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When shopping for a BI software suite or just to give your company an entry-level capability, be conscious of the trends and differences in key terminology between vendors.
Information Builders, in their WebFOCUS product describes the following capabilities:
· Reporting – Web and browser based tools that provide executives, analysts, customers, and partners to rapidly create rich, formatted reports from enterprise data.
· Query and Analysis – Providing the functionality of query tools, reporting tools, and OLAP into one solution.
· Visualization – Visual Discovery allows in-depth intuitive analysis from any enterprise data source.
· Transaction Systems – Maintain is a high performance solution for building and deploying BI to concurrent users.
Comparatively, Cognos, and its Cognos 8 product describes:
· Reporting – Web services-based tools that report against all operational systems, OLAP, and relational data sources.
· Analysis – Explore and analyze information from OLAP or dimensionally aware, relational sources using drag and drop, comparative or predictive techniques.
· Scorecarding – Link initiatives and projects to strategy and metrics.
· Dashboards – Web-based at-a-glance sna
One business intelligence vendor has characterized data access as potentially fragmented when viewed in a systems context. This is especially evident when tracking transactions across many functional business areas. The vendor goes on to point out that their system, Cognos 8, offers a powerful array of access hooks that may be useful to potential buyers of BI reporting software. They are:
· ETL – Extract, Transform, Load – Integrates data from multiple sources to a common repository location.
· EII – Enterprise Information Integration – connects to multiple disparate data sources in near real-time.
· Direct Access – If your organization has some rudimentary level of BI with some tools in place, this capability can provide seamless access.
· Common Metadata – Structures data regardless of source and format into a common foundation using rules, calculation, and filter technologies.
Deploying reporting or any other type of business intelligence software capability is a complex and difficult process that is often hard to standardize. Help in accomplishing this capability may come from a concept pioneered by the BI developer, Cognos. It is called the BI Competency Center and is based on three suppositions:
· The deployment must connect to senior management, users, and vendors.
· There must be adequate financial support from the CEO and CFO levels.
· Appropriate staffing must be provided by the CIO function.
In order for the deployment to be successful and lead to financial and performance gains, the following observations apply:
· The business reporting software must be used at every level of management.
· The functional business areas served must be data driven (retail, multi-site, or vertically integrated manufacturing are examples.)
· The functional engine must be provided from within the IT department.
· Corporate executives must be the ultimate users.
The book “The Performance Manager,” Mosimann, et al, cited work by the McKinsey Quarterly that identified three characteristics of business performance: