August 27, 2007

Information is Power

We often hear that “information is power,” but many IT managers would argue with that statement. For them, information is a problem. It is growing at an exponential rate, becoming harder to store and access, and dealing with it becomes more and more costly each day.

At the same time, the need for the power of information is also growing. As global business becomes increasingly more competitive, the need for accurate, secure and immediate information on products, operations, customers and partners becomes critical to make the decisions necessary to keep a competitive edge.

Complicating the matter, governments continually add more burden on information systems to ensure—and report on—adherence to regulations, compliance and more.

Technology’s rapid developments in capturing information have helped, but may have also contributed to the problem. Until recently, business software development was functionally centered. Human resources, purchasing, ordering, billing and other systems were developed to address that specific function. These systems captured information and automated the processes necessary to carry out specific functions. However, each system was independent from the others, built in a different language, and had its own business logic.

As soon as the functional, separate systems became operable, businesses realized the need to aggregate information from the various separate systems to enable unified business operations and decision making. Thus, data warehousing, operational data stores and data marts were developed to aggregate information into a single environment and provide unified information search, query and reporting. This helped to enable direct communication between separate systems.

Data Warehouses enable access to business intelligence in a central, standardized environment open 24×7 – one-stop data shopping – accessible through a web browser.

Suppliers of information can aggregate all their data feeds via a data warehouse through a single pipe, eliminating time consuming and costly processes.

The demand side, or, users of information, have 24×7 access through one outlet in a format that fits their operating system. This eliminates the need to manually load and map data from CDs or email files or visit 100’s of websites to get the important business information needed to drive their operation.

What is needed is a “magic bullet” that can aggregate information from heterogeneous business systems in real time, query that information, cut and dice the information “on the fly” in any way the user needs, process any number of queries, be scalable for the growth of captured information, always provide the most current and accurate information and ensure continuous operation.

That’s a tall order but it is happening with the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW2). For every dollar spent on transaction processing applications or capturing data into databases, only $0.27 was spent on getting the data out for business analytics to support decision making and statutory reporting processes. In other words, organizations are collecting information, but not using it as well as they could. Yet it is vital to a company’s success to be able to make quick business decisions based on accurate, up to the minute information. Slow business decisions and inaccurate information leads to competitive disadvantages and in the long run, business failure.

Suppliers should use the IDW2 as their outlet to feed all their trading partners and distributors should demand that their suppliers deliver the information that they need to sell their products to the industry information bank, IDW2.

Information for most businesses is a problem rather than an advantage. But to some businesses, information is, indeed, power, and providing that is the information edge they need to succeed with the IDW2!

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