Intranets and business intelligence
I suspect that many intranet managers have paid little attention to business intelligence (BI) in the past, seeing it as a “Big IT” function using high-cost specialised applications to deliver ‘numbers’ to a small group of senior executives. There are a number of reasons why intranet managers should look again at possible integration points between the intranet and business intelligence applications.
Anyone using SharePoint 2010 will be aware that it offers good business intelligence functionality. It is certainly not a data warehouse or data cleansing application but does offer a presentation tier providing reports, charts, dashboards, scorecards and Key Performance Indicators that integrates well with other SharePoint applications. However both Excel Services and PerformancePoint Server, key applications in delivering BI, require an Enterprise CAL license.
Providing better access to BI applications is also the reason for the current interest in search-based applications, and I reviewed an excellent book on this topic recently. Text-based information is a valuable asset of any business, but in the end businesses are run on numbers, especially in 2011 when very close management of costs, revenues and margins will be essential. It is clear that most of the search vendors have now recognised the importance of being able to offer integrated search across structured (BI) database applications as well as the traditional area of unstructured text-based content. The integration of enterprise search and BI is a major theme of Enterprise Search and Retrieval 2011/2012, recently published by Ovum
BI applications are also moving very rapidly onto mobile smartphone platforms. The days when BI was just used by a senior management group are long past. In December 2010 the Aberdeen Group published a study that indicated that companies that use mobile BI applications make critical management decisions in one-sixth the time required for companies that do not, a significant competitive advantage. If you want to see what a mobile BI service looks like there are some good video demos from Webalo . Setting up the initial reports looks a little complicated but then the way that the reports are adapted to the constraints of mobile smartphone use is rather neat.
Interestingly there is no reference to business intelligence applications in either the Nielsen Norman Intranet Design Annual 2011 or the NetJMC Global Intranet Trends report. I suspect that in the next editions of both intranet support for the delivery of business intelligence will be quite evident. Is BI support part of your intranet planning for 2011?