Business intelligence (BI) solutions have been in the market for enough time to begin the inevitable move towards maturity. With maturity comes recognised value, improved methodologies for deployment and lower pricing, says Christo Bredenkamp, director at BI specialist Synergy Computing.
“BI has become an accepted solution that is being put to work in global Fortune 500 companies to provide critical insight and decision support for busy executives seeking to cut through information overload<‘ he says.
“It is also being very successfully used by companies of all sizes in South Africa as the benefits are easily understood – and the cost of the technology has come down significantly as BI enters the mainstream,”
Bredenkamp says the accessibility of BI solutions has been addressed from two perspectives – that of the individual user, and that of the business executive seeking to purchase and deploy BI solutions within their organisation.
“Both perspectives are vitally important if the goal is to see BI being used more effectively in the business. Simplifying the buying and deployment process makes BI more accessible to the business, while ease of use for the individual ensures that the value of the solution will be realised.”
At the recent Cognos worldwide user group held in Las Vegas, Bredenkamp says emerging developments included the availability of pre-configured vertical market solutions which offer rapid deployment windows, a range of preset standard reports which are considered crucial for the industry concerned and which are presented in a language and style which can be understood and put to work by industry insiders without a significant learning curve.
“The concept of vertical market solutions has been well applied in the ERP environment, where vendors offer many permutations of their software – and even pre-installed on optimised hardware – for a wide range of business types. The approach has proven successful since the relatively rapid deployment window means putting the solution to work faster and hence gaining a quicker return on investment,” he explains.
Similarly, in the BI field, specifically-designed solutions offer the benefit of a “performance blueprint” established on the back of deep industry expertise.
“That blueprint serves as an immediate benchmark against which the organisation can gauge its productivity; for example, in the retail sector, managers can use Store Development and Operations Planning to guide and inform their activities, while further support can come from Merchandising and Marketing modules,” says Bredenkamp.
As an $8.3 billion worldwide market which is expected to grow at some 10% per annum for the next three years, he says much of this growth is the result of vendor efforts to improve the level of penetration of BI into the organisation, resulting in a drive from purely strategic BI to operational applicability.
“More users in the organisation have access to and are gaining value from BI solutions,” he says.
“BI tools vendors are making these technologies easier to use and are helping companies to extend the use of BI further into the organisation, giving more employees access to information which can inform and guide their decisions.”
Bredenkamp says this is being achieved by demystifying BI (the concepts of extract, transform and load, designing cubes and other arcane terminology is not necessary for the user to know and understand) and focusing rather on delivering accessible, simple user interfaces which provide easy-to-assimilate information.
“Increasing useability is something of a factor of hiding complexity from users. It’s a current which is sweeping through the technology industry – and has been doing for some time.
“The fact is that solutions which are simple to use solutions are the ones that people use most often. BI has to be simple to use while nevertheless delivering the insights that people need to perform their jobs better.
“This is a key shift in BI thinking and is being achieved, contributing to the robust growth of the BI market,” Bredenkamp adds.