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Can Web 2.0 Save BI?

Can Web 2.0 Save BI?

Mashups could be the answer to BI's problems. Here's how organizations are connecting the technologies to make better business decisions.

 Guy Carpenter & Co.: This thematically shaded map of a hypothetical insurance portfolio in Florida shows satellite imagery layered behind individual policy locations.

Guy Carpenter & Co.: This thematically shaded map of a hypothetical insurance portfolio in Florida shows satellite imagery layered behind individual policy locations.

Chief Jon Greiner recently expanded his staff of crime analysts from one to 11 without hiring a single new officer at the Ogden Police Department in Utah.

Instead, Greiner equipped his existing force of eight lieutenants and two assistant chiefs with new, easy-to-use, Web-based business intelligence tools that enable the police veterans to combine and manipulate data from arrest records, court documents, probation logs, jurisdictional maps and other sources to identify patterns and pinpoint hot spots so they can stop crimes before they happen.

"My police officers -- who are 30 years younger -- are gamers, and I thought that if I could put something user-friendly in their hands, they could do great things as crime analysts," explains Greiner. Today, the officers are using the new BI tools to perform geographic profiling of crimes and analysis of police data "in seconds," he says. Before, it could take days for the department's single crime analyst to fulfill a report request. An added bonus is that experienced police officers with extensive street experience are now able to apply their firsthand knowledge to crime analysis.

"You have practitioners asking the what-if questions, which has changed the way we police," Greiner says.

Welcome to Business Intelligence 2.0, a world in which one of BI's original big promises is finally being met, and a broader class of everyday business users -- as opposed to statisticians or data analysts -- are tapping into innovative technologies and Web-based BI capabilities. Police officers, physicians, accountants and salespeople are mashing up and analyzing structured and unstructured data from far-flung sources in the ways that make the most contextual sense to them.

"All of these new technologies are about making it easier to build and consume analytical applications," says Gartner analyst Kurt Schlegel. Today, he notes, companies frequently cite a lack of both end-user and developer skills as a major barrier when deploying traditional BI applications. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that no more than 20 percent of users in most organizations use reporting, ad hoc query and online analytical processing tools on a regular basis.

Instead, most companies rely on already overburdened IT departments or in-house teams of BI experts to fulfill users' requests for reports, analyses and forecasts, a process that can take weeks or longer. Then, when decision-makers finally receive a report, they often discount or distrust it because the data is no longer relevant or timely.


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