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BI's New Breed

A new category of business-intelligence tools is not designed to support strategic planning, but to gather and analyze operational BI and deliver this actionable information to front-line workers. Businesses are increasingly looking to vendors to deliver comprehensive operational BI systems.
We see several ways vendor-developed BI applications provide business value. First, cost-effectively delivering information to front-line workers forces businesses to exploit economies of scale. These applications often can be licensed at a lower total cost of ownership than a custom-developed BI application. Further, they may include tools and design elements that could streamline installation and integration, shortening time to deployment.

See table here showing what users most dislike about vendors' business intelligence applications.

Consolidation and standardization of BI resources is a common discussion among senior IT executives. We believe that a consolidation or standardization decision that focuses only on the BI platform is shortsighted. Instead, the focus should be on the suite of BI applications that will be required to run the business effectively and to optimize performance. We recommend that, to the extent possible, standardization should be performed at both the BI-application and BI-platform levels.

Ventana Research takes this position because standardizing on a BI platform alone solves only half the problem. Different custom applications can have different metrics definitions, different metadata, different reports, and different queries. These all can nullify the advantages of a standardized platform if their use means the enterprise still can't obtain a single version of truth or a comprehensive view of customers or products.

IT budgetary constraints often dictate a short time to positive ROI for many IT initiatives. BI initiatives are no exception. Companies seeking to deploy BI applications successfully should consider using vendor-developed BI applications to hasten deployment time.

Such a deployment, however, doesn't guarantee success. The study shows that deployment times for some of these applications can exceed two years. Clearly this can be painful, given the annual budgetary cycles common today. In fact, the responses show that delays in initial deployment are a leading source of dissatisfaction with vendor-developed BI applications. Interested IT organizations should obtain proof that an application under consideration can indeed get under way in the time frame claimed by its vendor.

Eric Rogge is VP and research director at Ventana Research.