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LESSON - It’s Not about the Report—It’s about What’s in It!


By Frank Buytendijk, Vice President of Corporate Strategy, and Howard Dresner, Chief Strategy Officer, Hyperion Solutions Corporation

Over the last few years, the business intelligence (BI) market has been amazing. The quest by business for better insight has been addressed by a singular focus on technology issues. One holy grail after the next has been introduced as the answer to achieving real insight. It started with “BI for the masses,” with the misguided notion of ad hoc query capabilities for every conceivable user in the company. Then, production reporting became popular, promising to provide incredible scalability—and again addressing everyone in the organization.

The latest solution is search-style access to BI. Asking a typical data warehouse for a report on “Revenue for Product Group X” will yield endless results, with many indistinguishable definitions of revenue and many different hierarchies that potentially make up Product Group X. Unfortunately, search today completely lacks the requisite intelligence. Does the user mean net sales revenue? Should the report include currency translation effects, treasury results, and other sources of income? Confusion is guaranteed. Is this progress?

New Reports—Same Old Data

A large percentage of business data is just not fit to be consumed by most business users, and significant enrichment is required to transform raw data into information. A business context is needed for the data to become meaningful. And this business context is provided by master data and metadata. Master data—which contains the approved lists for basic business entities such as all product codes, customer codes, geographies, timetables, and so on—needs to be standardized and aligned to be able to compare information on multiple levels of detail. Metadata—which contains the definitions of business terms such as revenue, market share, and number of items produced—is necessary to make sure users don’t just see what they ask for, but what they should see.

The Two Dimensions of Strategic BI

The outlook is not all bad, however. There is a significant advantage to being able to easily distribute relevant business information to a large number of people. But the consumption of management information by all user constituents is at best half the story. Strategic BI can only be achieved by addressing two dimensions: the strategic production of BI next to the strategic consumption of BI.

Thus far, the BI market has mostly been associated with the strategic consumption of data, namely, integrated reporting and query tools available for large numbers of users. For the most part, BI solution providers use the same approach—with a metadata layer that shields users from the database structure and a visual approach to building reports or queries. The truth is that for the consumption of data, there is next to no competitive differentiation between the different vendors anymore. The query and reporting capabilities of all BI vendors are largely the same.

Strategic BI can only be achieved by addressing two dimensions: the strategic production of BI next to the strategic consumption of BI.

The Engine of BI

It is the strategic production of BI that makes the difference. This is where analytics and business performance management (BPM) come in. These elements essentially comprise the engine of strategic BI. This engine is designed to create actionable insight through an understanding of business scenarios and management processes.

Convergence of BI and BPM

The market trend is clear: BPM and BI, previously separate markets, are converging into a single entity at an amazing speed. Why? To enable both the strategic production and consumption of BI. In fact, by 2008, the market will not make a distinction between the two markets. Many of the established vendors will take a centralized approach, creating large product suites with comprehensive functionality. These suites, however, are heavily controlled by IT and seriously lack the flexibility for users to create all business scenarios.

We believe Hyperion is best positioned to benefit from the convergence trend. Hyperion’s approach has been to go beyond the integration of either BPM applications or BI technologies. With Hyperion System 9, Hyperion combines BI—including all of the underlying analytics—with BPM applications. With the Foundation, System 9 offers the IT department everything it needs to manage the BI and BPM platform in a centralized manner.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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