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2/22/2004
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Why Business Intelligence Matters

The Web has simultaneously made data easier to gather and share, and also created new channels of information all its own. And emerging technologies on the horizon — radio frequency identification technology that it's hoped will track individual items within supply chains, for example — promise whole new mountains of data. Making better use of that data is your job, and we're here to help.

Business Intelligence (BI) is technology that's supposed to make good on nothing less than the promise of computing itself: Culling data from the real world — sometimes myriad, staggering amounts of it — pulling it together, analyzing it for an understanding whose depth goes beyond the naked eye, and putting it out so people can use it to intelligently change their business or their life. Welcome, then, to the technological realm wherein business intelligently examines, and then alters, itself.

If your company has caught on to BI, you're not alone. Gartner Dataquest forecasts that spending for BI software will hit $2 billion this year and mushroom to $2.3 billion by 2005. The total business intelligence software market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 8.5 percent between now and 2007.

So why is this happening now? The most obvious answer is that data is something businesses have more of than they’ve ever had before.

Trading partners share sales information to make supply chains more efficient. The automation of tasks from bill payments and purchase order issuance to timecards and order processing has yielded leviathan quantities of data.

The Web has simultaneously made data easier to gather and share, and also created new channels of information all its own. And emerging technologies on the horizon — radio frequency identification technology that it's hoped will track individual items within supply chains, for example — promise whole new mountains of data.

Today’s business environment is impacting the emergence of BI as well. Some industries are increasing technology spending, and BI goes beyond more discrete or incremental IT initiatives to enable ROI throughout the enterprise. It rarely hurts to make yourself smarter. For those industries still keeping a tight rein on IT budgets, BI initiatives allow them to monetize data that otherwise isn't doing much of anything, other than consuming storage space. In short, it makes the most of something businesses already have.

This Web site, Business Intelligence Pipeline, will be organized around the main processes and technologies that you need to know in order to develop and optimize business intelligence in your enterprise.

We’ll look at data sources, from databases, ERP systems, CRM applications, the Web and OLAPs, to information entered locally on spreadsheets. We’ll give you an understanding of how to extract data from disparate sources, transform it and load it into data repositories. We’ll share the best ways to let analytical tools talk to those data sources through middleware, Web services and other tools and platform. We’ll examine the analytical applications, management dashboards, query and reporting tools that deliver information to people and let them take intelligent action. Last but certainly not least, we’ll keep tabs on the world of Business Process Management (BPM), where business orchestration systems take a manual or difficult business process and apply automation to it, increasing efficiencies and creating consistency.

Welcome, then, to Business Intelligence Pipeline. We encourage you to interact with us. You can e-mail me directly with comments, story ideas and other suggestions. We'll be conducting reader surveys and reporting the results that we gather. We also have a weekly newsletter (subscribe here) in which we'll wrap up all of our latest content in one neat package.

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