a blend of two technologies: SAS and Teradata. He split the required tasks between the SAS and Teradata systems, using the following principle: If it’s data mining, do all of it in SAS. However, do all data joining and heavy processing in Teradata. The results of this mix-and-match approach were astounding.

Microsoft getting its BI ducks in a row by Jeff Jedras

Microsoft has traditionally not been a player of note in the enterprise BI space. And yet more than four hundred million people rely on Office apps to capture, publish, and process business information. To turn this “Office” generated business information into business intelligence companies have relied on tools from specialized BI vendors. Now Microsoft has decided it wants a piece of that pie as well.

The Redmond behemoth recently announced Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 – a business performance management offering. PerformancePoint includes tools for business scorecarding, analytics and planning and will tie together previous standalone tools with analytic and visualization technology obtained through its April acquisition of ProClarity. General availability for PerformancePoint is scheduled for mid-2007, and the main client-side interfaces will be Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer.

BI becomes top tech priority: Gartner by Ernest Da Silva

If there are any lingering doubts about the need to put together a special BI package, hopefully these will be resolved by reading the Gartner predictions and numbers presented in this article.

According to the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, BI surpassed Security to be the top technology priority for CIOs, with licensing revenue for BI software market forecast to reach US$2.5 billion this year, a 6.2 per cent increase from 2005. The market is poised to rise from US$2.5 billion this year to $3 billion by 2009, with the fastest growth in Latin America and Asia, the research firm said. Gartner said a survey of 1,400 chief information officers showed that BI ranked as their highest technology priority. The respondents said they planned to increase their BI budgets, on average, by 4.8 per cent this year.

Now that we have trotted out the numbers, let me conclude with a clich

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