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Small Shops Can Benefit from Business Intelligence and DB2 Web Query for i

Business Intelligence

Businesses will always need timely and accurate reporting. However, a shift is well underway. The IT analysis firm Gartner Inc. says that most users and business analysts either already have or soon will have access to self-service tools as part of modern business intelligence tool deployments. In short, the era of all reports emanating solely from the IT department is all but over. Analytic tools are now in the hands of users. Ushering in this new era was just what IBM had in mind when it began to offer the DB2 Web Query for i product family as a replacement for the green-screen Query/400 or Query for iSeries that had previously served customers so well.

While many of Gartner’s clients are large-scale enterprises, this point should not be lost on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). During my involvement with IBM i systems, I've worked with large and small businesses in various industries, including manufacturing, food distribution, utilities, higher education and consulting. I've found that many firms, especially in the SMB segment, don't use business intelligence solutions to the extent that larger firms do. Some haven't deployed modern BI solutions at all. I use the word "modern" because many individual shops continue to rely on RPG or Query/400 for reports, writing with SEU/PDM because they haven't embraced SQL or modern editors to any significant extent. I’ve even seen some very small sites running in the System/36 environment that haven’t yet embraced the relational database. These statements may be hard to believe, but this is reality in too many places.

We all recognize that the midrange world includes many shops with IT "staffs" of a single person, or maybe two people. Obviously these individuals are plenty busy keeping things humming for the business. But, like everyone else, they have data and consumers who need to review that data for decision-making purposes. They may feel there’s no time to experiment with BI solutions. Or perhaps they don’t even understand what they're missing out on. This is unfortunate, particularly since some of these sites may be entitled to a Web Query license. When IBM introduced DB2 Web Query for i, customers with an existing Query/400 license and support were often granted a license to the new product. (To get answers to such questions about licensing, you should contact your business partner or IBM.)

SMBs can benefit greatly from implementing a BI strategy with some self-service capabilities. This not only benefits end users, but also it could potentially free busy IT personnel for more strategic activities than simple reporting.

Let’s review some key benefits of BI and examine how they might apply to the IBM i environment, using Web Query.

Rick Flagler is an information technology consultant, teacher and mentor.

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