The recession has created a new sense of urgency for companies. They must have their fingers on the pulse of their businesses and find ways to work faster, smarter and better. It's no surprise that business intelligence (BI) solutions, which provide visibility and insight into business operations, have grown in importance and become an area to watch in 2009.
Given the economic realities, effective BI solutions in the coming year will be those that help organizations rapidly tackle specific, immediate business needs without taxing their valuable IT resources. These needs include reducing costs, increasing revenue, eliminating inventory and improving customer satisfaction.
Following are five key BI trends that organizations will rely on in 2009 and beyond:
- Growth of Complementary BI
While some companies have attempted to standardize on a single application or platform to address technology needs, BI cannot be effectively implemented using this type of approach. There are often too many different types of vertical and functional requirements to be restricted to one standardized BI tool from a single vendor. A growing number of companies are recognizing that one size does not fit all, and are turning to a variety of distinctive BI tools. For example, there are on-premise software deployments, on-demand models, BI appliances and open source options -- each offers a different proposition and related benefits. Office Depot is a good example of a company that has a BI infrastructure in place, yet has leveraged an on-demand BI solution for a specific business need. These "Complementary BI" solutions easily integrate with and leverage existing investments in BI and data management. Different models are appropriate based on the IT resource availability, target deployment timeframe, available budget, project risk, criticality of the business issue, and uniqueness of technology and domain expertise from the vendor.
- SaaS Goes Upmarket
While Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been particularly attractive to small and mid-sized companies, large multinational enterprises are also realizing the benefits of rapidly deployed solutions that require minimal ongoing IT support. It is expected that the SaaS-based BI approach will significantly proliferate among large, multi-billion-dollar companies in 2009 and beyond as companies turn to these SaaS solutions to complement their existing BI infrastructure. Companies such as Dunkin' Brands have already begun using SaaS BI solutions to focus on very specific reporting requirements within particular business areas.
- Information Silos Will Tumble
As the different functions within a company become more interrelated, greater visibility will be needed organization-wide. Analytical decision making requires information to be gathered from many functions across an enterprise, a particularly difficult task when the data is located in different systems. To gain an understanding of at-risk customer revenue, for example, companies may need to pull actual customer revenue from finance, forecast revenue from sales, customer satisfaction metrics from marketing, and on-time shipment information from supply chain management. By sharing information contained in specific silos, organizations can identify problem areas and make better decisions. A multi-billion dollar industrial equipment company has deployed a SaaS BI solution to provide global reporting in multiple currencies across three business units, incorporating data from more than 10 different source systems from North America, Europe and Asia.
- Collaborative BI Throughout the Extended Enterprise
As analytic solutions become richer and more powerful, they will reach outside the firewall to a company's customers, suppliers and service providers. This extended enterprise will contribute data to the solution, as well as use the analytics that it provides. Reaching into the extended enterprise has been a priority for years-now measuring and making business decisions based on the same set of analytics will become pervasive. Welch's Foods has extended their transportation BI solution to their carrier network to understand customer delivery and cost performance, and drive better decision making. These solutions will be significantly enriched in 2009, driving value throughout the business ecosystem, as the extended enterprise becomes more integral to an organization's success.
- Corporate Hot Spots Will Drive BI
In the current recession, companies will choose IT initiatives that address specific business "hot spots" and offer a quick payback. Initiatives focusing on increasing revenue, reducing costs or improving customer satisfaction will reign. BI will provide organizations with visibility into opportunities to cross-sell into existing customers, ensure that at-risk revenue is secured, identify new opportunities, rationalize costs and inventory, and meet goals set out by leadership. A large, global equipment OEM has reduced millions of dollars of inventory in less than six months with rapidly deployed SaaS BI solution. Companies are targeting initiatives with a 3x ROI and payback in 90 days or less.
Business intelligence solutions will continue to proliferate, especially during these uncertain economic times. The solutions that will offer the greatest benefits are those that solve specific needs, provide a rapid and compelling ROI and leverage existing IT investments. BI provides a key competitive advantage -- helping companies gain critical insights into all aspects of their businesses so they can adapt to changes quickly and take advantage of emerging opportunities. These capabilities are needed now more than ever.
William (Bill) Copacino is the president and CEO of Oco, Inc., a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider of business intelligence and data integration solutions. Oco's business intelligence solutions provide essential business visibility, delivering an integrated set of actionable reports and key performance indicators (KPIs) from multiple data sources. www.oco-inc.com.
Interested in information related to this topic? Subscribe to our Information Technology eNewsletter.