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An Analysis of Business Intelligence Systems

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This report is an analysis of business intelligence systems currently available to our business. As an introduction, I will address in general terms why we need to purchase a business intelligence system and how it will aid our business. Then I will discuss several applications in detail, paying particular attention to the information and analysis capabilities of each, and the hardware and software required for each. Finally, I will conclude with a short evaluation of the products discussed and offer a recommendation as to the best application for our business. I will pay particular attention to IBM, Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle.

First off, why do we need a business intelligence system for our business? Simply put, an effective business intelligence system can help us streamline almost any aspect of our data management and analysis processes. From organizing daily financial reports and data, to analyzing and predicting market trends, to new business development, a business intelligence system can provide all of these functions and more. The key is clearly defining our focus. To do this, we need to decide what data is most important to us; specifically, what data, if managed in more detail, will help our business reach its goals. Once we have defined our area of interest, we can begin investigating the specific business intelligence software and applications that will apply. Additionally, we also need to look at the acquisition of this business intelligence system from a financial standpoint. How much will this system cost us up front, and how much will it cost us over time in software upgrades and patches? Are the financial costs of the system an acceptable trade-off with the expected long-term business growth and profits which the system should help in providing? Finally, how will this system integrate with our already existing business intelligence systems? Will we need to completely overhaul our IT architecture to install a new intelligence system, or can we rely on software patches and bridges to utilize the new system? These are all factors that we need to consider when analyzing the myriad of possibilities available to us. For the purpose of this report, I will briefly discuss several different business intelligence applications and define them in general terms. Armed with this information, we can better narrow down our search once we have decided where our greatest need for a business intelligence system is, and what our already existing capabilities in this area are.

Crystal Enterprise 10 was the first business intelligence application I looked at. It is a web-based system that provides a data analysis capability along with data reporting (or receiving) and data dissemination capabilities. Data can be readily exported to other formats such as Microsoft Word or Excel, and the application can support Windows or UNIX platforms. However, according to Cindi Howson of this last capability is difficult to effect.

Next, I looked at the Hyperion Essbase 7.0 application. This application provides data integration, on-line analytical processing (OLAP) to include an ad-hoc analysis and application development tool, and reporting functions, but is best suited for financial applications. The application has excellent capabilities on Windows, UNIX, LINUX, AS400, and 390 platforms. However, Java is required for the application server. The Hyperion family of applications is closely associated with Oracle.

Cognos was the next application I researched. Although it is most closely associated with IBM, Cognos has actually developed specific management performance applications for each of the Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle environments as well. Cognos applications allow for the access, analysis, and reporting of all types of data, regardless of location or format. Java is required for the application server, and Windows and UNIX platforms are capably supported. In a Microsoft environment, the Cognos application can help build reports and financial plans by pulling data from SQL servers and Microsoft Analysis Services. In a SAP environment, the Cognos application helps consolidate and make more efficient the reporting, planning, and scorecarding functions. Finally, in an Oracle environment the Cognos application

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