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CIO Authors: Jason Bloomberg, Jeffrey Abbott, Charles Araujo, Adrian Bridgwater, Ed Featherston

Related Topics: CIO, Enterprise IT: Moving CapEx to OpEx , Open Source Journal, Business Intelligence


Get Greater Business Insights and Relieve IT Cost Pressure?

Yes, and here’s how

With heightened pressure on today's businesses from the current global economic woes, figuring out what to do next on many business and technology decision-making levels, and making sure they are the right moves, can make or break your business. Take a moment to consider the following questions:

  • Is now the right time to grow a particular aspect of the business?
  • Could we cut the new IT application that is just about to go in-service?
  • Do we really need to reduce the number of IT support staff to save money?
  • How about closing a regional product?
  • Maybe we should discontinue a product?
  • What can we do to save money now, and in the long-term?

All of these are critical questions and finding the right answer for them has never been more important because decisions made in tough times are the ones that carry you through to better days ahead, or can cause your business to fall apart. The difference in outcome resides in how you pull together the necessary business information you need to make the correct calls. In fact, how you do this is vital to your business.

The good news: Business Intelligence (BI) tools can answer these tough questions every single time because BI helps everyone better understand what is happening throughout their businesses. BI tools integrate information from many organizations within the company such as customer service, manufacturing, sales, and finance. BI tools take the information from various data collecting systems and provide organizations with immediate reports, analysis, and dashboards that help them make more informed and accurate business decisions.

Whether an economic downturn or spurt, it's essential that executives and employees always also have access to information that improves their own business and performance processes. BI tools can put critical business and performance information in an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand set of reports and dashboards directly into the appropriate hands so your people are more knowledgeable and therefore better equipped to succeed.

To sales and marketing executives, for instance, understanding the market and product placement issues can be the difference between failure and the ability to leapfrog over competitors. Quickly adapting to issues, an inherent result of BI, can mean lower scrap rates, higher productivity, improved customer satisfaction and even bigger and better business deals. Once up and running, BI tools ultimately lead to both short and long-term business success for companies and their people.

Open Source BI Resolves Former Cost and Innovation Concerns
One of the key concerns in the past has been the cost associated with BI tools. Historically, such systems have been too expensive for most users, and those who took advantage of BI did not find it economical to provide access to a broad group of individuals within their respective companies. Issues that have slowed down the proliferation of BI tools include:

  • Significant project costs and upfront license costs
  • High integration costs
  • Length of time to implement a project
  • Lack of internal IT expertise
  • Project scope changes as implementation begins
  • Ability to meet future organizational demands

With significant advancements in open source market offerings, enterprises have more choices around how to address these concerns. Solutions that deliver high availability, ensure the security of the data entrusted, and can be easily scaled to meet the demands of the business are being deployed globally today using open source components.

The Open Source Model and the New Economics of IT
The open source business model eliminates many of the traditional costs associated with proprietary models such as upfront license costs, per user pricing and multi-core pricing. It also provides more choice to the end user who can now avoid vendor lock-in and enjoy the flexibility and control that an open source business model provides. It is "The New Economics of IT," a revolution in the technology industry where superior technology can be delivered at more than half the price of traditional offerings; in some cases, up to 95% less. It gives businesses a way to do everything they need to do to keep business and IT projects moving forward and achieve innovation in a time when budgets continue to get slashed.

Utilizing software appliances or pre-integrated software bundles can also help reduce the complexity and cost associated with implementing a BI solution. Software appliances can help reduce the amount of time required to set up and configure a BI solution as well as reduce the overall integration effort and costs associated with them.

What Exactly Is a Software Appliance?
A software appliance is a pre-integrated set of technologies, installed, deployed, configured and maintained as a unit, providing an IT service or solving a business problem. Each layer within the software appliance is trimmed to the bare necessities and tightly integrated with the adjacent layers. It is estimated that use of software appliances can reduce the size, cost, and complexity of the solution by as much as 70% while at the same time significantly increase security.

As an example, open source companies Ingres and Jaspersoft have partnered together to build a software appliance called the Ingres Icebreaker BI Appliance, focused on significantly lowering delivery costs for businesses. It also includes a plug-in that will allow companies to access sales data at much lower costs. It includes:

  • The Ingres open source database, a proven enterprise class database
  • Jaspersoft BI Suite, a business ready set of tools for reporting, analytics, and dashboards
  • plug-in, which provides connectivity and download capability to salesforce data to be stored and accessed locally
  • Linux operating system
  • Integrated maintenance, security and product updates
  • Single support from one vendor

Appliances like this reduce the amount of time required for users to get their BI tools up and running. With an open source business model, users will also experience significant reductions in overall TCO.

In addition, these appliances allow business data to be shared throughout the employee base without experiencing per user fees that drive up costs. Meanwhile, IT managers can now supply end users with access to the necessary reports and dashboards to drive more productive business decisions. They will also save upfront integration and configuration costs associated with putting a BI solution together coupled with an integrated maintenance stream for all the components to deliver savings for the life of the solution.

By utilizing all open source components, solution costs are drastically reduced, overall maintenance costs go down, and all employees have access to the most recent business information to improve their day-to-day decision making.

If you're making tough decisions in these economic times and you can't afford to guess, BI is a tool you can count on. If you need an inexpensive and superior BI technology solution that gives you immediate access to data for accurate business insights, open source BI software appliances and tools are one sure way to help you navigate the rough, and the smoother roads ahead.

More Stories By Deb Woods

Deb Woods is vice president of product management at Ingres, a leading open source database company. Prior to Ingres, she was vice president of product management at Red Hat. She is active in the open source community and sits on the Open Solutions Alliance board of directors. Deb holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.

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