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Investment in BI by SA businesses should continue to grow this year

Interest and investment in business intelligence (BI) should continue gaining momentum in South Africa over the coming months - particularly among small and medium enterprises.

This is according to Paul Morgan, managing director of ASYST Intelligence, a focused provider of strategic business intelligence and data management solutions.

"Unlike in countries such as the United States and Japan where the BI market has matured, we should see increased interest and investment in BI technologies during 2008 because here, and in countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the BI market still has plenty of maturing and growing to do.

"In fact, Gartner has even pointed to double-digit growth in BI investments in these developing regions.

"Our economy is still growing and there are thousands of up-and-coming companies, which barely have the systems in place to support their operations, that have yet to discover the need for, and value of, BI.

"We are already seeing a big BI push into the SME market and there are lots of BI projects on the boil, even if they are not of the scale and magnitude seen in previous years.

"There is a significant need for basic BI in South African companies to facilitate fast, accurate reporting of information from different areas of the business.

"Even those companies that have invested in BI solutions still have quite a way to go before they will begin to get real value out of BI because they are still grappling with consolidating and accessing their information.

"The needs are still there and the benefits have yet to be realised, even at the simplest level of releasing people from Excel drudgery," says Morgan.

He adds that the consolidation of the mega vendors in the BI space is also driving greater awareness of BI and what it can do for business. This, he says, should also prompt investment in BI.

"And, with increased competition and higher demand come better prices, making BI more affordable and accessible to a greater number of businesses.

"Sure, the consolidation of the mega vendors will limit the degree of choice available to companies looking to invest in BI but the trade off is increased standardisation. Companies are still battling to integrate their operational systems and consolidate information from different data sources. This is the main reason why BI has yet to deliver on its promises.

"BI is a complex scenario and the more systems there are, the more complicated it becomes. Even in very small businesses, there is a host of different operational systems in use and integrating BI tools with these disparate systems is difficult.

"With increased standardisation, systems integration and getting BI tools to work properly on top of all of them will be made easier. Until companies succeed in getting the level of access to information that they want, there will still be considerable investment in BI tools and implementations," he concludes.

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