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LESSON - Today’s Enterprise Business Intelligence

By José Villacís, Director, Business Intelligence Product Marketing, Oracle Corporation

Business intelligence (BI) continues to evolve and become even more strategic, both within organizations’ systems infrastructure and as part of the daily working tools used by decision makers. One of the main characteristics of enterprise BI today is greater, all-encompassing insight into business operations and the individual contribution of business processes in the overall performance of the business.

This concept of pervasive BI is marked by the delivery of intuitive, role-based intelligence to senior management and front-line employees alike, not only providing insight about their functional area, but also about the organization’s performance and how they contribute to it. This is based on a set of uniform definitions recognized and agreed upon throughout the organization and also used by a variety of financial and operational systems leveraging service-oriented architectures (SOA).

Consider TIAA-CREF, a national financial services organization with more than $414 billion in combined assets under management (3/31/07) and the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields. It has more than 1,500 call center agents serving 3.2 million individual investors, and 600 field agents serving institutional investors.

TIAA-CREF embeds Oracle BI capabilities within its customer relationship management (CRM) applications to improve front-line sales, support, and case management. This way it enables call center agents to quickly identify particular situations, notify key people to take action, and trigger workflows that start or change a related business process.

“Most people don’t have time to search for problems and opportunities by looking through daily reports,” explains Kurt Zimmer, vice president of CRM Delivery. “That’s why we’re embedding BI technology in the processes that our employees use all the time. Our strategy involves delivering BI information at the point of contact—ideally at the exact moment that it’s needed.” (See “Radiating Intelligence,” David Baum, Oracle Magazine, March/April 2007.)

The concept of providing employees with a complete view of their investors is not new; but it’s easier said than done if you’re not using state-of-the-art BI technology.

“It’s not just about sales metrics or service metrics,” Zimmer continues. “It’s also about cause and effect. When you can connect marketing, service, and sales, you start to see relationships that weren’t obvious before.”

Another characteristic of today’s enterprise BI is organizations’ recognition that the technology goes beyond a particular type of query, reporting, or analytics tool typically delivering siloed information. Enterprise BI is a comprehensive portfolio of technologies, involving financial performance management, operational intelligence, transactional applications, and data repositories.

For example, at the Arnold Air Force Base, Arnold Engineering Development Center—the nation’s largest complex of flight simulation test facilities—uses Oracle BI technology to help monitor center-wide activities. This includes operational maintenance of a wide variety of unique aerospace test facilities, information technology, desktop operation and maintenance, center communications, test utility operations, environmental safety, industrial health, and quality assurance, among other performance indicators.

British Telecom is one of the world’s largest providers of telecommunications solutions, with operations in 170 countries. More than 10,000 users in various divisions rely on Oracle technology to analyze customer behavior, develop customer demand, and streamline financial planning processes by adopting an enterprise approach to measuring performance.

Enterprise BI technology is also marked by its capability to integrate with diverse and dispersed sources of information throughout the organization. This is referred to as “hot-pluggable,” meaning that BI implementations must be open and modular. The goal is to allow companies to use and easily leverage their existing data sources, middleware technologies, and other systems regardless of environments and state of implementation maturity.

In summary, the three key characteristics of enterprise BI today are:

  1. it should provide a comprehensive view of enterprise performance;
  2. it should be pervasive; and
  3. it should help extend the value of existing technological investments.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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