Business Intelligence branches out

Business intelligence (BI), it seems, has been wrested from the hands of elite business analysts and executive decision makers and pressed into service in call centres, sales forces and other customer-facing service organizations. The early results indicate that this is a winning strategy.BI is a growth market despite the recent economic downturn, and prospects for the next few years are positive.Text

Michael Corcoran, chief communications officer for New York, N.Y.-based Information Builders, a provider of BI software, insists that business intelligence is the “healthiest space in the software market for the foreseeable future.”

The Butler Group of Hull, U.K., a leading European research organization, seems to agree.

In a recent white paper outlining the prospects for BI in Europe, the group stated unequivocally that “BI is a growth market despite the recent economic downturn, and prospects for the next few years are positive.”

One of the main drivers of growth has been a push to put BI tools into the hands of as many business users as possible, wherever they may be within an organization.

At Toronto-based Guardian Group of Funds, BI alerts, dashboards and other rich graphical indicators are becoming common features on the workstations of fund accounting staff as well as on the Blackberry screens of the sales force and executives.

Julie Gill, Guardian’s assistant vice-president of information services, describes their vision for BI as being “all about seamless integration and a comprehensive solution.”

The type of pervasive BI that Guardian has embraced is being implemented in a variety of settings, according to Corcoran.

These range from railroad maintenance operations to hospitals that are tracking intake patterns for possible bioterrorist attacks.

Wherever it is being applied, the aim is to get insight into the hands of those workers who can respond rapidly to advance the organization’s goals or to prevent a disaster.

Paul Rodwick, vice-president of business analytics at San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems Inc., describes a BI pilot project undertaken by Denmark’s Nykredit, a major financial services company, that involved putting BI tools into a small number of the bank’s branches.

When the branch ranked 22nd before the pilot turned in top-ranked performance indicators, Nykredit quickly rolled out the BI system to all of its branches.

Industry experts, as well as vendors, agree that despite early successes, such as those just described, BI is not a magic bullet, and must be implemented as carefully as any other major IT project.

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