COMMENT: Analyst’s Corner

As Published In
Oracle Magazine
November/December 2010


Self-Service Business Intelligence

By David Baum


Extend analytics to people and processes throughout the organization.

Oracle Magazine spoke with Dan Vesset, program vice president of business analytics research at International Data Corporation (IDC), about the capabilities customers look for in enterprise business intelligence (BI) software.

Oracle Magazine: Today’s advanced BI tools include business process management capabilities that can trigger events directly from within a BI workflow. How do customers use these capabilities?

Vesset: During the last three decades, most BI deployments have been focused mainly on information access. These applications deliver information to an individual who takes action based on what he or she learns. Advancements such as the Action Framework feature in Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g help customers create complete decision processes in which the insight gained from a report or dashboard can feed directly into another business process, along with recommendations for what action to take. Whether it’s an individual taking action, people collaborating on a project, or the BI tool triggering an action within another application, users don’t have to make an obvious shift from one application to another to complete the task.

Oracle Magazine: Today’s BI platform vendors are working to unify BI and performance management within their toolsets. How will this help organizations?

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Vesset: Generic query and reporting tools, which are traditionally associated with BI, can be used for the purpose of performance management. Yet most people define performance management as a structured process that involves managing strategic goals that are defined by operational KPIs [key performance indicators]. Some BI vendors offer prebuilt functionality to manage and monitor KPIs, along with a toolset to keep track of those KPIs. Conversely, performance management tools often include BI dashboards along with the capability to query, drill down, and perform multidimensional analysis. Most organizations will likely require both prebuilt performance management functionality and the flexibility of general-purpose BI tools, and both play a key part in establishing and sustaining a performance management initiative.

Oracle Magazine: How important is it to have prebuilt KPIs, scorecards, and calculations within the toolset?

Vesset: There are both cultural and technical benefits to having this type of broad semantic layer. Culturally, the semantic layer and the metadata that is part of it help establish a common language within the company. A lot of the challenges that organizations face with BI and performance management revolve around creating a common understanding of KPIs and metrics. Different people and groups must come together and agree on these definitions, so that when somebody looks at a metric such as profitability, everybody knows what’s behind it—what it means and where the data comes from. It’s not just a systems issue but also a training issue, because a predefined KPI circumvents these communication issues among the workforce. Technically, packaged KPIs help customers make quick progress with BI and performance management implementations. Obviously a vendor can’t anticipate and prebuild all the potential KPIs that any given customer wants, but a vendor can go a long way toward that goal, whether it’s 50 percent or 75 percent or 90 percent of the content that any given customer requires.

Oracle Magazine: Are packaged analytic applications becoming popular for these same reasons?

Vesset: Yes, some of the same reasoning pertains to analytic applications, which include application-specific and business-process-specific content and workflows that have been designed for specific business functions. Analytic applications encourage best practices that have been incorporated into the product based on the vendor’s experience with many similar projects. They are popular because they “speak the language” of the business users and because the vendor has done a lot of the hard work building KPIs and defining metadata constructs.

Oracle Magazine: How are BI tool vendors responding to user demands?

Vesset: Users continue to demand BI capabilities, but unfortunately there is not enough IT support at most organizations to keep up with those constantly changing demands. Vendors are addressing the need to simplify maintenance, management, and support functions for an ever-growing population of users, which will help organizations support these enterprise BI deployments more efficiently.


David Baum ( is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.

IDC is a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets.


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