Timely, accurate and useful information is the lifeblood of organisations wishing to retain control of their business and drive productivity and competition. In the same way that we conduct market research for our business plans and purchasing decisions, companies need information management tools to arm the executive team.
In a recent Gartner Group survey, more than 80 per cent of IS professionals said providing tools to access data directly was a strategic priority in their organisation. Companies want to empower users to access information - the problem lies in knowing how to do it.
Many businesses have made significant investments in reporting systems that generate vast amounts of data, but generally, users do not have access to easily managed tools that manipulate the data into information relevant to their jobs.
Why aren't we enabling users to use data rather than just look at it?
Most of the time, masses of data is hidden within an organisation's systems.
Having made an investment, shouldn't organisations expect or even insist on a rapid return through a common system?
The three common approaches to delivering corporate information are hard copy, hard copy and hard copy. Alternative approaches, such as data warehousing and sophisticated data mining and analysis tools, have until now focused on between 10 and 20 per cent of a company - the power users.
Hard copy reports are expensive to print, copy and distribute and even more difficult to change. Even then, material is often read only by a handful of recipients who finally find the information they want on page 625 of a 2,000-page report. Data warehousing can provide excellent results but most projects are testing the resolve of many board directors by being expensive and time-consuming to implement.
There will probably always be a niche requirement at each end of the business intelligence market, but in the meantime, this leaves a massive vacuum of opportunity between the two.
Imagine achieving the same results as a data warehouse or data mining tool simply by enhancing existing report systems with a common enterprise information platform as an alternative information source. By liberating this captive data and providing the means via a network, intranet or the internet to distribute data as information, users can work confidently with a common, easy to use tool to extract pure business knowledge from across the enterprise.
With the market for business intelligence set to exceed $1 billion by 2002, perhaps resellers should sit up and take notice of emerging technologies, notably enterprise reporting systems designed to provide an overall reporting framework and deliver information to 80 per cent of the enterprise effectively and efficiently.
This type of business intelligence information is entirely flexible.
Pre-canned reports do not help with innovation or coping with the unexpected.
Users need to be able to interrogate systems when they need to, in a format they already understand.
The benefits to the MIS department, users and corporates as a whole are enormous. There is a benefit in the ability to provide enterprise-wide information to all users, resulting in more effective decision-making and, as a result, higher productivity. There are cost savings linked to the lower distribution costs, no extra printing expenses and faster, more accurate turnaround on projects.
With the opportunity to provide a return on investment statement in under six months, can you afford not to take part?
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