An Intelligent Solution

Feature Article | July 30, 2009 by Jeff Reich

New IT projects traditionally get put on the back burner during an economic downturn. But IT industry analysts report that many companies are showing a strong and growing interest in business intelligence (BI) software during the current recession. As pressure mounts to cut costs and accurately predict sales and expenses, business leaders are using BI to tap into vast reservoirs of existing data to make better business decisions and to achieve a competitive advantage in an extraordinarily difficult environment.

Setting priorities

BI software includes a number of applications and solutions that pull together a company’s disparate data to generate reports, handle queries, and conduct deep analysis. It enables organizations to better measure and monitor performance across their entire business. Not surprisingly, BI applications and solutions are increasingly being viewed by CIOs and CEOs as a critical investment and survival tool to ferret out cost savings and opportunities. In fact, in a recent Gartner survey of more than 1,500 CIOs, business intelligence was the number one technology priority for the third year in a row. And in a recent report of London-based IT consultancy Butler Group, analysts say that for many companies, delaying BI investments for even a year may not be an option.

Regardless of the actual vertical industry or business model, companies can leverage BI to:

  • Spot consumer spending patterns to make better decisions–from hiring the optimal number of employees to picking those suppliers with the best price and performance.
  • Leverage customer and user insights to boost existing brand performance and to develop entirely new products and categories.
  • Predict profit and loss, quarter for quarter, with greater accuracy.

Taking change by the horns

Analysts say that the move to deploy BI now is being driven by a number of factors, including growing competition, shifting markets, a changing regulatory landscape, and an increasing need for better risk management. At the same time, both stakeholders and governments are demanding greater transparency in finances, operations, decision making, and core performance metrics. This sense of urgency is being intensified by rapidly falling revenues.

So rather than wait and speculate on short-term market developments, many companies are looking to BI to get more reliable, real-time information. With this new set of tools, they can better manage change, strategy, and execution. And more than that: They can position their products, brands, and workforces to take advantage of a more profitable business environment once the economy improves.

Drilling for gold

In the past, IT landscapes were only capable of telling business leaders “what happened.” BI moves well beyond that by aggregating a variety of valuable information to tell decision makers “what’s happening now” and “what is likely to happen.”

In many cases, this data has been available for some time, albeit largely untapped. With the proper set of BI tools, decision makers can now access that information to do analysis, run reports, and make predictions based on past performance. By analyzing the reams of data that companies collect across their complex businesses, BI helps businesses get a single version of the truth for greater, actionable insight.

Reaping greater dividends

As companies of all sizes are discovering, investing in BI tools now can produce measurable results to help them survive – and thrive – in the difficult days and months ahead. By integrating real-time decision making with mission-critical business processes, companies will be better able to position themselves to succeed in every type of business cycle.

The business intelligentsia

SAP has been a key innovator in the area of BI. And with the acquisition of BusinessObjects, SAP has become an industry leader with a broad range of both on-premises and on-demand BI products for large enterprises, midsize companies and small businesses.

Solutions for Large Enterprises

  • Intelligence platform
  • SAP BusinessObjects governance, risk, and compliance solutions
  • SAP BusinessObjects enterprise performance management solutions

Solutions for Small Businesses and Midsize Companies

  • SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI
  • Crystal Reports
  • Xcelsius

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