The days when management regarded a company's continued investment in information technology (IT) as necessary to stay competitive are long gone. Nowadays, companies have adopted more prudent policies requiring a financial justification for nearly every IT initiative.

Industry studies have repeatedly demonstrated that business intelligence (BI) initiatives are among the IT investments that yield the highest returns. Last year's IDC study, "The Financial Impact of Business Analytics," reinforces that organizations who implemented analytic applications have realized returns ranging from 17 percent to more than 2,000 percent with a median return on investment (ROI) of 112 percent. According to the study, analytics implementations generate an average five-year ROI of 431 percent with 63 percent of the companies having a payback period of two years or less.

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