BI is neither a product nor a system. It is a collection of integrated strategic and operational applications, databases and best practices that should provide the business community with easy access to business data. This business data should enable faster decision-making that will achieve better performance for the business according to predetermined goals. The improvement in performance should be measurable and easily attributable to the BI implementation. These applications have to be built or supervised by IT. However, the business community users and not the IT staff are the ultimate judges of success or failure of the BI implementation. BI initiatives and implementations are expensive endeavors. Disparate business data must be extracted and merged from online transactional processing (OLTP) systems, batch systems, data warehouses and externally syndicated data sources. BI initiatives also call for new technologies to be considered, additional tasks to be performed, roles and responsibilities to be shifted and information to be delivered quickly and reliably so that the business community can perform their functions effectively. Only if the information provided by the BI systems turns into actionable and measurable performance improvements that adhere to or exceed the goals and the strategies determined at the outset of the implementation will it be considered a success. And that success has to be repeatable. The Internet has opened the entire global environment to organizations at a fraction of what it cost a couple of decades ago. This means that not only the employees and management should have access to the data and its derivative - the information, but it should also be available to the customers, shareholders, partners, suppliers and regulators - in short, anyone who needs to know it in order to improve the performance of the organization. In order to provide this wide variety of constituents with access to the information, the software must have capabilities to run outside of the firewall effectively. There should not be any restrictions regarding access to the information as long as the job function needs that information to perform the work. Need-to-know based strategy should be implemented. In order for information not to fall in the wrong hands, you must be able to open and close the firewall doors, and IT has to be in the drivers seat to perform this balancing act of data access. How can you make a BI implementation available to support many people? There are several issues to consider: Do you have the appropriate infrastructure? Do you have the appropriate software in place that supports intranet and extranet in one box? Can the software run outside of the firewall? What about the platform to support the applications? Does the software support standards that make the software interoperable and flexible that will run on various, disparate platforms? Extranet applications are typically built in house by IT, so the software must provide features to strongly support these application developers. And the applications must be developed so all users can easily adopt them for online self-service. Other considerations are: How open should BI be? Can the applications be built with open standards? Can open source, with its features of interoperability and portability, be used to its fullest capabilities? For the applications to be interoperable and portable to run on various, disparate platforms, open source is an outstanding candidate to be embraced. It is important to identify who the people are that will be using these applications.
Other issues to take into account when embarking on a pervasive BI environment:
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