BI Helps Cos Make Decisions With Speed & Confidence

New Delhi: | Updated: Nov 4 2003, 05:30am hrs
Business Intelligence (BI) is the latest bug that seems to have bitten the enterprise computing industry. Many software and service companies from product vendors to solution providers are now offering something or the other required for implementing a BI system. Microsoft also claims that its technology framework is best suited for BI application. eFE spoke with Microsoft India product marketing manager and BI initiative head, Tarun Malik, to get the latest trends in this new enterprise application. Excerpts:

What are the latest technology trends in the area of BI
The three scenarios currently dominating the BI solutions industry are:

* Retail Analytics BI solutions aid in customer profiling which helps enterprises perform a higher level of analysis on customer requirements;

* Balanced scorecard Balanced scorecard is a tool that helps analyse employee performance metrics thereby leading to improvements in utilisation of human resources. BI solutions act as a tool to enhance this analysis;

* Enterprise Reporting BI solutions are also a tool for looking at data for enterprise customer evaluation.

What advantages do BI solutions offer to enterprises
Today, data is everywhere in the enterprise and the sheer volume of it is becoming overwhelming. The world currently produces approximately two billion gigabytes of unique information per year. This is roughly 250 megabytes for each man, woman and child on earth. The good news is that this data is ultimately valuable to help us understand and manage our business decisions.

By providing an accurate view across the organisations important business information, BI helps enterprises make decisions with greater speed and increased confidence.

The specific advantages of BI for enterprises are:

* Increased business agility: BI solutions help combine more accurate prediction mechanisms and analysis capabilities with real-time transactional feedback thus helping the organisation move from idea to action instantly. The result is the ability to respond to new opportunities with unprecedented speed;

* Lowered operating cost: BI helps reduce the time taken by enterprises to collect relevant business information thus empowering employees at all levels to query, report and implement with minimal support from IT administrators;

* Streamlined customer acquisitions: BI helps marketers to accurately identify potential customers and present effective, focused campaigns that help to dramatically reduce the preliminary cost of marketing and advertising;

* Increased customer loyalty: By providing a clearer picture of customer needs, BI makes it easier to determine which products, features and services the customer values.

Moreover, the different sources of data that exist in the enterprise can often be fragmented. The data is housed in multiple data warehouses, a variety of formats, and it becomes hard to extract reports or summary information from without special tools and trained staff. Todays BI tools can take companies far beyond the limits of disparate data warehouses and cumbersome methods of extraction.

What are the factors that should be considered by an IT manager while selecting a BI solution
First, an organisation should have an information architecture that is scalable and offers high usability, strong security, robust tools and services and fully-developed Web capabilities. With a technology infrastructure in place that meets these requirements, an organisation can begin to create a BI framework.

While selecting a BI solution, an IT manager should make sure that it has a scalable and extensible platform, which is critical to work with third party systems, custom applications and future technologies.

A BI solution must be easy deploy; support for technologies such as XML go a long way in easing deployment and integration pains. In addition, the solution must provide rapid access to data, quick turn-around for queries and easy-to-use analysis tools. Remote Web access can be a most cost-effective avenue for making data and data analysis tools available to employees, vendors and suppliers.

BI also plays an important role in helping to understand the value that suppliers and partners deliver to the organisation. A BI solution should also support business-to-business data collection and analysis. Besides these technological aspects, the IT manager also needs to ensure that the solution offers a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

What focus does Microsoft have in BI market segment
Microsofts vision is to provide solutions that deliver all the promised benefits of BI, including speed and quality of decision-making processes, lowered costs, and improved competitiveness. Microsoft has worked closely with leading enterprise customers from a wide range of industries to understand what companies need in order to reap the greatest value from BI systems.