The most tiresome job in business intelligence (BI) projects is mapping the data in source systems. Whether the purpose is to generate reports, populate dashboards or load a data warehouse, this is where user organizations spend the most time and money, in both initial development and ongoing maintenance. Application BI simplifies this onerous process with preconfigured tools and functionality for transactional systems from vendors such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel.
Transactional systems, both enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software, have complex data schemas that span multiple functional modules and utilize thousands of relational tables. In addition, the names that commercial vendors use for tables and columns in their transactional systems often are cryptic and make it difficult to decipher what data a table contains unless the user is familiar with that particular transactional system. Further complicating the mapping process is the fact that each vendor has a proprietary application programming interface (API) that must be used to access the security mechanisms and business logic of the transactional system.
Unlike a BI platform or suite, an Application BI product comes preconfigured to support specific transactional applications. More than 70 percent of respondents to our recent Application BI research survey sponsored by Noetix told us they had deployed or were in the process of deploying application BI to get data for decision-making out of their ERP and/or CRM systems. The prebuilt metadata mappings of application BI to the transactional data schemas help companies avoid hiring expensive consultants with specialized knowledge of the transactional system.
It is not just in the initial deployment that mapping the data in source systems is difficult. When they upgrade their transactional system, vendors normally add and/or delete tables and columns or change their names, thereby breaking the table joins used in BI reports. In our research, 90 percent of respondents said they value application BI in varying degrees for reducing the time and costs associated with adapting to changes in tables, schemas and APIs within ERP and CRM systems.
Ventana Research recommends that organizations evaluate Application BI based on several factors. They should consider prebuilt metadata mapping to specific functional modules of ERP and CRM systems they have deployed; support for the security and business logic of the transactional applications; and the ability to detect and adapt to custom configurations and upgrades in each instance of the transactional applications. Products that satisfy these requirements are likely to provide the greatest benefit.
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2006 Ventana Research