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Integration is key to effective BI

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To do things differently, users must look at things differently. The IT industry has transitioned from an era of limited capability of individual/functional reporting and analysis to one that is defined by a connected, collaborative, and contextual world of business intelligence (BI). Insight is gained not only by analysing the past, but also by anticipating and understanding the future.
However, as the need for realtime data gathering, analysis and decision making increases, so too does the need to perform actions through transactional systems.
“Business intelligence may be at the cutting-edge of IT, but it still falls foul of an age-old technology problem – garbage in, garbage out.
“It’s all very well aspiring to a sophisticated level of BI where you can glean key insights by combining, slicing and dicing various sources of information, but the challenge facing many organisations is how to integrate those information sources successfully, so the intelligence presented is both valuable and valid,” explains Gerald Naidoo, CEO of Logikal Consulting.
Integration is therefore a critical component of BI. In order to enable true, enterprise-scale business intelligence, companies must be able to seamlessly bring together various systems, information and processes from across and beyond the organisation.
However, there is another element to integration that many companies ignore when it comes to BI.
“Architecture is important. There are many different kinds of BI and CRM systems, and each serve a different need. When there’s a need for a new system, or new business needs arise, many businesses do not see the value in what they already have installed, and often do not understand the value of integrating their current system with one that will add on the necessary elements,” says Naidoo.
This, he adds, is mainly due to the rarity of the specialised skillset required to achieve this kind of integration. Mahesh Chavan, Logikal Consulting’s CTO, explains that there are currently two dominant approaches to delivering BI capabilities.
Some organisations utilise a “make-to-order” approach to deliver a specific solution for a specific business need, while other organisations have adopted a “build it and they will come” approach by building a massive, centralised, enterprise data warehouse with the expectation that different groups might want to access and analyse data someday.
“However, neither of these approaches is sufficient to support new information-driven business processes and organisational models. To gain and capitalise on business insight, we must think differently about how we evaluate, plan, communicate, and implement BI capabilities in the organisation,” he says. “Because everything should work together.”
This is the fundamental basis on which all solutions provided by specialist systems integration houses are based: getting everything to work together.
This is no less relevant for BI. According to Naidoo, the concept of integration can be applied across the whole IT domain, and using a company’s existing investment is a smarter way to achieve the desired results and deliverables – particularly when it comes to an area as multi-faceted as business intelligence.
“In addition to making use of a company’s existing investment in order to achieve the best possible results, a systems integration firm can help businesses map strategies that will allow them to put in a solid foundation for growth.
“By consolidating various IT systems, and by integrating modern tools such as mobility, a specialist systems integrator can become a valuable partner for a company, providing the solutions that are best suited for the business’ needs.”
Another benefit, Naidoo adds, is that utilising the services of a systems integration specialist will minimise the overall cost of investment by presenting a single support provider, as well as providing access to the technologies of a number of best-of-breed vendor products.
“Just as with business infrastructure, IT infrastructure represents a set of common, horizontal capabilities that support multiple specialised, vertical business processes and functions.
“Just as in business architecture, improvement of the IT architecture will reduce process complexity, enhance organisational agility, and drive business maturity. All of this can be achieved by partnering with a specialist systems integrator,” Naidoo concludes.