The growth of the Web has reset expectations for end-users' access to corporate data. "Broad new communities of end-users with diverse needs are now putting pressure on IT to deliver high-performance access to corporate information over the Web," says Susan Andre, MD of local data mart solutions provider Sagent SA.
Firstly, in the future customers will need to perform more sophisticated data analysis than they currently do, Andre says. "This will result in the need to provide users with a more user-friendly method to answer their questions which are typically of a statistical nature. Companies will need to demystify statistical analysis and make it less intimidating." Companies need to provide easy to use Web-enabled analysis applications to all decision-makers throughout the enterprise – from sales to marketing, to finance and human resources. "They must go beyond simple query capabilities and move to the next level of answering sophisticated questions, be they statistical, data mining or modelling, in a Web-based point-and-click data analysis environment."
Traditional statistical tools have been difficult to use and are not geared for business end-users but more for expert users, Andre argues, "thereby distancing business managers from critical decision support techniques such as the ability to do trend analysis". On the contrary, Andre says, by providing data analysis tools through an easy-to-use graphical user interface, users can analyse and interpret the results of their own business data. For example, a sales manager will be able to use these tools to more accurately forecast sales based on current and past sales figures as well as correlation analysis looking into the future. Marketing managers will better relate the impact of marketing campaigns to company sales, while e-commerce managers will use data analysis to identify shared characteristics of the company's most profitable online customers.
"Information will now be readily available for managers to analyse and interpret quickly for decision-making," Andre points out. "This compatibility will be a competitive requirement for e-commerce managers. The decision-making process will improve due to the availability of information.
"Secondly, in the future more organisations will build Web information applications operating in conjunction with data warehouses/marts," Andre maintains. "A Web information system captures and integrates business information stored in the data warehouse/marts, groupware systems and Web servers. This information will be available via Web browsers." As Web use increases, Andre also foresees significant growth in the use of tools enabling users to subscribe to the information they need, and to have it delivered to them from a Web information store at predefined intervals. However, working with multiple vendors and investing limited IT resources to integrate disparate software products could negate the cost and time benefits of bringing data warehouse/marts to the Web, Andre cautions.
Consequently, she says there is a need for single vendors and service organisations with tightly integrated, high-performance solutions for deploying data warehouses to the Web.