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Getting the Right Information to the Right People

Business intelligence is all about putting the right information into the hands of the right people in the form best suited to enable them to put it to profitable use. Today, that result might be achieved through a variety of software tools and applications, including enterprise reporting systems, multi-dimensional analysis, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, data mining, analytic applications, balanced scorecards, Web portals and various forms of predictive modeling and forecasting systems (for details on each of these terms, see, "BI Solution Classes").

Thanks to the rapid evolution of the BI landscape, an IT managers BI challenge is no longer simply to choose from several competing data warehousing architectures, but rather to carefully explore the intelligence goals of the enterprise with parties in various departments and at multiple levels of authority so that an appropriate BI framework can be designed. This infrastructure may not require a data warehouse, but one thing is certain-picking the wrong path because of a misunderstanding of the organizations needs could be fatal, especially given that many iSeries IT departments have an enormous backlog and a difficult time obtaining the resources needed to start new projects.

Given the variety of today's BI applications, how can an IT manager help an organizations senior managers communicate their requirements and then translate these ideas into the best-suited BI framework? This article offers some suggestions and provides discussion points to help you build an informed recommendation. First, I'll present the questions you need to ask and a list of the answers you might receive. Once you have identified the answer that most closely reflects your business requirements, I'll explain how you can use that knowledge to choose your path to BI. Please understand, the sample answers provided with each of the following questions are not mutually exclusive. So, grab a piece of paper and write down your answers.

Questions and Answers

Question 1: What is the nature of the information your managers, business analysts and other users are most eager to receive?

a. Production reports listing current inventory levels, account balances, open orders, employee schedules, etc.
b. Summarized reports comparing period-to-period performance and analysis across multiple business dimensions
c. Summarized financial or sales reports measuring company performance against pre-established key performance indicators
d. Summarized financial or sales reports comparing company performance to industry-guidelines
e. Comprehensive views of customer interactions across the enterprise (service, support, sales, billing)
f. New insights into customer behavior, buying trends or marketplace characteristics
g. High-level gauge of the company's performance from the perspective of how well it appears to be attaining its strategic goals

Don't expect everyone to agree or be able to tell you what they need during your first meeting. Plan to meet with everyone several times to clarify goals and gain a consensus. Your organizations top management may need to dictate which type of information should be given top priority.

















Given the variety of today's BI applications, how can an IT manager help an organization's senior managers communicate their requirements and them translate these ideas into the best-suited BI framework?

Bill Langston is director of marketing for New Generation Software Inc., and a developer of iSeries BI software. He can be reached at



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