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Can You Spy BI?: Page 2

By Tim Scannell     Feedback
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The evolution in BI toward more graphical dashboards and animation has also shifted many of the core capabilities of BI technology, such as query, reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP), to lesser secondary roles, notes Gartner.

Animated dashboards and predictive modeling are the must-have features now, as existing and new BI vendors develop "innovative technology and products to demonstrate differentiation," says Gartner senior research analyst Dan Sommer.

"Tools that are developed around visible intelligence help make a company more efficient and allow people to make quicker and more relevant business decisions," notes Carl Hasselbach, co-founder and CEO of The Ministry of Ideas (MoI), a visual BI startup based in New York and Scotland. The end result is a positive boost to a company's bottom line and return on investment (ROI) metrics.

"In the past, BI was focused on making data more visible and more manageable, but not enough on supporting the bottom line," he says.

"Increasingly, the focus of (ROI) metrics is shifting away from technology paybacks to business benefits," adds Sybase's Joydeep Das.

Sounds reasonable. Why then aren't more companies banging on the door for visualized BI solutions? Many, says MoI co-founder Mark Throssel, are a bit gun-shy and reluctant to adopt yet another BI solution.

"They have already gone through the pain of developing information systems and there is a great deal of frustration," he points out. "We have gone this far with BI, so why isn't it working?

Just as art is in the eye of the beholder, a few pretty pictures won't be enough to convince most companies to pull the trigger on visualized BI tools.

Procuro, based in San Diego, has developed a suite of solutions that can be used to monitor, measure, collect, analyze, and report a variety of data back to a central IT facility or to remote users. This data is gathered from a variety of sources, including wireless sensors installed on refrigerated trucks and public databases, says CEO Vincent Gordon. Customers include large hotels, hospitals and major retail food chains like Burger King.

While the idea of visualized dashboards is exciting, however, the system relies on dashboard technology that is more like 'buddy mail' and leans heavily on alerts and messaging technology to deliver real-time information from the field.

"The bigger concern is a two-degree shift in the temperature of a product being transported, which can result in one-day less in shelf life," he explains.

Larger companies seem the obvious target for visualized BI tools, since there is usually more on their plate to watch than at a smaller firm. "Visualization tools lower the barriers of BI adoption across the enterprise," stated Sybase engineer Das. ""This enables a significant number of employees to take ownership of decisions within their functional areas and also share their experiences in a collaborative fashion."

Smaller companies may have an even greater need for BI pictures rather than numbers, however, since they do not have the same resources and money for dedicated accounting and research departments, says MoI's Hasselbach.

"Think about how small businesses work," he explains. "They have less resources and time to spend on business analysis. They have to use their time more effectively."

This article was originally published on March 24, 2008
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