Consolidating data warehouses

Data shadow systems example (Click to enlarge image) Initially, BI tool vendors felt they were in competition with Microsoft Excel, but they gradually accepted that fighting the use of Excel only exacerbated its use and the spread of data shadow systems or spreadmarts BI tools integrated with Excel allow both BI casual and power users to leverage the tools they know and be more productive.

The key caveat is to clearly distinguish between using Excel as the final reporting and charting tool, versus using it as a tool to gather and manipulate data as in a data shadow system.

To technology purists, picking a BI suite sometimes appears to be a compromise since you are not picking "best of breed." However, having a BI tool that enables businesspeople to analyze consistent data and metrics in the most productive manner at a reasonable TCO is more important than having the most feature-laden tool on an evaluation checklist.

At first, especially if several of the tool categories were the result of acquisitions, BI suites were more of a marketing pitch than truly integrated BI suites.

Do not constrain businesspeople's advanced analytic needs.

Data visualization, statistical analysis and predictive modeling are often not part of a BI suite.

A BI suite is the preferred approach to fulfilling multiple BI categories.

BI tools are mature in the primary categories so many vendors are able to "keep up with the Joneses" — i.e., examine competitive offerings and ensure that their software provides comparable functionality.

This is great for BI tool consumers because it expands the selection pool and means the tool will continually evolve with industry standards.

Selecting an integrated BI suite shifts systems integration from your business and IT people to the BI vendor.

Productivity and consistency increases with an integrated BI suite because you can reuse business metrics, transformations and rules across BI categories; and your enterprise goes on one upgrade cycle for the integrated suite, versus having one cycle for each BI tool.

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