Built-In Analytics: Good, But Not Always Better

Application vendors make it possible to bring analytics to more employees
PeopleSoft Inc. this week will release PeopleSoft CRM 8.8, an upgrade to its customer-relationship management software that the vendor says is easier to install and integrates better with third-party software. But it's the increased analytical capabilities that PeopleSoft thinks will be a real selling point. Version 8.8 features dashboards that can present real-time statistics on information such as call-center response times, sales updates, intelligent guided-sales recommendations that can alert reps when a customer might be ripe for a cross-sale or upgrade, and the ability to send analytic information via mobile devices.

For several years, enterprise application vendors have been steadily adding business-intelligence features into their software and integrating them more tightly with the applications. The benefit, PeopleSoft says, is that integrated analytics puts business-intelligence tools into the hands of more users, including front-line workers.

Other enterprise application vendors agree. In September, Siebel Systems released Siebel Analytics 7.5, which is available as an integrated module for its CRM software, as well as a standalone business-intelligence tool. "Typically, analytics had been driven into a role of strategic analysis for a few people in the company. What we're seeing now is analytics being brought to a much larger audience," says Larry Barbetta, VP and general manager of Siebel Analytics. "The industry is moving toward more real time, more complete, more front-line analytics. We're touching new users."

Lisa Davis, manager of enterprise business-intelligence tools at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida. Photo by Phyllis Redman.

Finance, marketing, and sales all may be able to get the analyses they need, says Davis at Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
At Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida, Lisa Davis, manager of enterprise business-intelligence tools, likes the idea of putting more intelligence into the hands of more users. The health insurer is upgrading to Siebel CRM with integrated analytics. "We want to give analytics capabilities to our finance, marketing, and salespeople, have them be able to go in to the data source, point and click, and get the analysis they want," she says.

But others aren't convinced they'll do better with integrated analytics. Pepsi America uses PeopleSoft CRM in its sales centers and plans on upgrading to the new version, says John Kreul, director of application development. But the company won't be using the analytics; Pepsi prefers to use homegrown software for that. The Pepsi software works so well that "at this time I probably couldn't guide the company" to another tool, he says.

PeopleSoft, SAP, and Siebel claim their software works with data from third-party products as easily as tools from independent business-intelligence vendors do. Burger King Corp. uses some of SAP's analytics capabilities when analyzing data directly within its applications. But the company, which is tying its back-office and front-office systems into its business-intelligence platform, is sticking with Business Objects analytics for analyzing data from disparate applications. Says Rafael A. Sanchez, Burger King's CIO, "By having robust integration, what you'll accomplish is one version of the truth."

Photo by Phyllis Redman.

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