This is an excerpt from the August 11, 2006 QuickTake by Dan Everett of Ventana Research

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) are transactional systems that contain a wealth of information that can improve businesses' financial and operational performance. The key to maximizing the value of this information is to provide broad, timely and easy access to it by decision-makers. Ventana Research recommends companies implement business intelligence (BI) software designed to integrate with ERP and CRM systems. Application BI can deliver an added performance boost.

Companies should always be seeking, developing and implementing processes and systems that will extract greater business value from their ERP and CRM systems. While CIOs understandably must devote a substantial portion of IT budgets to managing the day-to-day operations of transactional systems, they should not overlook or ignore opportunities to add functionality that can support both more strategic and more innovative business activities. One such opportunity is to deploy BI software specifically designed to work with transactional systems such as those from Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel. These Application BI tools can be useful both to improve competitiveness and profitability and to demonstrate IT's understanding of business needs.

One ongoing business problem that Application BI can address is the cost of making decisions based on out-of-date or incomplete data. More than 90 percent of respondents to Ventana Research's recent survey on Application BI said they see value in speeding access to information and being able to adapt to changes in underlying database table structures. Extracting information from ERP and CRM transactional applications for decision-making purposes is still a difficult, time-consuming process for many businesses. But unlike a generic BI platform or suite, Application BI comes preconfigured to support the data schemas, application programming interfaces (APIs), security mechanisms and business logic of the transactional systems, which speeds the extraction of information. Furthermore, Application BI ensures information is up to date by automatically detecting changes in the transactional systems and propagating them to the BI metadata and reports.

Application BI also helps IT organizations demonstrate their understanding of business users' needs for access to data. Nearly 90 percent of respondents to our survey reported they viewed Application BI as delivering value in helping to create and modify reports. Ease of use continues to be an issue for business users because combining and displaying data from different relational database tables typically requires technical skill. Application BI provides prebuilt report templates and self-service features, which increase adoption and long-term satisfaction among users.

Application BI can help companies derive greater business value from their ERP and CRM systems and improve their performance. Whether organizations look to their transactional systems vendors or third-party vendors for BI capabilities, Ventana Research recommends using preconfigured data mappings, packaged report templates, user self-service functionality and automated updates as key evaluation criteria. CIOs should use the benefits of Application BI - faster implementation, reduced development costs, increased user adoption and satisfaction - and reduced maintenance requirements to demonstrate their dedication to aligning IT investments with business needs.

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