Technology Positioning Statement Report

2.3.2 Management Information Systems

Description: Systems for automated collection, analysis and search of enterprise data for providing diagnostic and strategic guidance to senior managers.

Category: 2 - Data Management   Subcategory: 3 - Special Purpose Data Management
Old Category: Enterprise Services – Decision Support Systems


  Crystal Reports
Crystal Reports
Data Analyzer
Crystal Reports .NET


Industry UsageSC Usage

Performance Metrics

Data loading speed; query processing speed; analytical processing speed and efficiency; user interface quality and features; data visualization capabilities.

Usage and Dependencies

Industry Position: Products in this category are described by a growing variety of terms, including Business Intelligence (BI), Management Information Systems (MIS), Enterprise Information Systems (EIS), Decision Support Systems (DSS), Multidimensional Databases (MDDB), and OLAP (On-Line Analytic Processing). New management reporting concepts such as the Balanced Scorecard can be supported by these systems. A Data Warehouse (DW) or Data Mart is often the foundation for such a system, which provides the database for a large number of commercial transactions that can be gleaned for insights into customer behavior (Data Mining). Because of the vast amount of data that must be analyzed, products may include sophisticated data visualization approaches. The main applications also include financial and business process analysis, marketing analysis, profitability analysis, product quality management, risk management, and industry analysis.

As new 'buzz-words' (such as Customer Relationship Management, CRM) become popular, vendors tend to re-target their existing products to the new space. Because these systems tend to be large and flexible, this is relatively easy to do, but creates confusion for the potential buyer. However, if examined in terms of system functions, most of these products can perform ad hoc analysis on new or recurring business problems, or provide general reporting of operations and customer information to management.

The BI market is in a state of flux. BI is no longer restricted to a small number of high-priced OLAP engines and powerful desktop query tools. It is now widely available in a variety of products, including analytic applications and enterprise reporting tools. OLAP functionality is continuing to evolve into a component of the underlying relational database management systems (RDBMSes), while the results of BI are increasingly being made available via the Web and to mobile workers.

"Data visualization is rapidly becoming an increasingly important tool in e-commerce and a necessary component in enabling online collaboration and in the creation of collaborative immersive environments. The data visualization market is emerging rapidly, driven by the growing sets of e-business data, an increasing involvement of nontechnical end users in the data analysis process and a rising importance of collaboration."

Major OLAP vendors include Hyperion, Oracle, SAS, Comshare, Pilot, Business Objects, Cognos, Brio Technology, Informix, NCR Teracubes, Whitelight and MicroStrategy.

Analytical products that use Microsoft SQL Server as a database are made by Portola Dimensional Systems, Comshare, Pilot Software, NovaView, and Knosys. A leading product is Crystal Reports, from Crystal Decisions Inc. This product, now at version 8.5, permits rapid deployment of reporting solutions to the Web with a new web publishing system; creates customized web portals within corporate web sites; and delivers information from the PC to the enterprise & to the web in many formats, including XML.

Microsoft is a late entrant into this arena. In early March 2001, Microsoft made available a beta version of the "XML for Analysis" Software Development Kit (SDK) and an updated XML for Analysis specification. XML for Analysis is a new protocol that enables the transfer of information between analytical databases and client applications, regardless of the computer language used to write the application.

Performance metrics: OLAP benchmarks, and the groups that have devised these benchmarks, have failed at producing a one-size-fits-all solution to compare different OLAP tools. The main reason is quite simple: There is no one solution that fits all types of OLAP requirements. There are three areas of concentration that customers need to examine closely: (1) loading of data, (2) analytic calculations and (3) query processing. In all three areas, customers should use Giga’s criteria to analyze the trade-offs of the different approaches to OLAP — hybrid, relational and multidimensional — to identify which best fits their requirements.

SC Usage: EWM 1.0 uses Crystal Reports 7.0 plus hot fixes, with the ActiveX component (as opposed to the Java Applet) on the client.

Crystal Reports serves SC in the following areas:

  • Generating parameterized reports on the database. These are pre-defined, but customizable reports.
  • Printing specific records in different modules. Printing find results in different modules. (Basically, formatted print handling)

To date, SMT and Worksheet Exchange do NOT use crystal reports.

Worksheet Exchange should use Crystal in the future.

Crystal Reports 8 is now available. We need to perform a test, and try to migrate. This test will include 2 things:

  • Regression application compatibility. Do the current reports, without maintenance, work with version 8?
  • Development and Maintenance. Can we alter/maintain reports built in version 7 with version 8?

There is a newer version of Crystal Reports 8.5 is now available. If we are considering v8, we might want to look at 'skipping' 8 and moving to 8.5 (this will depend on timing. DEV should have this as an action item).

Microsoft SQL Server 2000 has OLAP analysis capabilities which should be considered for business applications, since earlier versions of SQL Server are already being used in SC.

SC Application Impacts: Budget Formulation, Evaluation Data Management System, Funding Decision Information System, Scheduled Work Information System, and the SCIP project may benefit from this technology.

Last Update: Valid Until:


Previous TPS
The OLAP Report
Market Overview: Data Visualization Tools — The Vendor Landscape, Annette Borba, Giga.

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