According to the definition of BARC*, we understand Business Intelligence as a system, a technology, a process, which is intended to make it easier for the decision makers of a company to manage the present and future business on the basis of provided and qualified information. In the final stage of development we are confronted with highly complex system architectures (ETL processes, warehouse databases, multidimensional analysis, reporting and planning systems). In the simpler structural concept, coordinated partial solutions dominate. How do medium-sized companies - companies that do not have the necessary resources and know-how - cope with this? What can be observed again and again in the field of controlling? How are BI decisions made, how are they influenced and why are they omitted?
BI in medium-sized businesses 2011/12 Status quo, outlook and recommendations, 2nd edition
Let's start with a short story to explain the phenomenon "BI" in everyday use from a slightly different perspective. This story could have happened like this or something similar everywhere. It is about a commercial decision-maker who, like so many in his situation, is in the software evaluation phase to support the controlling and especially the planning process. In order to make the process a little more demanding, a prototype must be provided in a short time to facilitate decision-making. The honest coPlanner consultants are confronted with eloquent sales professionals of the second vendor. The match ends unpleasantly for coPlanner: 0:1. That's just the way business is.
One year later, our mentioned decision maker has changed the company in the meantime, CoPlanner is contacted again with the request to submit an offer. The presentation of the software was no longer necessary, he said, because he still knew exactly how CoPlanner ticks. The sales-strong winner of the first project was not even invited anymore. This increases our chances considerably. CoPlanner again complies with the request to submit an offer and at the same time tries to act price-elastically in order to finally convince. It comes as it must come: CoPlanner is once again second winner. A clarifying conversation between the CoPlanner management and our decision-maker, who has become a friend in the meantime, reveals the enlightening insight: "You know, we are actually looking for a BI tool and not a planning, analysis and reporting solution".
So they were looking for BI software, whatever might be hidden behind this term. The original focus after an all-in-one solution was spontaneously replaced by an analysis tool. A tool that analyzes actual data very clearly, but is unsuitable with regard to planning, forecasting, target-performance analysis, etc. Our friend will probably have to continue planning with MS Excel.
How did this happen? First, a budget variant is created for the next budget period. It may take six to eight exhausting weeks before the results are presented to top management. Sub-plans such as sales, production, investments, financing, etc. are fiercely discussed there. With the result that the controller not only has to make changes, but also create worst-case and best-case variants. The overall budget is adjusted, changes are made and even more errors are produced. Time is short, model copies for the various cases increase the load. In order to achieve a mathematically correct and balanced construct, manual intervention is required to follow the basic commercial principle of equality of totals. The controller solemnly swears never again to be exposed to this chaos. He has thus made his decision: "A planning, analysis and reporting tool - perhaps something like a BI tool - is needed.
He does not want to waste any time and will start right at the beginning of the following year. Time passes, it'll be March, maybe even April. Then he remembers his vow from the previous year: "We need software! Under no circumstances does he want to delegate the software selection process. But he also does not want to define his requirements due to lack of time. He decides to invite BI manufacturers. He finds a proud list on the Internet. From very powerful to very small solution providers. Participants are invited to presentations - with the ingenious ulterior motive - to gain an informative market overview in order to be able to make the decision as quickly as possible and as clear as glass. The result is sobering and exactly the opposite. In the meantime, the summer has begun and no more decisions are being made. So we are in the month of September, the budgeting for next year is approaching. The Excel models from the previous year are being dug up. From which variant should the copy for the new budget be taken? The level of frustration rises again, not only because of the faulty models, but also because of the omitted action in spring and the horrible expectations in the coming autumn. Our controller swears again: "This is my last budgeting process of this kind." At least this year!?
Dr. Walter Frühwirt completed his diploma in business administration and the corresponding doctoral studies at the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. From 1979 to 1982, Dr. Frühwirt was a university assistant at the Institute of Corporate Management. Later, he was, among other things, Chief Financial Officer of an English-French raw materials group. Since 1991, Dr. Frühwirt has been a managing partner of Wirtschaftsberatung BFB GmbH Nfg KG. Since 1986 he has also been a university lecturer at the University of Graz, the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, the University of Linz and the FHS Wr. At the Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, Dr. Frühwirt is currently teaching the bachelor course "Controlling Practice" within the SBWL "Internal Corporate Accounting".