Accenture, SAP execs talk analytic trends

The state of business analytics is influencing what organisations do

While business analytics tools are becoming cheaper and easier to use, organisations are still facing the underlying problem of understanding the data sources that feed these systems, said an executive with professional services firm Accenture PLC.

The injection of in-memory technology in the area of business analytics will "feed the gap" in helping organisations understand real-time, unstructured data, said Nicola Bianzino, who heads Accenture's SAP business intelligence practice, at a roundtable discussion in Toronto on Tuesday.

Whether it's greater awareness about analytics or continued challenges regarding data quality issues, the state of business analytics is nonetheless influencing what organisations do.

For instance, Bianzino said organisations are not only affording their employees analytics tools, but they are also starting to bring in third-party experts to help with challenges like data quality issues.

Another impact is that greater awareness of the business benefits of analytics has moved the discipline from the chief financial officer's accountability to that of the CEO or chief operating officer, said Bianzino.

"(Before) it was very much focused on producing financial reports," he said. "But now we are seeing business performance officers and other types of roles starting to come out."

Bianzino has also observed businesses get more creative with their use of analytics. Asset-intensive industries like telecommunications and utilities are increasingly applying business intelligence to better understand and control business processes to, for instance, prevent outages or ascertain the optimal utilisation for particular assets.

But as a partner of SAP, Bianzino said he's especially "excited and curious about the Sybase acquisition and how it will play out" for the requirements organizations have regarding real-time, high-volume unstructured data. The Germany-based software vendor acquired mobile and database technology company Sybase ASA this year and recently announced their first joint offerings.

Also at the roundtable, Business Objects country manager Margaret Stuart, mirroring the excitement, said the merger is about "delivering not only analytics but transactional systems in a mobile environment. That's the power that now is part of the SAP solution that we will continue to roll out on."

Sybase is a "huge part" of SAP reaching its goal of one billion users by 2015, said Stuart.

On the topic of how the state of business analytics is impacting organisations, Stuart said exponential data growth has forced IT and the business to work more tightly together in ways it hasn't before. "IT must realize the vision that the business has put together," she said.

But business leaders do also need new and effective tools to make "active decisions" that fuel growth, said Stuart.

SAP-Business Objects' approach to analytics has four pillars at its foundation, explained Stuart. One, is about getting the data source right with governance, management and quality.

Two, providing the right tools to the right users at the right time. That can vary from users who want deep dive capabilities to those who just want to build esthetically pleasing reports, said Stuart.

Three, providing pre-built analytics for quicker time to value. Fourth, providing tools that ensure governance, risk and compliance.

"Until you have those four areas covered, you don't have a good data analytics strategy," said Stuart.

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