Costly information technology systems that are designed to help management make better decisions have yet to deliver on their promise, a report says. Half of the 50 UAE companies surveyed for the study had either implemented or were implementing business intelligence systems, which collect and analyse data from across a company to support decision making. But only one in 10 said their information needs were fully met.
"It is not really a technology problem," said Rajeev Lalwani, a partner of the accounting and consulting firm KPMG, which produced the report. "It is a management one. You can have all the tools and technology you want, but they mean nothing if you are not solving business problems." In the best case scenario, he said, business intelligence systems could help a company turn mountains of raw data - sales figures, payroll details, inventory records - into useful knowledge that could inform leaders to make better decisions. But in many cases, flaws in the original data, or the business processes that produce it, meant the system gave management equally flawed advice.
"A failure of business intelligence," Mr Lalwani said, "is normally just a failure of the business." The survey showed UAE companies remained optimistic about the potential for new technology to improve management. The majority said they expected to save money and grow their business by using business intelligence systems, and most agreed that the tools would help them to expand product lines and geographic reach.
It can also prove valuable in reducing the risks of fraud, embezzlement and security breaches, identifying unusual patterns in financial transactions and identifying processes vulnerable to manipulation. Gartner, the technology research group, has identified business intelligence as one of the 10 strategic tools that IT managers should focus on next year. It was listed as the top priority of chief information officers around the world in the company's 2008 CIO Survey.
Three of the world's largest sellers of corporate IT systems - Oracle, SAP and IBM - all acquired leading producers of business intelligence software this year. As these large players begin to dominate the market, companies will come under pressure to use business intelligence systems that are integrated into larger corporate systems from the same vendors. Complementing existing investments and compatibility with current platforms was ranked by UAE companies as the top priority when deciding which system to choose.
"I'm not sure that prioritising platform consistency is a good idea," said Mr Lalwani, "because it can shift the focus away from the best solution. The company should begin with an end in mind, and focus on business problems. The tools will follow." firstname.lastname@example.org