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Business Intelligence Spending Spree

Companies have big plans for business intelligence, says an InformationWeek Research survey, but they have a long way to go before those plans become reality.

Business intelligence tools are making it onto the "gotta have" list at more businesses, and projected spending on the software is on the rise at many companies. Some of them plan to make these tools available to more employees, including line-of-business managers and knowledge workers. The software is even showing up on employees' mobile devices.

Companies have big plans for business intelligence, which monitors and analyzes performance data and helps in decision making. But many have a long way to go before those plans become reality. The number of companies deploying BI software on a large scale is growing slowly, and the number of workers with access to the tools is limited. Ease of use and problems with data quality and integration remain hurdles to adoption.

Those are the key findings of InformationWeek Research's survey conducted in January of 230 business technology professionals. The results echo other recent reports that forecast increased interest in business intelligence among business executives and IT managers.

In a recent survey of 1,400 CIOs, Gartner found business intelligence will surpass security as their top technology priority this year. The CIOs plan to increase their business intelligence budgets by an average of 4.8%, and Gartner predicted that sales of new licenses for BI software will reach $2.5 billion this year, a 6.2% increase from last year.

IT execs certainly appear to be more willing to open their checkbooks, with 44% of those that InformationWeek surveyed planning to increase spending on BI tools this year (see chart, p. 64). More than a third say BI spending will make up a larger percentage of their total IT budgets this year, and one-third say it will increase by 26% or more.

Too Many Tools
More companies are signing deals to implement business intelligence software companywide, vendors claim. But only 33% of those queried in the InformationWeek survey have standardized on one or a few BI tools deployed throughout their companies, compared with 32% in last year's survey. Most companies still have a variety of business intelligence tools from various vendors being used throughout departments, operations, and locations, or being deployed on a project-by-project basis.

Exec Heavy, bar chartSome 77% of those surveyed say fewer than than a quarter of workers at their companies use business intelligence software today; only 8% report that half or more of their employees use the tools. But 38% say more than half of their company's employees will use business intelligence software within two years.

The biggest users of business intelligence technology continue to be financial managers, business executives, IT managers, and business analysts (see chart).

At Habitat for Humanity, for example, about 20 financial analysts will be the primary users of a new data warehouse loaded with donation and spending information. The system was built to meet requests for more financial transparency from the charity's business donors. "We'll have a complete picture of our finances, where donations are coming in and where money is going out," says Mike Sabot, business analyst at Habitat.

But survey respondents say more line-of-business managers, knowledge workers, and sales representatives will be using business intelligence tools two years from now. Similarly, they say use of the tools within E-commerce, supply chain management, and manufacturing operations will increase, closing the gap with IT, finance, and marketing departments where business intelligence use is most prevalent today.

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