External Knowledge in BI
I recently caught a Business Intelligence (BI) promotion here in Chicago. At first, the event had a long sales pitch for SAP/Business Objects. We were reminded, many times, that SAP had recently acquired Business Objects.
The best part of the event followed. During this stage, Business Objects showed how it now includes access to a number of third party databases to assist business decision makers in crafting more reasoned, intelligent business decisions. Some of the highlighted data sources included:
- US Bureau of Economic Analysis
- Dun & Bradstreet
- eBay transaction data
- Thomson Financial
- US Census Bureau
- and more
These external data sources can be chosen by provider, vertical industry need, geography or other selection criteria.
Why is this important?
Businesses have known for years that you cannot understand your customers, suppliers, competitors and other entities by studying internally generated accounting transaction data. Only when you add outside perspectives to internal data can a business executive make intelligent business decisions. In fact, the whole concept of business intelligence has been a misnomer as most every system to date does not use outside data. How can this be intelligent?
This is a big step forward for Business Objects and culturally a huge improvement for SAP. Just a few years ago, a senior SAP executive dismissed my suggestions that they could improve their product line by adding external data/perspectives to it. These changes should help their efforts to expand and extend their BI offerings.
Next, Business Objects should deliver the data as a fully integrated, context sensitive part of the SAP suite. For now, it's great one can access this information. But, in the future, it would be nice to see this data appearing side-by-side with transaction data throughout the system and not just on reports.
This is a great step forward but it's only the first step.