When most people think about business intelligence (BI) they think about dedicated BI tools such as IBM’s Cognos, SAP’s Business Objects, and Oracle’s Hyperion products. You don’t hear them talk about applications that offer great BI. At Workday we’re trying to change that by building BI into all our Business Services (HCM, Payroll, Financials, and Spend Management). We want our customers to think about Workday when they think about BI. And we think that building BI into applications with the broad usage our products receive is the right way to make BI available for everyone.
The BI product space has grown up separately from business applications for some very good reasons. Traditionally applications have done a poor job of:
- Aggregation of data from multiple sources
- Offering business relevant dimensions for reporting and analysis
- Multi-dimensional analysis
- Graphical representation of information
- Presentation quality (“pixel perfect”) reporting
BI tools evolved to fill these gaps. But having BI separated from source transaction systems imposes cost, complexity, and limitations that have limited success in rolling out BI widely within organizations. Cost, complexity, and limitations of the “separate” approach to BI include:
- The need to move data from the transaction system to the BI tool (aka ETL)
- Having to re-implement access security for the BI tool
- The limited ability to support “drill back” to transactional detail
- The limited ability to support directly taking action (doing a transaction) from insight in the BI system
The difficulty (impossibility?) of reconciling the “latent” view of data in the BI tool with the current view of data in the transaction system. You can’t be all things to all people but we believe that with the exception of aggregation of data modern applications should be able to handle everything on the first list as well as separate BI tools. And, applications with BI built-in can definitely eliminate all the cost, complexity, and limitations on the second list. Follow this link to a 5 minute business intelligence demo to see this in action.
We don’t think Workday customers should have to implement separate BI solutions to analyze data that originates in our apps. Those tools are more appropriate for more specialized analysis of aggregated data. For the majority of users doing analysis on the same system they use for transactions is simpler and therefore more likely to add value. And having one system and security scheme to manage is definitely simpler for IT. “Simplicity” is one of our guiding principles for making Workday BI available for everyone. The other two are “Context” and “Choice”. We can cover those in another entry.