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BI services and solutions for enterprise CIOs

BI services and solutions and CPM software are growing quickly as effective means to gather and analyze data. Find out how to implement effective BI and CPM programs.

Business intelligence (BI) services include a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions. Corporate performance management (CPM) is the area of BI involved with monitoring and managing an organization's performance, according to key performance indicators such as revenue, ROI, overhead and operational costs. For online businesses, CPM programs include additional factors such as page views, server load, network traffic and transactions per second.

How can enterprise CIOs ensure that their businesses are using the best BI tools and solutions and CPM software for their approach to gathering and analyzing data? This guide contains news, tips and best practices to help enterprise organizations implement effective BI and CPM programs.

This guide is part of SearchCIO.com's CIO Briefing series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date, visit the CIO Briefings section.

How do I approach an organizational BI strategy?

IT is in a unique position to convert corporate strategy into operational processes and more closely measure business performance and progress toward strategic goals. Business intelligence is one key way to do this. But it will take the CIO, or IT head, to push IT into this strategic role, and one of the first steps is to establish a performance management council headed by IT, according to a Gartner Inc. analyst.

Nigel Rayner, a research vice president at Gartner, explains that a performance management council brings together the heads of business units to define key performance metrics and how they should be measured, managed and implemented.

Learn more in "A business performance council can align IT with corporate strategy." Also:

Which BI software and tools should I consider using?

Some experts are predicting a sea change, where the leading BI software makers -- such as IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, MicroStrategy Inc. and Oracle Hyperion -- will continue to serve the business analysis gurus, but another crop of vendors will cater to everyday information workers.

"There's going to be a major shift in how BI is presented because more users want higher-quality visualization mashups and capabilities that are common these days on websites," said Joe Bugajski, an analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group Inc.

Find out more in "Next-generation BI software: It's all in the interface." Also:

How do I select the best BI solution to meet my needs?

Thinking of implementing a BI solution with all the bells and widgets? A great user interface is always a plus. So is sound architecture. But to ensure your user community will happily relinquish its PDFs and spreadsheets for a more dynamic tool, "managing user adoption" is key, says Jose Lora. (Adobe Flex skills don't hurt either.)

Lora is a BI solutions architect at Meredith Corp., the Des Moines, Iowa-based publisher of such well-known magazines as Ladies' Home Journal and Family Circle. Meredith needed a BI solution to provide marketing and circulation managers with timely, standardized and detailed information about their promotions, Lora said. The existing system was made up of multiple heterogeneous databases that required intensive manual work to consolidate. The system was also inflexible and new reports required heavy support from IT resources. "In fact, there were analyses that were not possible because of the long time that it would take the staff just to put them together and because historical data was not available to the users due to the limitations of the existing system," Lora said.

Learn more in "Managing user adoption makes the most of a BI solution." Also:

How can I build an effective CPM program at my company?

The goal is to track corporate performance in the here and now, as a means to increase profitability moving forward. To achieve this goal, experts recommend taking the following steps to build a solid foundation for a corporate performance management strategy:

Establish who's in charge. Has your company's corporate performance management project fallen in the lap of the IT department? If so, the project is destined to fail, said Boris Evelson, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. A CPM project should be owned by the business side or a C-level executive and have corporate sponsorship. IT and business representatives should both conduct due diligence and work together to choose the right corporate performance management software for the company's needs. IT should be listening in the background, ready to test, build and/or configure a system when a software choice is made.

Make sure there's buy-in not only on the metrics you track, but also on what they mean. In order to figure out something as complex as customer profitability, for example, there has to be agreement as to what customer profitability is. The head of operations and the vice president of sales probably have very different ideas of what this metric means or the data points it includes. Bringing together all of the business and operations people to define key performance metrics is a must.

Get more information in "How to build an effective corporate performance management strategy." Also:

What CPM software should I consider?

CPM grew out of business intelligence and is one of the fastest-growing segments of the BI market. In 2007, corporate performance management adoption grew by 19%, according to Gartner.

That growth is expected to continue, given the current economic conditions, said Gartner's Rayner. Companies of all sizes are putting more stock in performance management applications such as CPM that offer not only a consolidated view of a company's financial performance, but, more importantly, also a means by which users across an organization can forecast and analyze data to make immediate changes and plan for the future.

Learn more in "Corporate performance management software moves beyond mere dashboards." Also:

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