Emily Mui, Group Product Marketing Manager, SAP BusinessObjects BI

What is Pervasive BI?

All of us want to know our business better, want to understand what is happening at all times so we are not caught off guard. How does BI support that notion? Pervasive BI sounds like the panacea to this critical need.

But what does this mean? A few years back, I asked a friend, who was a pharmacy student what she thought pervasive BI meant. Her response was “it sounds like a medical condition that is highly contagious.” Ok, my friend is obviously not a typical business user, but her answer indicates pervasive BI sounds mystical and questionable as to why one would want it. So, what is “pervasive BI”?

Pervasive BI is also known as “BI for the masses.” It is about spreading business intelligence to any and all users about so they are equipped to make better decisions. That’s a great idea and sounds like the holy grail for how you run your business – everyone having what they need at their fingertips to make the right decisions. But is BI really more pervasively used in organizations today than it was 2 yrs or 5 yrs ago? If you read the research and survey findings from BI industry analysts such as Cindi Howson, you would think there has not been much progress made. From a survey of 513 companies Cindi found only 25% of workers use BI a couple of years back and it is no better today. Why is that? Some would argue that the BI solutions are not easy enough to use, others might say companies still don’t see BI as being mission critical while some believe implementing BI requires such a dramatic organization shift in business thinking and practice that it must be driven from the top down.

How do you make pervasive BI a reality?

Making BI pervasive requires a different mindset – understanding that there are gold nuggets and diamonds to be mined. By viewing information as one of the most important strategic asset a company has, they will work to make sure those that need it to help the company succeed must get it. These companies will then recognize the need to have the right BI and information management infrastructure in place to support the proliferation of important information into the hands of users. Then there is the need to make sure the users are able to understand and use the information they need to make decisions. Ever notice there are no manuals or much in the form of instructions for video games? My 7 year old boy seems to know exactly how to play the game without training or having to read anything.

Over the years, we have seen BI solutions become more and more intuitive and become embedded in a knowledge worker’s every day work routine. Examples of pervasive BI include doctors looking at their dashboards to track reports of diseases to identify outbreak patterns or customer service agents having the payment history and scoring of a customer to determine if a late fee should be waived or a store manager being able to quickly replenish a product stocking out in her store or a utility worker accessing his mobile device and seeing the problem at his last work site has returned and requires immediate attention.

The upcoming release of SAP BusinessObjects was designed to make it easier for all business users to consume the information whenever and wherever they are with the user experience being more intuitive for all. The release will also include a new innovative solution that delivers information to show business impact as events happen – making it easier to pervade BI across all users in an organization.

Why is pervasive BI important?

No matter what your organization culture is, without facts in the hands of those that need to make decisions, how can anyone be sure the right action was taken? At the Predictive Analytics World show last week in D.C., there were many data mining experts there espousing the need to mine data in order to develop the predictive models that will help project what the business should be doing. But just as much as organizations needed these predictive models, there were as many business users at the show interested in figuring out how to get these prediction and mining results into the hands of the users that need this information – so those in the front line can make decisions that impact the business. Having the ability to make an informed decision is a must have for every business to survive.

In this case, spreading BI into the hands of users is a good thing even if it sounds like a communicable disease – especially if it will help you know your business better so you can take action. To learn more about the use of pervasive BI and how you can make it a reality for your organization, read this white paper published by IDC “Improving Organizational Peformance Through Pervasive Business Intelligence at www.sap.com/analytics/

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