SmartAdvice: Getting The Right Onsite Mix With Offshore Suppliers

There's no perfect ratio for onsite workers when setting up an outsourcing project, <b>The Advisory Council</b> says. Also, if your company has made a business case for using Linux, consider gradual adoption while the SCO lawsuit business is settled; and, don't confuse information with knowledge when deploying business intelligence.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 17, 2004

5 Min Read

Question C: How can we improve the timeliness and relevance of our business-intelligence systems?

Our advice: Business-intelligence systems should be a vital part of any company's decision-making processes. Businesses are faced with increasing volumes of data and with shrinking timeframes to access and aggregate that information.

Business intelligence is an established tool for performing deep analytics in focused areas. However, many organizations are broadening the scope of their use of business intelligence from a narrow and deep analytical focus to a broader management-reporting focus. This shift in use has enabled business-intelligence systems to be an important part of corporate performance-management efforts. This shift can be attributed to the more-sophisticated demands of business users and the evolution of more-robust underlying technologies. Some best practices for improving the timeliness and relevance of business-intelligence systems include:

Focus Data For Competitive Advantage
In this age of extreme data awareness, it can be easy to confuse information with knowledge. Knowing the right information to track and synthesize, and having a single view of your information in real time, can serve most companies as a strategic weapon. At the same time, a glut of data doesn't necessarily provide insight, and can be distracting to effective executive decision-making. One of the most powerful strategies an executive team can make when implementing a business-intelligence system is to determine what the top 10 to 20 key performance indicators are for the business, and then focus on the data you need to thoroughly understand those decision points.

Business-intelligence systems can ensure that every executive receives the same information at the same time as the foundation for their business decisions, or targeted information specific to those who need to act on a specific performance indicator. Broad and consistent information distribution makes the business-intelligence system actionable, and brings relevancy to the information that is extracted

To build the business-intelligence solution for performance, consider creating a data mart that can be updated often and cheaply, thereby enabling your business-intelligence systems to be more timely and relevant. If you're in the planning stages of business intelligence, be sure to focus on the newer classes of tools designed to extract smaller batches of data and provide more management-level information than the previous generation of business-intelligence tools.

Ensure Flexibility And Scalability
Choose reporting tools that are easy to use and flexible for creating and modifying reports. One of the pitfalls of many business-intelligence tools is that they're rigid and can't be changed easily or rapidly to accommodate the evolving nature of corporate performance management. If you can't get the data out of a business-intelligence tool in the time frame and way you need to, you may end up without the information you need to run your business.

Standardize Or Integrate
One of the issues that many companies face is having too many business-intelligence systems. According to a recent survey by TDWI-Giga Information Group, organizations possess an average of 3.4 business-intelligence tools, and many companies have upwards of 10 business-intelligence tools. In situations where your organization already has invested in the various tools, integrate them whenever possible. At the very least, ensure you can map all your different warehouses so any business-intelligence reporting solution can access all the information necessary to ensure the relevance of your business intelligence.

If your organization is planning to deploy a business-intelligence solution, be sure to choose a tool that can report on multiple data sources and aggregate multiple databases. Choices such as these help improve the relevance and timeliness of your business-intelligence solutions markedly compared with the previous generation of business-intelligence tools.

-- Vanessa DiMauro

Ian Hayes, TAC Thought Leader, has extensive experience in improving the business returns generated by IT investments. He is the author of three IT books and hundreds of articles and is a popular speaker at conferences. He helps companies focus on value-creating projects and services by better-targeting IT investments, improving the effectiveness of IT execution, optimizing the sourcing of IT activities, and establishing measurement programs that tie IT performance to business value delivered.

Steve Garone, TAC Expert, has more than 25 years of experience as a professional in the IT industry in software and hardware systems, as well as the semiconductor industry. His recent experience includes his current role as managing partner of The AlignIT Group, chief technical strategist for Sun Microsystems' Software Marketing organization, and program VP at IDC. Steve brings his strong analytical skills to his extensive coverage of software infrastructure, Web services, utility computing, business-process management, software development, operating environments, and hardware platforms.

Peter Schay, TAC executive VP and chief operating officer, has 30 years of experience as a senior IT executive in both IT vendor and research industries. He was most recently VP and chief technology officer of SiteShell Corp. Previously at Gartner, he was group VP of global research infrastructure and support, and launched coverage of client/server computing in the early 1990s.

Vanessa DiMauro, TAC Expert, is VP at CXO Systems, and is an expert in building research exchange and developing decision-systems for CXOs. Prior to joining CXO Systems, DiMauro served as executive director of the Computerworld Executive Suite, an online community of 5700+ IT leaders of midsize to large companies for Computerworld, an IDG company. She also served as director of research for the Management Lab at Cambridge Technology Partners, where she led and taught executive education programs for CIOs at UCLA's Anderson School, Babson College, and the University of Miami.

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