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Data integrity stumps BI adoption in M'sia

More enterprises in Malaysia see value in deploying business intelligence but challenged by uncertainty over data source. Most also adopt technology as silo reporting tools rather than overall strategic business tool.

KUALA LUMPUR--The use of business intelligence (BI) continues to spread in Malaysia, but the enterprise community has yet to fully embrace the technology as an enterprise-wide strategy due to concerns over data integrity, say industry analysts and players.

According to figures from IDC, the local end-user query, reporting and analysis software market grew 7.6 percent in the first half of 2009 over the previous year, while advanced analytics expanded by 3.4 percent.

Devtar Singh, associate market analyst for software research at IDC Malaysia, told ZDNet Asia that BI is gaining traction here as more organizations are starting to see the value in analyzing data that can then be translated into strategic information.

Devtar noted that the advanced analytics market is growing significantly as organizations are not only seeking ad-hoc query and reporting tools but intelligent predictive analysis solutions as well.

Jasbir Singh, senior director of applications sales at Oracle Malaysia, said the majority of Malaysian companies are aware that BI conveys a higher-level image of not only the enterprise, but also every step in the value chain.

"They also know that new intelligence software is being released into the market to give firms better control of their vital resources while enabling more informed decision making," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

However, Simon Dale, senior vice president for SAP Asia-Pacific and Japan, noted that many enterprises in the region still see BI as a silo reporting tool rather than as an overall strategic business tool.

Need for trusted platform
Dale said in an interview: "The world is witnessing a data explosion.

"The challenge for enterprises, therefore, is how they are going to manage this explosion of information while ensuring it has integrity." He added that as more enterprises understand what BI can do for them, the more information they are willing to feed such tools.

But with the significant increase of information, enterprises will struggle with how they can differentiate between data that can and cannot be trusted, Dale noted.

"It's one thing to Google something and discard the information if you find that you don't trust it. But it's another thing for an enterprise to receive a report and not [know if they can] trust it, as that [potential] business is lost forever because they can't trust the information," he explained.

Consequently, Dale said, enterprises must create a trusted information platform and not merely create a database and pile report after report on top of it.

"It's about taking multiple feeds of information and creating one consolidated model of integrity and from that, delivering individual requirements," he said.

Roger Ling, IDC's Asean research manager, concurred, noting that with the proliferation of digital information, data management is crucial for BI tools as the quality of the analysis is highly dependent on the quality of data available.

Ling noted that poor data quality as well security and user rights management are key challenges organizations face as they look to implement a BI strategy.

"To overcome these challenges, enterprises must ensure their information comes from the right sources and that they have the right tools to extract, transfer and load the information," he explained. "Without ironing out this strategy, no matter how powerful a BI tool may be, the issue of poor results will still persist."

It's not what you think
Jasbir noted that any enterprise that wants its BI strategy to succeed needs to address two issues. First, companies must select the right platform that is based on open standards, and one that is expandable, scalable and able to host various analytical data models.

Second, they should opt for pre-built data models with pre-built Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Results Areas (KRAs) as this reduces implementation timeframe significantly, he said.

"When these core criteria are satisfied, business users gain timely, accurate and role-relevant insight no matter where the underlying data resides. This will enable non-technical users to obtain a familiar, logical [business] view of information," Jasbir said.

Dale added that it is essential business managers, rather than the IT administrators, look at the company's BI requirements.

"Just because BI falls under the purview of the IT departments does not mean they should make the decisions on purchasing BI tools," he said. "The bigger, mature enterprises realise this and are the ones that are standardizing their platforms, sorting out their trusted data and truly benefiting from BI."

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.