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BI tops CIO shopping lists

A new survey says business intelligence is second only to security when it comes to CIO spending priorities.

Business intelligence (BI) is among the highest IT priorities for CIOs as they seek ways to leverage the data many shops have assembled over the last two decades. In fact, BI is the second-highest spending priority for CIOs today, after security, according to Keith Gile, a principal analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

Sales for BI reporting and analysis tools grew past $5.5 billion in 2004, up from $5.3 billion in 2003, according to Forrester. BI spending for 2005 is on track to reach $6 billion and predicted to reach $7.3 billion in 2008, Gile said.

James Craig, CIO for Cooper Communities Inc., is among the IT executives focusing on BI. An in-house application he recently rolled out to deliver real-time data to the handheld devices of his executives is exactly the type of effort that will fuel future BI sales, Gile said.

"BI has been so historically focused. Show me the sales results of the last three weeks. Show me the last two months," Gile said. "What we're talking about here is very tactical," he said, referring to the Cooper Communities project. @12723

Craig's company, Cooper Communities Inc., based in Rogers, Ark., develops land, builds homes, sells timeshares and invests in property around the southeastern United States. Its executives are constantly on the move, but their shifting locations don't change their need for access to accurate, up-to-date data.

"More and more nowadays we're on the move and we need information where we are, not where it is," Craig said. In the past, a Cooper Communities executive might prepare for meetings by calling back to the main office, having someone else log on to a computer and fire up a sales program, and then jotting down by hand the daily sales figures being read back over the phone.

"He was doing that, not only tying up his own time, but also tying up the time of other people who could be doing other stuff," Craig said. To eliminate the tedious transcription, Craig developed Salestree, a business intelligence application that delivers information from Cooper Communities' SQL database, like the number of sales, average sale price, or sales locations, straight to executives with just a few taps on their Sprint Treo 650 handheld devices.

Craig's efforts to improve his company's BI with easier access to information reflects the shift from BI as desktop software to Web-based applications, according to report released this week by The Data Warehousing Institute, a Seattle, Wash.-based BI research and education company. However, the in-house effort is unusual. Just 13% of companies build their own BI tools, according to the TDWI report. A high level of customization, like Craig's Salestree application, is more likely to lead to in-house development, Gile said.

Total cost of ownership is the biggest selection criteria for companies choosing BI tools, rated as "highly important" by 67% of the 490 respondents in the TDWI report.

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