A business intelligence implementer typically approaches the BI application design problem by asking questions such as, “What is the technology platform, What is the availability of data? How are data access and information delivered to end users?” These questions seek to define the technology environment for the proposed BI solution, e.g., a UNIX operating system with multiple feeds from an Oracle data mart, legacy applications, AquaLogic service bus, Adobe and Microsoft Excel report formats. The designer then selects a BI solution that best fits the environment. But what about the end users and the organizational context that the BI solution will support? Isn’t this also a type of “environment,” as much as the technology platform? This article examines the characteristics of business organizations and how different types of users make decisions from an organizational systems perspective. This approach can result in a greatly expanded view of the BI environment and help designers to more effectively align their BI solutions with end user needs.

This topic is especially relevant now that the main BI suites have been acquired by the likes of Oracle, SAP and IBM. Industry consolidation could well mean that BI will increasingly become an embedded function of enterprise software as customers demand more comprehensive solutions rather than standalone applications. But an all-or-nothing BI sales proposition could backfire on the giants if it forces customers to buy and install more functionality than they want or need. If there were a way to describe the decision support environment that the BI suite supports, designers could choose the degree to which they go standalone or utilize embedded functionality.

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