BI Tools Can Serve Broader User Base

Research shows pre-built report templates reduce costs and improve users' satisfaction.

Although the idea of business intelligence (BI) for the masses has been talked about for several years, in most companies BI still is deployed to only a small percentage of employees. Part of the deterrent to broader deployment has been the technical knowledge users need to create and modify reports. To address the ease-of-use problem, BI application vendors have started to deliver pre-built report templates that help reduce costs and workloads for IT and increase adoption and satisfaction among business users.

If the use of query and reporting is to broaden in companies, BI tools must enable self-service for users and reduce the burden of report development on IT. Ventana Research's recent study of Application BI showed that prebuilt report templates can streamline the whole reporting life cycle. A substantial majority - 86 percent - of the respondents to our survey said there is value in pre-built report templates for enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) transactional systems.

These templates give business users an idea of what they can accomplish in reports and make defining report requirements easier. They show users which ERP or CRM modules they can access and the types of data contained in the various tables and columns within the modules. The report templates also reveal how data from tables in different modules can be combined and displayed to aid in decision-making. Only 10 percent of survey respondents indicated any dissatisfaction with creation of new reports when they used templates. Ventana Research attributes the low dissatisfaction rates to final designs of reports closely matching the business users' expectations because the requirements were defined accurately up front.

For IT managers, pre-built report templates provide a head start in design and implementation of reports. Most project requirements are already at hand since the templates sit on top of a BI server containing data source connectors, metadata layers, query building tools, security and other management functionality. In our research, 92 percent of respondents said they found value in the ability of pre-built report templates to shorten development time. A large part of this reported value derives from the fact that pre-built report templates relieve IT from having to write custom code for ERP and CRM interfaces such as SAP BAPI or Siebel Object Manager.

In addition to boosting adoption rates for BI tools, pre-built report templates also provide self-service functionality that increases business users' satisfaction over the long term while reducing IT's maintenance workloads. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said enabling users to create and modify reports by reducing the technical skill level required to do so was extremely or very valuable. The typical self-service functionality available to users who want to modify reports includes adding new data fields from source systems; adding calculated values such as sums, counts and averages; adding charts and images; modifying text labels; and setting global preferences such as the formatting of report elements.

Ventana Research recommends that organizations wanting to improve BI project design, implementation and maintenance evaluate the use of pre-built report templates for ERP and CRM transactional systems. Better-defined report requirements increase both adoption of tools by business users and their satisfaction with the final reports. Out-of-the-box data source connectivity reduces IT costs and workloads. And self-service report modification increases long-term business value.

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