Obstacles RemainBy Darrell Dunn | Posted 2007-10-30 Print
Major acquisitions and increased deployments are pushying bsiness intelligence to the forefront of IT strategy. Here's a look at what works—and what hurdles remain.
MassHousing, the Massachusetts state-facilitated public housing authority, faced problems in moving and retrieving information across its six divisions, which handle millions of dollars in financing for affordable housing, according to BI project manager Carl Richardson. If people wanted to see total loan amounts across divisions, for instance, they would have to access multiple databases and then manually correlate the data, Richardson says.
MassHousing directors wanted to centralize data that was siloed in those divisions and create an information system that would provide executives with access to pertinent information with greater accuracy.
The agency deployed the Cognos 8 business intelligence platform in late 2005 along with the BEA Systems AquaLogic management system. An internal portal was created to provide users with a centralized entry point to access budget information and to proactively highlight reports presented to executives.
"It has enabled us to put the focus beyond the hard-copy reports on what has happened with the company, and show our corporate leaders trends and analysis they can use to map out the future direction of this agency," Richardson says.
But, Richardson acknowledges, BI will likely remain a challenge on multiple technical fronts.
"Right now the field is wide open— really almost too wide open," he says. "The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and sometimes the hard part is trying to focus on what you really want to get done.
"We are at the beginning of a revolution, and I believe the trend toward business intelligence is still relatively new," he adds. "IT is a critical enabler that a lot of people still don't really understand, but as they see that even small efforts with the tools can yield some genuine results, the use will only grow."
Business intelligence is entering a third wave of deployment that has taken the technology beyond the hurdles of acceptance and some missteps by early adopters to a maturing technology that is gaining widespread support, according to IDC analyst Dan Vesset.
"The real benefits of business intelligence are just starting to develop with businesses that have been playing with this stuff for as long as a couple of decades," Vesset says. "As the intuitiveness of the tools continues to improve, the barriers of complexity are beginning to fall."
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