from DSSResources.com

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                          DSS News
                       by D. J. Power
              November 4, 2001 -- Vol. 2, No. 23
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM

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Check Timo Elliot's article, Pfizer case at DSSResources.COM
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Featured:

* DSS Wisdom
* Ask Dan! - What is business intelligence?
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Stories

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This newsletter has more than 700 subscribers from 
50 countries. Please forward this newsletter to people interested in 
Decision Support Systems or suggest they visit DSSResources.COM.

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NOTE: Paper submissions due November 30, 2001 for IFIP WG 8.3 Conference 
on Decision Support Systems (DSS), Decision Support in the Internet Age, 
Cork, Ireland, July 4-7, 2002.  Check http://afis.ucc.ie/dsiage2002/.

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DSS Wisdom

In 1993, Len Jessup and Joe Valacich noted, "It is difficult to even 
begin to ask what effects GSS will have or how they will be used because 
the term Group Support System is somewhat nebulous.  Indeed, there are 
marked differences from one GSS to the next.  By 'Group Support System' 
we mean computer-based information systems used to support intellectual 
collaborative work." (p. 5)

Jessup, Leonard M., and Joseph S. Valacich, Group Support Systems: New 
Perspectives, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993.

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Ask Dan!

What is business intelligence?

In the previous DSS News (Vol. 2, No. 22), I briefly discussed the term 
business intelligence and mentioned that "business intelligence" is my 
favorite IS/IT oxymoron. Well that comment lead to a few emails and this 
follow-up column.

The general thrust of the emails was that business intelligence is a
term like military or competitive intelligence. And hence, the purpose 
of BI is to gather information to help managers make more "intelligent" 
decisions and not to make managers more intelligent.  This 
interpretation of the term may be appropriate for describing a staff 
group tasked with gathering information, e.g., a business intelligence 
unit, but it works less well for explaining IS/IT technologies and 
applications.

Information Systems vendors and analysts tend to use the term for a 
category of software tools that can be used to extract and analyze data 
from corporate databases. The most commonly used business 
intelligence software is known as a "query and reporting" tool. 

Also, Business Intelligence is a term that some financial analysts and 
commentators use for categorizing a small group of software vendors and 
their products. A number of commentators identify the following 
companies as major BI tool vendors: Brio, Business Objects, Cognos, 
Hyperion/Essbase, and MicroStrategy.

>From a historical perspective, business intelligence is a popularized, 
umbrella term introduced by Howard Dresner of the Gartner Group in 1989 
to describe a set of concepts and methods to improve business decision 
making by using fact-based support systems. In the early 1990s, the term 
was sometimes used interchangeably with briefing books and executive 
information systems. 

SDG Computing's (http://www.sdgcomputing.com/) Business Intelligence and 
Data Warehousing glossary defines Business Intelligence Tools ver 
broadly as "software that enables business users to see and use large 
amounts of complex data". SDG Computing categorizes three types of tools 
as Business Intelligence Tools: 1. Multidimensional Analysis; 2. Query 
Tools; and 3. Data Mining Tools.

Well, so much for agreement on the meaning of the term Business 
Intelligence and related terms like Business Intelligence Tools.  What 
do the major BI vendors say about their BI products and services?

Brio doesn't claim to sell Business Intelligence Tools, rather according 
to the website Brio "markets business performance software, comprised of 
three subcategories that includes ad hoc query and analysis, 
reporting/OLAP, executive information systems and analytical 
applications. 

Business Objects claims it is the world's leading provider of business 
intelligence (BI) solutions. According to their website, "business 
intelligence lets organizations access, analyze, and share information 
internally with employees and externally with customers, suppliers, and 
partners." Business Objects was founded in 1990 and it "pioneered the 
modern business intelligence industry by inventing and patenting a 
"semantic layer" that insulates users from the technical complexity of 
database systems".

Cognos claims it is the leading provider of enterprise business 
intelligence solutions. Cognos defines business intelligence as "a 
category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, 
analyzing, reporting on and providing access to data to help enterprise 
users make better business decisions". 

Hyperion is positioned as "a global leader in business intelligence 
software". It creates solutions that help businesses measure performance 
and drive profitability. Hyperion sells a database product called 
Essbase and financial analysis, performance management and eCRM analysis 
solutions. 

Finally, the MicroStrategy website notes the company helps "corporations 
transform their operational data into actionable information". 
MicroStrategy's Business Intelligence platform, MicroStrategy 7, helps 
meet query, reporting, and advanced analytical needs.

What does all of this mean to IS/IT staff and business managers? 
Confusion and "hype".  Broadening the Business Intelligence umbrella is 
continuing and is increasing the conceptual confusion.  For example, 
LexisNexis and iPhrase are partnering to deliver Business Intelligence 
solutions based on documents in the LexisNexis Advertising Red Books 
directories. Also, a Reuters news story dated 10/19/01 states business 
intelligence software allows companies to determine, for example, which 
of a group of customers is most likely to buy a car this year.

Richard Hackathorn, a pioneer in the field of Decision Support Systems, 
had some comments about Business Intelligence in the November 2001 DM 
Review. Hackathorn reminds us that information itself is pure overhead 
and that it delivers no direct value to a business. He says that today 
the issue is making BI actionable. He argues that "if your BI projects 
are not changing the way that you do business, then they should not be 
considered BI". Apparently, we still need to "institutionalize" decision 
support technologies to gain benefits.

Business intelligence services are "big" business. Research firm Gartner 
Dataquest predicts business intelligence services will grow from $9 
billion in 2000 to $18.5 billion in 2005. IDC estimates BI is currently 
a $5.5 billion market. By the year 2005, IDC expects the
business intelligence services market to nearly triple, reaching $15.7 
billion annually. 

Commentators, IS/IT staff and managers are having problems with the term 
Business Intelligence. Let's show some mercy and at a minimum add 
descriptors like services, tools, department or industry to the phrase. 
Business Intelligence has replaced OLAP as the "hot" buzzword and some 
vendors want to capture the data mining and customer relationship fads.

In general, I have a problem with all of the various interpretations of 
the term Business Intelligence. Some BI vendors stress one 
interpretation and some stress another.  Some vendors are moving to the 
term analytics, but decision support is what it is all about.  The most 
common "business intelligence" software sold is for querying a database 
and creating a report ... I'd recommend vendors focus on supporting 
decision making rather than providing "intelligence" to managers or 
making managers "smarter", "more capable as decision makers" or "more 
intelligent".  

For my part, I'll continue to focus on examining and researching various 
types of DSS, including Data-Driven Decision Support Systems. Let's 
build a decision support industry that provides organizations with a 
variety of decision support products and services and let's help 
managers build information systems that meet their decision support 
needs.

Hackathorn, R. "Making Business Intelligence Actionable," DM Review, 
November 2001, p. 32.

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What's New at DSSResources.COM

10/28/2001 Posted article by Elliot, T., "Enterprise Analytic 
Applications: A Guide to the Latest Developments", DSSResources.COM.

10/27/2001 Posted case by Alphablox Staff, "Pfizer uses Alphablox 
Web-based platform to create Sales Analysis Decision Support 
application", Alphablox, Inc., 2001.

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DSS News Stories: October 22 to November 4

11/01/2001 Artemis introduces ViewPoint, a new web-based project and 
resource collaboration solution.

10/30/2001 eProject releases new version of project management and 
collaboration software suite.

10/29/2001 LexisNexis and iPhrase partner to deliver Business 
Intelligence solutions.

10/29/2001 Crystal Analysis Professional provides analytic application 
front-end for iBaan BI Solution.

10/25/2001 BITS endorses framework for managing outsourcing risk.

10/24/2001 SAS receives 2001 DM Review Readership Award in the category 
of Business Solutions and Analytic Applications.

10/24/2001 The Oak Group announced contract to license its MCAP Criteria 
to Massachusetts General Hospital.

10/24/2001 US Air Force selects BroadVision to power enterprise-wide 
portal initiatives.

10/23/2001 Alphablox leading provider of infrastructure software for 
Inline Analytics to financial market.

10/23/2001 Business Objects awards five customers for excellence in 
Business Intelligence.

10/22/2001 Boeing Space and Communications Division to roll out Cognos 
to 2,000 employees.

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