Business intelligence gets ready for the masses

New users of BI tools are the frontline workers dealing with companies' daily operations, experts say.

Companies are broadening their use of business intelligence tools in an attempt to get more use out of the huge stores of data they're sitting on.

Eric Rogge, research director with Ventana Research, said companies are looking to extend the use of these tools further into their organizations.

Speaking at the Information Builders Summit user conference in Orlando, Fla., Rogge said: "The new users are the frontline workers that are dealing with daily operations. There are these little decisions that people make on a daily basis, hundreds of thousands in an organization.

"Business intelligence, over time, has become economically feasible to be available to these and others out there."

According to a survey of 1,400 CIOs published by analyst Gartner earlier this year, business intelligence is the top technology priority in 2006, with CIOs planning to increase their budgets by 4.8 percent.

Dan Vesset, IDC business analytics software research director, said a new phase of business intelligence has started in which people are more reliant on such tools to guide the operations of their companies. This also means companies have to think about delivering this information in different ways.

"There are more users coming on board for BI, and that means there is a requirement for new types of user interfaces," Vesset said.

Forrester Research analyst Keith Giles put it more bluntly: "The new users of business intelligence (are) everyone that makes a business decision," he said. "Frankly they could (not) care less about how to build a query."

David Small, vice president of international operations at Information Builders, said companies are looking to get more useful information out of their internal systems: "What happened for many users is that they have implemented transactional systems like ERP and now they have all this information available and they want to make use of it."

He added that if companies can push business intelligence deeper into the organization they'll get a better return on investment than if they just give it to "the analysts and the people on the board."

At the user conference, Information Builders showcased a number of initiatives aimed at capitalizing on these trends. One initiative seeks to embed business intelligence more easily into business processes to help workers make better decisions.

Another, called Active Reports, allows some analytical capabilities to be embedded in Web pages so that workers can interact with reports in e-mails or browsers without being connected to the report server.

Steve Ranger reported for Silicon.com.

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