Take-up of business intelligence (BI) has never been so enthusiastic. Case studies abound about how the application of BI technologies and practices can transform businesses, giving them new and deeper insights into their operations and markets. However, says Andreea Vasiliu, EMEA product marketing director at BI software provider Hyperion, business intelligence alone only provides part of the picture; there is also a distinctive role for business or corporate performance management (BPM) in maximising the effectiveness of any organisation.
But the two areas of BI and performance management are not mutually exclusive. “The lines between the two are blurring,” says Vasiliu. But the focus should not be on trying to iron out territories; rather it should be on how these two business-critical technologies compliment each other: “Because if we look at them together we have the extended picture, we have the total picture.”
In this context, BI is more about the technologies and techniques used to extract and gather data from both within and outside the organisation, and its subsequent analysis. Performance management, on the other hand, enables organisations to benchmark how well they are doing against pre-determined set goals and strategic objectives. “Performance management is really the connecting fabric that allows you to link strategies to plans, to monitor the executions of these plans and to drive the enterprise-wide performance,” says Vasiliu.
The end-game is a better understanding of the organisation and ultimately better decisions. But a primary consideration should always be the context in which the gathered information was extracted. “There are a lot more factors we need to understand before we can make a decision,” she says. “We need to understand the context of this information, and we need to understand the timing.”
After the business is confident in its data sources, performance management can be applied through scorecarding and benchmarking. That it is by no means a simple process, says Vasiliu. “In order to set goals, you need to know where you are today. You need to understand where the competitors are going, where you’d like to be. Setting goals is not as simple as a few numbers on a page.”
EMEA product marketing director, Hyperion
With goals set, it is BPM’s role to keep the organisation on plan. Vasiliu suggests that 90% of organisations fail to execute on their strategies. And why? “It’s very difficult to communicate strategy; it is also very difficult to monitor performance,” she says.
Irrespective of the challenge, this is a very real requirement for today’s agile business. There are new pressures on organisations such as the increased requirement for transparency, not just from internal managers but from shareholders and outside regulators. These latter groups want to know much more than just financial metrics: they want hard numbers on the state of operations.
Finding the right BI or business performance product set is not without its challenges. Many business leaders battle with one question in particular, says Vasiliu: “Should we standardise or should we go for lots of different BI tools, each one the best-of-breed in its particular area.”
There is, of course, no ‘one size fits all’ approach to be had here, she says; each organisation is unique and has unique requirements. But in many cases most of the requirements can be met – and the cost of supporting multiple tools reduced – by investing in an integrated suite of BI and performance management technologies, she argues.