A business intelligence portal is typically the method where BI users
will access data, reports, dashboards and other “consumables”. While
this can be web based, it does not have to be.
The proliferation of the web and internet has made a lot of the old desktop applications obsolete. BI has been no exception to the trend. Now, most of the end-user work and manipulation is usually done through a web interface, hosted either internally or externally. Most of the major vendors have built in functionality to allow this setup on a company intranet or also available on a secured server for external consumption. Microstrategy, Cognos, BusinessObjects, Oracle, and Microsoft all have web based access available to various degrees, although they might call them different things. Oracle has its Discoverer while Microsoft can use its Sharepoint Server technology.
A good access point is critical because if the information is not easily accessible, then it won’t be used, thus killing a lot of your strategy. It should be quick and easy to use, and work with existing infrastructure. For example, many companies use Sharepoint as a internal tool. See how well your business intelligence tool can integrate with your existing systems. If users need to go to multiple systems and logins for data, it can take away a lot of the benefit. Again, most BI companies have this ability, although it might not be “out of the box” and require some customization or at least coordination with a web team.
Although most end-user functionality is usually available via web-based tools, there is often a desktop component that is needed for administration and development. Definitely keep this in mind for licensing. You don’t want the key user having the only administrative login and installation available when they are out on vacation! Having administrative functions available on the portal helps with speed to implementation and flexibility.
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