BI Spending To Increase

Companies have big plans for business intelligence, says an InformationWeek Research survey, but they have a long way to go before those plans become reality.

Rick Whiting, Contributor

March 3, 2006

3 Min Read

At Foster's Wine Estates Americas, BI tools are used by executive managers and sales, marketing, and finance employees for a number of analysis tasks. But plans call for expanding their use to the winemaker's production and supply-chain management operations for planning and measuring the accuracy of shipment forecasts, says Beau Redstone, business intelligence manager for North America. Use of business intelligence is becoming more prevalent as the software proves its value to business organizations, he says.

Adoption of business performance management practices, sometimes known as corporate performance management, is one of several trends driving spending on business intelligence, according to Gartner. Business performance management analyzes financial and operational data against key performance metrics and uses the findings to guide business strategy. But many BPM efforts aren't succeeding because it requires business intelligence to be used throughout a company, and most businesses aren't there yet, says Gartner analyst Colleen Graham.

Other drivers of the business intelligence trend include regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley that require companies to get a handle on their financial data and the need to derive value from the huge volumes of data being generated by companies' ERP and CRM systems.

What's The Holdup?
If business intelligence is so wonderful and has so many possible uses, you'd think everyone would be using the tools already. Nearly 60% of InformationWeek's survey respondents cite ease-of-use issues for less technically savvy employees. "The biggest problem is lack of skills," Graham says. "Some of the tools are pretty hard to use." Some products still require a great deal of IT intervention, such as developing reports for users. "If you're going to roll out BI throughout the company, you've got to get IT out of the middle," she says.

Spend Or Hold Tight, pie chartIt's no wonder that ease of implementation (cited by 68%) and ease of use for a broad range of workers (67%) topped survey respondents' lists when asked about the most important features in a business intelligence product.

Fifty-one percent mentioned integration and compatibility issues with existing IT systems as a stumbling block to broader BI deployment. And 45% blamed data quality problems. Costly user training, lack of a clear return on investment, and scalability issues also were cited.

That may explain why 95% of those surveyed say spreadsheets and Microsoft Excel are the tools of choice to capture, present, and deliver data. Seven out of 10 use Web-based HTML reports, while half use company dashboards.

Fourteen percent of survey respondents have deployed BI tools on mobile devices such as PDAs, and another 30% plan to do so in the next one to two years. But more than half have no such plans. Of those that do have business intelligence software running on mobile devices, just over half only download reports. But a surprisingly high 48% use the systems for two-way query and reporting.

Use of business intelligence on mobile devices is expected to grow as the devices get smarter, with more memory and better displays, and as network bandwidths expand.

Despite some consolidation in recent years, the business intelligence software industry remains highly fragmented, with no dominant vendor. And that's not likely to change anytime soon, judging by the buying plans of those surveyed. When asked which vendor they'll buy BI products from in the next 12 months, 30% say Microsoft and 28% cite Oracle, followed by 23% for Business Objects, 20% for SAP, 19% each for Cognos and SAS, and 16% for IBM.

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