One of the perceptions that has hurt business intelligence is the idea that it creates more intangible benefits than tangible ones. For that reason, some BI experts (including several I interviewed for a story a few months ago) favor small, tactical BI initiatives rather than larger and more strategic deployments.
In looking at tactical improvements, many companies focus on the increases in efficiency and time savings BI can yield. For instance, BI may help a company reduce the amount of time needed to close the books at the end of a fiscal period from 10 days to three days.
But at least some companies apparently believe BI's revenue-generating potential may outpace those kinds of cost savings. According to a survey conducted at a recent QlikView user conference in Australia, 74 percent of attendees say they'll use BI software in 2009/2010 to deliver "greater operational visibility and uncover business opportunities." According to a news release about the event, these results suggest "BI within medium-large enterprises is perceived as a revenue-generator ahead of saving time and money."
I think that's a pretty big assumption to make, considering the small size of the sample and the fact it may have been somewhat biased, since it was administered by a company that has an obvious interest in pushing a particular set of BI solutions. Still, I think it's interesting. If nothing else, it shows companies are using BI in the context of creating opportunities for innovation, something that tends to get neglected in tough times but shouldn't.
Another tidbit of interest from a news release about the event: Ninety-three percent said senior managers are the primary users of BI tools. So much for the idea of putting BI into the hands of front-line users.