Looking ahead - business intelligence for the future
Business intelligence, once simply a buzz-word bandied about by large corporates, has become more than just an ethereal dream. It has even moved beyond the status of luxury and into the realm of necessity. Increasingly, the landscape has seen BI become more and more commoditised, a trend that will only continue into the future.
This, as well as several other trends, are shaping the outlook of BI into 2009 and beyond, according to Johann Heymann, CEO of Fifth Discipline Group. Heymann spoke on the subject at the recent SAS Forum South Africa 2008, held at SAS head office in Johannesburg from 22 to 23 October.
One of the key points highlighted by Heymann was the fact that much of the use that organisations are currently achieving with BI is simply put into producing reports. "However, BI is and can be used for more than just query and reporting. With the maturation of BI, enterprises are beginning to see that the tool is more useful and beneficial as an enabler for fact-based decision making, and that smart decisions based on fact rather than intuition can be used to gain a competitive advantage in the market," he says.
In the long term these facts can be used to form the basis upon which analytics can be performed, which can in turn add huge value in terms of strategic areas. Forward-looking analytics, says Heymann, can lead to an improved ability to understand uncertainty within an organisation.
"Another key fact highlighted is the need to create a sustainable BI architecture going forward," mentions Heymann. "Currently many organisations are looking in a siloed fashion at data, and at solutions. However, for a BI solution to be truly sustainable, an organisation needs to have a data warehouse that spans the enterprise, architected from the ground up to ensure the cross-sharing of information between disparate departments or even separate geographic locations."
Such an architecture is significantly supported by master data management, which enhances the quality of the data and therefore also the level of decision support that can be provided.
Other key factors in the quest for sustainable BI, says Heymann, are elements such as scalability, data governance and data quality; performance issues need to support real-time BI, extendibility and interoperability.
Heymann believes that for BI to be truly successful going forward, there needs to be a culture shift, as well as growth in skills and capabilities. With the growing maturity of BI, there will be a growth in the development of BI as well as increasing numbers of BI professionals in the field. The Business Intelligence Competency Centre will also play a major role in the future of BI, Heymann states, as it can help to bridge the gap between management and technology, and will ensure that value is derived from BI solutions.
"The infrastructure surrounding BI will also see growth, not only in terms of hardware and storage capabilities but also around software that will be developed. Virtualisation of BI servers will also become increasingly common moving forward," Heymann claims. "And concepts such as grid computing and increased bandwidth, when applied to a BI architecture, will enable ever greater capability.
"Business Intelligence is not a once-off project that can be implemented and forgotten about. It is an ongoing, constantly evolving project that, while it requires huge spend in terms of implementation and skills development, can provide enormous benefit to an organisation," ends Heymann.
It is therefore clear to see, that BI is here to stay, not only for 2009 but well beyond that as well.