Industry August / September 2010

How BI Software Drives Intelligent Business

A survey conducted in January by Gartner, Inc. predicts that the list of spending priorities for technology chief information officers will continue to be led by software for business intelligence (BI), the umbrella term applied to methods and technologies used to gather and analyse information for improved decision-making.

Although the budget is expected to remain dormant for the remainder of this fiscal year, Forrester Research, Inc. expects the BI market to generate more than $12 billion in annual revenue by 2014. This 42% increase from 2008 underlies the importance of BI.

Since the term’s conception 20 years ago, the need for comprehensive reporting based on the mountains of data that businesses generate has led to inroads with some of the biggest names in industry.
By utilising BusinessObjects — a systems, applications and products (SAP) data processing solution—British Airways is hoping to stay ahead in the fiercely competitive airline industry. With BI software combing, achieved by employing the information provided from a central data warehouse, British Airways has improved efficiency throughout its operations. In addition, its route revenues have been maximised; baggage-handling logistics have been made more efficient; and promotional offerings and customer management have been improved.

British Airways’ Knowledge Strategy manager believes this software is responsible largely for the airline becoming one of Europe’s leaders in terms of punctuality. “BusinessObjects supports our long-term planning, analysing the number of flights per day, routes, and aircraft types that are most appropriate. [BI software] enables us to better understand booking and customer profiles, and to use that information to maximise yield on each flight by creating the right promotional offer for each customer group”.

Together with SAP, big names besides British Airways have also developed BI software at the enterprise level, such as IBM’s Cognos and Oracle’s OBIEE Plus. Designed for larger corporations, the prerequisite scale required for BI software at this level has discouraged many smaller clients, given that sales cycles last one year, although full implementation can take two to three years from the time of purchase.
Building on its predecessors’ success, the next generation of software has been steadily building excitement, especially with small to medium-sized firms. More agile and scalable for smaller business sizes, newer BI firms are attempting to capitalise on the established software’s limitations.

Some providers have even begun deploying their software over the internet on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Known as Software as a Service (SaaS), these applications have removed the need for server infrastructure and have reduced costs to a monthly licensing fee.

Joining the growing pack of innovative providers, Microstrategy is in the midst of developing BI software specifically tailored for Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Announced in June, these next-generation BI providers are embracing the new smartphone technology, at a price point much more accommodating than traditional licensing and maintenance fees.

Whether businesses embrace this shift remains to be seen, but these developers have created just the tool to see whether their alternative will be a success.