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The benefits of enterprise system consolidation for business performance management and BI

Consolidating your vendors will help you increase the likelihood of success of your business performance management initiatives as you extend the range of users across the company.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

As business performance management (BPM) and business intelligence (BI) initiatives become more mainstream, there has been an uptick in interest from companies looking to consolidate the variety of enterprise systems they have in place. According to the 2006 BPM Pulse Survey, 58% of companies have two or more vendors supporting their enterprise initiatives. Early results from the 2007 Pulse survey (currently being conducted) show that 62% of companies with a BPM initiative currently underway are conducting it as part of a broader consolidation or standardization initiative. For larger companies, it is not uncommon to find 6 to 8 BPM applications and BI tools vendors in place supporting a wide range of disparate initiatives. The reason for this large number of vendors is twofold.

Historically, organizations treated their BI activities as independent silos, getting the best-of-breed application or tool that could support the specific business process at hand. Without a strong centralized perspective, small applications would sprout up around the company, with little chance of sharing information across applications, thereby creating multiple "versions of the truth." The second reason involves ongoing merger and acquisition activities where acquired companies bring their legacy systems into the equation. Often, these legacy analytics applications live on because they may not be viewed as critical path for initial merger activities -- transactional ERP and CRM systems often get more immediate attention.

We have found that the benefits for consolidating the number of flavors of BPM and business intelligence that you have in house are very significant. Although initial justification could simply be financially motivated (reducing the ongoing software maintenance payments to vendors), the true benefits are found in the enhanced analysis capabilities end users have at their disposal.

From an IT perspective, a reduced vendor set can greatly reduce the attention required for system administration of the metadata structures in the BPM/BI applications and reporting tools. In addition to the structural elements of data, other more mundane maintenance requirements such as data transfer validation and upgrades to current software versions are also reduced. Finally, the need to remain technically "current" on the toolset becomes easier if there is not a need for a range of educational updates for multiple platforms. And just think -- you won't have to go to more than one of those painful user conferences at the Dolphin Hotel in Orlando each year!

From an end-user perspective, a consistent user interface for a variety of process support activities can be a major benefit. The logic and menus applied across applications are similar, so a user familiar with one application has a jumpstart in using a second app (somewhat akin to applications under the consistent Microsoft Office platform). In addition, it seems trivial to some, but a unified security login across multiple applications and the access to data across applications is much simpler in a consolidated tool environment. This opens the opportunity to leverage a broader range of data in a secure environment and provides the ability to conduct analysis with information that crosses lines of business and functional boundaries.

As mentioned earlier, the financial justification for consolidation can be fairly easy. In addition to reduced maintenance fees, your firm will find better licensing discounts with a larger number of seats, and you will often be able to get additional application functionality "thrown in" at the end of negotiation to close the deal. Similar to the rebate coupons you get at your local CompUSA, software vendors will often bundle in software modules that have significant value with the knowledge that you will likely not be using them any time in the near future, adding to your collection of shelfware. If you develop a detailed plan to take advantage of a broader range of modules from your vendor, and act on it, your initial investment in your BPM platform can result in success for initiatives elsewhere in the organization. As you have read in other performance management articles on the, successful BPM initiatives should have the legs to go enterprise-wide -- consolidating your vendors will help you increase the likelihood of success of your BPM initiatives as you extend the range of users across the company.

Next Steps

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