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Oracle seeks to broaden BI use with new offering

Oracle Corp. is poised to make what a company executive calls a "big push" in the business intelligence market in an effort to get customers to take advantage of as much functionality as BI tools have to offer.

At next month’s Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, the company is expected to introduce a new, "comprehensive" product, Oracle Business Intelligence. The product supports query processing and analysis, along with end-user customization, among other functions, says the executive, Ray Roccaforte, vice president of server development.

The product is being introduced after Oracle studied the BI market over the past few years and concluded that customers want simplicity in their BI and data warehousing functions, Roccaforte tells eADT. "When we talk to customers, [we find that] most are getting only a small part of the value they could be getting."

A customer generally garners the data he needs from a lot of applications, yielding separate views of data, and realizes that "we really should have one central data warehouse," Roccaforte says. "When you add it all up, you get this very complicated picture."

Oracle Business Intelligence is currently bundled with Oracle Application Server but will now become a branded BI offering, Roccaforte says. But he adds that the company will continue to provide support to customers that use the bundled version.

The new product will support query reporting and analysis and end-user customization, Roccaforte says, and it will "greatly reduce" costs for the customer and be easy to install.

Oracle is on the right track with the new offering, according to Keith Gile, an analyst at Forrester Research, who says that taking BI tools to a larger audience represents the "holy grail" for BI vendors.

"BI, in general, has been targeted almost exclusively at the power users in every organization," Gile says. "These are the folks that feel comfortable building queries, creating OLAP cubes, and developing somewhat complex BI applications in specialty tools.

"The good news/bad news scenario is that power users constitute about 5-7% of the total headcount in any organization, leaving about 90% of the workforce out of the BI solution," Gile adds. "Business users (25% of the headcount) and casual users (30%) do not have the time or the inclination to become power-users, and tend to look for quick and less costly alternatives, such as Excel. Think of BI as being really for small groups of 'producers,' but in the current technology, less useful for 'consumers' of information. That is where the huge opportunity lies.”

Curt Hall, a senior consultant with Cutter Consortium’s Business Intelligence advisory service, agrees with Gile’s assessment. Yet, Hall adds that BI tools are reaching more business-oriented end users through the proliferation of such applications as dashboards and scorecards, which he says are increasingly becoming integrated into corporate portals.

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