Process/Data Divide Impedes BI - InformationWeek

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3/8/2005
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Process/Data Divide Impedes BI

Business intelligence products focus too intently on data; they must open their eyes to business processes, according to analysts and consultants. Inadequate process understanding can hold back BI.

Business intelligence products focus too intently on data; they must open their eyes to business processes, according to research by Forrester principal analyst Keith Gile. Without process orientation, BI supports strategic decisions much better than operational ones.

Consider a company that has multiple line-of-business managers conducting performance analyses. "If they all have different methods of calculation, nobody knows which numbers are correct and what actions they can take," says Ryan Kruger, a project manager for BI consultancy CadenceQuest.

"Having a consistent approach to process definition will allow BI applications to build off the same processes and rules, eliminating conflicting results," reports Gile. BI tools should be able to use a central process repository, not just a central data repository (a data warehouse). Such consistency would enable easier hierarchical roll-ups of performance measurements from the operational, through the tactical, up to the strategic levels of the organization. "The call for a single version of the data should shift focus to a single version of the business rule," Gile writes.

Inadequate process understanding holds BI back when it comes to performance management. "That's why there's been more of an uptick in performance management [implementations] on the ERP [enterprise resource planning] side than on the BI side," says Grace Koh, a principal consultant at CadenceQuest.

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Gile goes further, stating that ERP, customer relationship management and supply chain management vendors have an advantage over pure-play BI vendors because they can define processes and manage those definitions. Unfortunately, enterprise application vendors are not yet offering process-centric BI as Forrester defines it. Gile is right: It's time to pressure BI vendors to add process engines and integration capabilities and pursue stronger partnerships with business process management software vendors.

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