Integration Top Gripe About Business Intelligence

Loraine Lawson

When it comes to business intelligence (BI), can you guess the top complaint from businesses and users?


That's right: integration.


Big surprise, huh?


To be more specific, the top issue is integration with third-party technologies, says Howard Dresner. And Dresner should know: He's the "father of business intelligence." Heck, he even came up with the term back in 1989, when he was an analyst at Gartner and I was a high school student. (Sorry if that makes you feel old - my birthday's breathing down my neck and I'm increasingly fond of things that make me feel young.)


Dresner recently surveyed and interviewed 457 business and IT professionals about their experience with BI. He published his findings in "'The Wisdom Of Crowds' Business Intelligence Market Study," which is available for purchase. The survey is random and not meant to be scientific-he actually used social media to promote it, he shares in a TechTarget podcast. But that's still a substantial sampling, even if it is self-selecting, and the findings are telling, particularly when it comes to the failings of BI tools.


Slide Show

Real Questions for BI Vendors

Click through to see the questions Ann discovered that can make a tangible difference in your diligence.


Dresner ranked the chief complaints about BI during an interview with InformationWeek, published Tuesday. Third-party integration topped the list, followed by shoddy online documentation and forums and problems with migrating to new versions of BI software.


"The vendors talk a good game about integration, but the consumers of the technology either know better or they don't understand how to use the integration features," Dresner told InformationWeek.


In the podcast, he goes into a bit more detail about what customers mean when they complain about "third-party integration." I guess I see that term, and I think one-off applications-for instance, a database or Salesforce.com. But it turns out, it actually covers a much broader range of integration failings than I thought. By "third-party technologies," users meant integration hassles with back-end systems, front-end tools, desktop tools, personal productivity applications, collaborative and social media solutions.


Or, as Dresner says in the podcast, "it's really the entire gambit of integration making sure that the business intelligence technology that they use are much more fluid than they are today or that the vendors are saying they are today."


Of course, this survey isn't the first time integration has come up as an issue for BI implementations. Obviously, data integration is a huge issue for BI. In fact, just recently, Ann All asked BI experts what questions companies should ask vendors before investing in a BI solution, and sure enough, the question "How easy is it to access and integrate multiple sources of data, both internal and external, with your product?" made the list. (See the slideshow, linked above, for the complete list of questions.)


But Dresner's survey reveals users want much more than just data integration. As Mike Vizard recently explained, users want "pervasive BI," where they can easily access BI through a stand-alone tool or a tool embedded inside an application.


The question is how to achieve it. In this YouTube presentation, Dresner points out that most BI implementations are actually driven by IT, although that's shifting in North America toward BI initiatives driven by business users. Interestingly, it turns out finance usually does its own thing when it comes to BI.


There's a good case to be made for the business leading BI - but there are those who say that IT should be able to screen - and rule out - options before the business chooses, largely because of the integration and interoperability challenges.


Given Dresner's findings, I can see their point. Integration may be a strong argument for IT having more say. Only by involving IT can business users move toward that level of integration.


Then again, it's a bit of a red herring to say one or the other has to be "driving" BI, isn't it? There is another option: a team approach that brings both business and IT to the table to decide which option offers the most gain with the least tradeoffs.


Otherwise, the solutions business users adore will continue to disappoint when it comes to integration.

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