For optimal decision-making, executives must ensure that business and management processes are supported with useful, actionable information. In providing this decision support, business intelligence (BI) is a key technology that enables organizations to understand and act on the information received from and stored in various sources. Executives and managers from finance, sales and marketing, customer service, human resources and operations are also making performance management a priority. They seek to monitor more effectively the functioning of people and processes, align them with organizational goals and improve their results.
Information and technology are critical components of performance management, and BI can be an important contributor here as well. By combining BI and performance management capabilities such as metrics and dashboards, organizations can provide better information for decision-making and feedback, as well as enable communication and collaboration across functions and organizational levels. Where they do so, improved performance will follow.
Unfortunately, business and IT organizations typically act independently; while IT develops an infrastructure and middleware to enable BI and reporting, the business side focuses on analytics and the performance of its people and processes. Such an approach often is insufficient (and may even work at cross-purposes) to achieve two essential elements of performance management: collaboration and the alignment of all units to the enterprise goals. To manage performance effectively, business and IT must work together to provide users with the information and capabilities they need.
Despite major investments in technology, many business users still rely on spreadsheets, presentations and e-mail as their tools for information and analysis, despite the fact that they are not designed to manage or improve organizational performance and can impede collaboration. A new study by Ventana Research, "Business Intelligence and Performance Management for the 21st Century," consistently shows that these desktop productivity tools obstruct efficiency and effectiveness when used in enterprise processes. The research was underwritten (though not influenced by) Information Builders and Microsoft and was promoted by nine media partners, including Intelligent Enterprise.
As this executive summary of Ventana's benchmark report explains, BI and performance management systems can function separately, but used in concert they can usefully address key needs of both individual departments and the organization as a whole. BI applied to performance management is, however, still an evolving market. To date, the leading software vendors often have specialized and have not addressed the expanding set of requirements to support rigorous performance management. At the conclusion of this article, we offer ten what-to-do-next suggestions for maturing to a 21st Century BI and performance management deployment.