Businesses are suffering from the inability to properly and appropriately exploit their data assets. The cost of this corporate disability is literally immeasurable, and is felt in terms that touch every aspect of business operation -from increased customer churn to a waste of IT resources. However, extolling the benefits of BI is not at all difficult - indeed the current climate of strict financial control and an associated focus on performance management plays directly into its hands. Whilst many shook their heads in dismay over the highly publicised Enron and WorldCom 'irregularities', the BI market rubbed its hands in collective delight. Such stories served to highlight, in a very direct manner, the implications of a business not having complete control over its data and information resources.
The general BI market is relatively mature, with established and recognised vendors jockeying for position. The underlying technologies and architectures are also becoming well-defined, with a general move away from client/server to Web-based deployments. However, our view is that the way that the products and tools are being used within organisations is far from mature. All too frequently the purchasing of BI products are sanctioned on a case-by-case basis in order to attempt to satisfy short-term information gaps. The classic example is to use BI to address the shortcomings in the native reporting and analysis capabilities of an operational application. Whilst the deployed BI tool may address this particular issue, it does nothing to engender a greater level of organisational decision support and performance management, which by its nature demands pan-enterprise data integration.
Many organisations have realised the need to develop such a platform for BI, and have initiated a data warehousing project, only to have become burdened by nothing more than a data dumping ground. Integrated Business Intelligence (IBI)is Butler Group's term to encapsulate a more advanced and strategic view on the deployment and use of BI technologies. This sees the technology being applied, as appropriate across organisations, in order to support the strategy and goals of the organisation. It enmeshes BI into the fabric of the business, and enforces a culture of collaborative decision-making and information exchange, as dictated by business processes and organisational structures.
IBI combines the necessary technical components, including query, enterprise reporting, and analysis, with vital business elements, such as the need to focus on the development of a supportive culture, and the importance of collaboration within a BI context.
A business' culture can make or break a BI deployment. Getting this right starts well before any product or vendor selection is made, and requires that the organisation understands the nature of the information flows that course through its structure. One of the greatest cultural challenges is in getting people to take ownership of information and the consequences of changes therein. The problem stems from the fact that business processes span department and functional areas of the business. No one individual 'owns' the process, and so when problems arise, as they inevitably do, the result tends to be more of a finger pointing exercise than a serious commitment to rapidly addressing the issue. Only by understanding the information processes - who needs to know what, why, where, and when - will the business begin to unravel the complex and often political issues of information ownership. It is against this backdrop and level of understanding that the technology needs be applied.