In the December 2005 issue, I described the extended Corporate Information Factory (CIFe) (see Figure 1). The outer band of the CIFe consists of six major sets of activities that must be performed to ensure that the business intelligence (BI) environment operates smoothly and cost-effectively, This column describes the application management function.

Simply stated, application management is the set of integrated processes and technologies that coordinate the delivery of information so that it can be leveraged to provide business value. Application management strives to ensure that the business users don't need to concern themselves with the physical architecture of the CIF. The goal of application management is to provide information to the business community as part of each user's normal job flow.

Figure 1: Extended Corporate Information Factory

The business decision-maker has a job to do, and a portal - a component of application management - simplifies the job. This job may include executing specific programs, accessing information, analyzing the information and applying the information to understand the past and shape the future. It may involve several systems, databases and tools. The objective of the portal is to mask complexity and provide the information in a way that makes sense to the business user. The businessperson is not concerned about which program is invoked, which data mart is accessed and which tool is used. By selecting an icon, the needed information is provided so that the businessperson can perform his or her job most efficiently.

Closely related to the portal is the presentation layer, which is also within the realm of application management. The portal provides a launching point for getting to the data. It works with the presentation layer to deliver the information in a personalized way. The presentation layer includes tabular information, charts, graphs, dashboards, etc., along with alerts and other messages that enable the businessperson to more effectively use the information.

Information feedback, another component of application management, transmits the intelligence gained through use of the CIF to other data stores. For example, as a result of data integration, you may gain a more complete view of the business you do with a specific customer. If that view needs to influence day-to-day dealings with the customer, then information feedback provides a channel for getting the needed view into the operational data stores where it can be accessed to directly support the customer.

Ultimately, the strategic and tactical applications which are invoked deliver the desired information. This provides a major coordination point between application management and the data delivery center of excellence (DDCoE) I described in my October 2006 column. The applications are managed within application management, as the name implies. The DDCoE is responsible for maintaining awareness of the available applications, for understanding business needs and for marrying the two so that business users have access to the appropriate applications.

This column culminates a description of the six environment management components.  Governance is the control and coordination point for the data and processes to provide direction and ensure that the business priorities are being served. Infrastructure management coordinates the tools and technologies, and provides a sustainable and extensible architecture that can be melded to meet evolving business needs. Center of excellence establishes formal teams responsible for promoting best practices and collaboration among BI developers and users to maximize business value. Quality management defines data quality expectations and establishes the accountabilities and processes that enable those expectations to be met. Application management delivers information to the business community without burdening it with the complexities of the environment. Metadata management enables legibility so that the business community understands the data that it is getting and can trace it back to the origin.

Through these six functions, the BI environment operates smoothly and is poised to grow with the organization for increasing business value. 

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