Technology aside for a moment, e-business is primarily a business practice or a style of doing business. An e-business runs on information. E-business means conducting business based on complete, accurate and up-to-date information. One of the primary goals of e-business is to reuse and leverage information for competitive advantage. However, information must be gathered, prepared and presented appropriately before the goals of reuse and leverage can be achieved.

THE HURWITZ TAKE:

Pervasive Decision Making

Conducting business based on information means that business intelligence, as a business process, is more important than ever. After all, everyone makes decisions based on information in an e-business. The pervasive decision making of e-business is leading to a greater diversity of users of business intelligence tools for reporting, query and analysis. For instance, users of business intelligence tools have a wider range of job titles and exist deeper in the "org" chart than before.

A trend driving this expansion involves companies that want employees and others to take more responsibility and initiative in improving processes and product quality. Most employees are certainly capable of making such contributions, but only if they have the right information to support tactical, pervasive decision making. Once we called them "decision support systems" (DSS), but now we say business intelligence (BI) tools. Too bad the older term has lost parlance, because BI tools today support more decisions than ever before.

Democratized BI Users

Running a business on information can bring BI to the masses. Until the mid- 1990s, report consumers were a kind of "royalty," numbering – even in large companies – fewer than 100 users. Analytic tools were accessible to even fewer users. The BI revolution – driven by the rise of e-business and similar practices – has brought BI to the masses, producing democratized BI users who may number in the thousands, even tens of thousands, in just one company.

BI is the Leading IT Platform for Delivering Information

Many types of IT platforms support decision making by disseminating information. This includes knowledge management systems, document management systems, text mining tools, operational data stores and various types of Internet and corporate portals. However, BI tools (and the data warehouses or marts under them) reach more democratized users with information that is preprocessed for reuse, leverage and competitive advantage than any other type of IT platform.

In short, business intelligence (once on the periphery of business) is integral to core e-business processes. Pervasive decision making and the democratization of BI users have made business intelligence an imperative for e- business.

NOTE: For more on this topic, don't miss the Web cast, "Business Intelligence: The E-Business Imperative" presented by Cognos and featuring Hurwitz Group's Philip Russom. Register at: http://www.cognos.com/augseminar/.

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