Buying Intelligence

Buying Intelligence

This month our intrepid hero considers adopting a business intelligence solution, only to discover that the hardest part is sorting the BI from the BS

I'm convinced that this is the right time to implement a business intelligence (BI) solution. Other CIOs have ranked BI projects as the number one technology priority for 2007, so I need to get in quickly if I'm going to look proactive.

It's not that we don't have a BI system already. It's that, like many other companies, we have a different one in just about every department. These are now internally called BS systems, which also means business stupidity, since no department can see data outside their own realm. In many cases, that was the main justification in their business case.

One pressing need for BI systems is that a lot of valuable business information was lost from companies when, along with the people who held the information, it was retrenched, retired early or offered "alternate work opportunities". Coincidentally, the jobs currently most in-demand are business analysts and project managers — people who have the experience to understand business impacts and enablement. Fortunately, we can always blame the government for our bad decisions, which is why employer groups have called on the federal government to increase the intake of migrants to address Australia's continuing skills shortages.

Losing Propositions

It seems BI tools should be extended to report not just the data in the organization, but also the data that's been stolen from it. Research from IT Policy Compliance Group showed 20 percent of enterprises suffer from more than 22 sensitive data losses per year. In order of risk, the channels through which data is lost are PCs, laptops and mobile devices, e-mail, instant messaging, applications and databases — which are also the sum total of places people keep data these days.

Do I buy my solution from one of the specialists, such as Cognos, or look to one of the vendors with multiple offerings? The big boys have been making a lot of noise in this area. Both HP and Oracle predicted that BI will be a hot priority in 2007, so it was no surprise to anyone that they've each just announced new BI products.

HP has created a Business Intelligence Optimization unit in its software division. It shows how serious HP is about BI when they not only dedicate an entire group to the technology, but also go to the trouble of adding an entirely unnecessary word to its title. I wonder how Microsoft will view this, having an identically-named product in MS Dynamics SL?

HP has been using their own data warehousing appliance internally, called NeoView, consolidating 750 separate data warehouses into just one company-wide data warehouse. Until their data cleansing operation is complete, anyone on an HP mailing list can expect up to 750 identical flyers, each addressed slightly differently.

Meanwhile, Oracle has been busy purchasing BI tool-maker Hyperion Solutions and shipping an updated version of its business intelligence suite. The VP of Oracle Fusion Middleware proudly announced: "We are pushing the information and intelligence out to a much broader set of knowledge workers in an organization." For years I've been saying that's just what my staff need — intelligence pushed into them. Now Oracle has a product to do it! I guess they're working on Common Sense version 1.0. It would self-select its market, as anyone already with common sense would be waiting for version 2.

The new Oracle BI suite costs $US1500 per named user or $US225,000 per CPU. Given these products are designed to be accessed by browsers, an Oracle-defined named user includes everyone named in the White Pages. I suspect the "named user" licence is aimed at those who have either no users or no business intelligence.

The "per CPU" price of $US225,000 is also a bit cute, given that servers are now all dual or quad CPU, so we're really being hit up for $US450,000 or $US900,000. I could hire back eight of our redundant senior staff for that money, thus also gaining the benefit of their knowledge and experience that never made it into a company database. Oracle only has to sell 4000 quad CPU licences of BI Suite (derived from its Siebel purchase two years ago) to pay the $US3.3 billion purchase price of Hyperion, whose products can then be used as the basis of its next BI suite. Good flow-on business.

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More about BillionBusiness ObjectsCognosCognosEdge TechnologiesGartnerHewlett-Packard AustraliaHPHyperion solutionsIBM AustraliaMicrosoftOracleSt George Bank

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