What should insurers aim for and what can they expect when they implement a business intelligence platform?

A comprehensive survey by the Wurzburg, Germany-based Business Application Research Center goes a long way toward answering these questions. To elicit the answers, The BI Survey 9 queried more than 2,000 users of 23 leading business intelligence products across the globe.

One of the study's most interesting findings was that when it comes to the ultimate success of the project, implementation times made a big difference. Roughly speaking, the longer the time required to go live, the worse the goal achievement rate. Projects that took more than two years did extremely poorly. "Another consistent trend is that business benefits were most likely to be achieved if projects went live quickly," the report states. "There was a steady fall-off as initial rollout times rose. The small number of projects that took more than two years to roll out achieved few business benefits."

As a corollary, the report found that smaller companies roll out their applications faster than medium or larger ones. "Apart from having smaller, simpler projects, our data suggests that they are less likely to suffer from problems concerning company politics and changing requirements."

Additionally, the numbers noted that products with an enterprise orientation generally have longer implementation times. This smaller-is-better insight also was bore out by the results concerning data sets. The study found that applications with larger data volumes are somewhat slower to go live.

When it comes to ROI, 'soft' benefits, such as faster or more accurate reporting and better business decisions, are much more likely to be achieved than 'hard' bottom-line benefits such as reduced costs and headcounts. Indeed, the study found the benefit least likely to be achieved is headcount reduction in information services.

Fortunately for the frugal, the numbers also revealed that there was very little correlation between license fee expenditure and the achievement of business goals.

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Corrected January 4, 2011 at 1:45PM: yes