COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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Issue Date: October 2006

Pervasive BI is on our doorstep

1 October 2006
Carel Badenhorst, product manager Business Intelligence at SAS Institute South Africa

The time where business intelligence (BI) could live in self contained pockets in an enterprise is over as the need to better understand company and ­customer data alike has started to ­extend through the organisation.
Carel Badenhorst, product manager Business Intelligence at SAS Institute South Africa
Carel Badenhorst, product manager Business Intelligence at SAS Institute South Africa
According to international reports which have mapped the trends of business intelligence, the era of the isolated BI tool is over as companies are starting to look towards an all-in-one strategy, which touches all corners of the business. The reason for this is simply that companies are striving for efficiency in the way in which they exploit their data as an asset to the organisation while at the same time driving down costs to the enterprise.
The bottom line is that BI adds absolutely no value to a business unless it supports better enterprise business decisions. Its sole goal in an organisation is to provide an organisation with the wherewithal to make better decisions, forecast accurately and effectively, as well as, and possibly most importantly, map trends from analysing all available data sources.
In a recent report by the Butler Group where the research giant measured the impact and strengths of BI to an organisation, the company suggested that organisations that continue to run their data in silos will not be able to benefit from the significant advantages that can be gained from integrating and standardising BI services.
Not only does consolidation provide you with a single view of your data, being able to map trends back and forth throughout the enterprise, but it provides considerable cost savings through the simplification of system management and support, as well as possible hardware duplication. According to Butler's report: "the real financial benefits to organisations will come from better, more consistent and more competitive use," referring to what then becomes integrated and all encompassing operational intelligence.
At SAS Institute we have adopted a dual approach to the delivery of BI solutions. While our solutions can be run as modular self sustaining solutions, they seamlessly plug in together to create an enterprise-wide solution for an all encompassing BI solution. It is in our experience with working on larger accounts, where BI is critical to the organisation, that there is a need for pervasive data access throughout the organisation.
But enterprise BI solutions have their own challenges in that one needs to ensure that the quality of data is consistent throughout the enterprise leading to repeatable, reliable results. Consistency issues in an organisation's data will mean that an enterprise-wide BI strategy will not provide the benefits it promises. Leaving the company right back at square one.
The road to data quality can be an arduous one for a company which has not embraced, and does not understand the necessity of and the benefits that quality data intelligence offers. In fact Butler itself calls it the 'ultimate recipe for disaster', a recipe which can be sweetened with appropriate and user friendly applications and capabilities to ensure data cleanliness, as well as the right education within a business to gain acceptance even from a user level.
But how does one leapfrog from silos of information into an enterprise-wide BI solution? If you have the right solution capabilities in place it could be as easy as rolling it out across your siloed or disparate data stores, if your system is completely modular, tools based and intended for only a single organisational purpose, this may take more time as you have to investigate new solutions which have an intelligence wide philosophy.
To be able to achieve this all-encompassing BI nirvana, the Butler Group suggests that: "each existing BI deployment should be carefully reviewed, to ascertain whether it should be replaced, integrated into another platform solution, or removed due to duplication or redundancy." At SAS we provide flexible enterprise-wide BI technology, and realise that a company needs to ultimately map all of its needs via department and then map the technology requirement to fit this. There is no use in squeezing the business to fit the technology - otherwise you have defeated the BI objective before it has even begun.
For more information contact Michelle Chettoa, +27 (0) 11 713 3400, michelle.chettoa@zaf.sas.com


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