As business intelligence (BI) technology continues to mature, industry vendors have attempted to move up the enterprise software value chain by evolving their flagship products into comprehensive, full-service solutions. These newer tools (reporting, data mining, OLAP, etc.) come bundled with functionality that customers previously had to provide internally, source from complementary third-party vendors or do without. Likewise, the audience of users for these tools has grown beyond application developers, DBAs and tech- savvy business analysts. Today's intuitive, point-and-click BI tools are user- friendly enough for nontechnical employees and executives. The industry segment began as a wide spectrum of focused point solutions targeted at expert users. It has evolved into a marketplace of integrated offerings that combine executive digital dashboards, standard and ad hoc querying and reporting, and advanced analytical features, all wrapped with sophisticated platform management and administration interfaces.

For prospective buyers who are new to the business intelligence market, this is great news. Corporations in many industries delayed significant business intelligence investments because they did not perceive any compelling business value above and beyond their existing processes, or because they lacked the resources to adapt the available products to their specific business environments. Aside from the high expense and the perceived risk of failure, these conservative companies are, more than anything, discouraged by the possibility of buying a product that is "not ready for prime time." The idea of needing to make multiple purchases to assemble the required solution or, even worse, investing in a product that becomes obsolete in a year is difficult for these companies to digest.

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