by Thomas Wailgum

Businesses Are Still Crazy for BI After All These Years

Feb 24, 20093 mins
Enterprise Applications

For the last four years, Gartner has surveyed thousands of CIOs from around the globe about their enterprise systems, and each year the top technology priority that those CIOs cite has been exactly the same: business intelligence (BI) applications.

According to Gartner managing VP Ian Bertram, BI apps are considered “transformational” business systems. That’s why BI has been the highest for priority for CIOs four years running, and why, he notes in a research report, BI “will fare better than many other technologies and management practices” during the global recession.

“BI is even more important when times are tough. It can help find bottlenecks and inefficiencies or to expose areas that are profitable,” Bertram states. “The rapid growth in information generated from enterprise applications, the popularity of metrics-driven business initiatives and the growing need for regulatory compliance will also continue to drive growth in BI.”

While I take no issue with Bertram’s overall viewpoint or Gartner’s survey data, I have to say that my take on the data is starkly different. Whereas the Gartner research may point to rising demand for BI apps, I see pent-up enterprise-wide frustration, aimed squarely at IT and CIOs for failing to give the business what it needs and deserves—for four straight years!

In my book, that’s much too long a time to be asking for the same request and not getting it. Especially if you’re the CEO or COO or CMO or supply chain chief or any other business user currently frustrated by the sham of a “business intelligence” system that you’re currently forced to endure.

As I have reported previously, too many business users have given up on actually receiving an integrated and corporatewide BI, analytic and forecasting application set. Instead, many execs are relying on their gut to make critical business decisions.

The cause of this vexing business problem? Largely, it’s the disconnected and expanding back-office mess residing inside IT’s walls these days—siloed ERP and BI applications, standalone SaaS CRM apps, a couple of marketing department data warehouses, maybe even a legacy supply chain app, all working out-of-synch with each other.

A new Forrester Research report notes that right now companies and top executives must find any possible way to increase revenues. And creative IT and business users are now “leveraging BI as a corporate asset to continue to survive, compete and thrive.”

Forrester analyst Boris Evelson offers a couple examples of ways in which actual Forrester clients are turning BI data into profit centers by “uncovering previously untapped revenue streams.”

Here’s one example: A large (and unnamed) global retailer is using its internal point-of-sale (POS) data to offer customer-buying data (for example, seasonal patterns, market basket, effect of promotions) to its partners, such as its suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors.

“Raw POS data for their own products has always been available to manufacturers,” Evelson writes, “but an analytical portal brings clear additional value, by not only providing insight into how your products are selling, but also what customers buy across product lines that may include your competitors.” (The retailer has taken care of potential privacy and conflict-of-interest concerns by showing each manufacturer and supplier its own POS data at the lowest level of detail, he adds, but the data for competing products only at an aggregate level.)

Smart. Timely. Profitable.

How’d you like to be that CIO and IT staff right now?