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BI Favorites Help Users Strike Gold

Business intelligence (BI) gives organizations the ability to strike gold in the mountain of information they have. IT departments can use BI to accumulate and aggregate operational data into data warehouses and to pull rich information from that data store. OLAP and data-mining technologies let organizations query, group, and analyze this information in ways that relational data-access techniques can't achieve. And reporting technologies let IT professionals deliver crucial business information to decision makers in formats they can use.

Best Data-Mining Tool. SAS Enterprise Miner lets users mine their data by providing multiple interfaces, scalable processing, sampling, data partitioning, transformations, and filtering. The tool also offers data replacement, descriptive statistics, graphs and visualizations, clustering, market-basket analysis, and Web-path analysis. Readers who voted for Enterprise Miner appreciated its model-comparison and drill-down capabilities.

Best Data-Warehousing Tool. BusinessObjects Enterprise 6.0 is a data-warehousing tool that lets you easily maintain and export data to and from multiple systems. The distributed, multitier server architecture provides load balancing and failover. Business- Objects Enterprise's patented semantic layer maps data to familiar business terms, and automatic routines ensure proper SQL for accurate results. The tool supports XML, Java, Microsoft .NET, and leading J2EE-compliant application servers. Readers praised BusinessObjects Enterprise—which delivers end-user data access, advanced analysis, customized interfaces, and administrative services for security and auditing—as an "all-in-one" solution.

Best ETL Tool. BusinessObjects Data Integrator 6.5 is an extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) tool that lets you design, test, debug, edit, maintain, run, and monitor data-integration jobs. Data Integrator provides easy metadata sharing, end-to-end impact analysis, and change propagation. The product lets you integrate the ETL process with front-end components of a data-warehousing project, helping you analyze the details of your repository, examine operational statistics about jobs and dataflows, and perform object-dependency analyses. One voter said that Data Integrator "works like a charm."

Best OLAP Tool. Cognos PowerPlay lets you perform multidimensional analysis and create and share reports across your organization. You can draw information from relational databases to model and build PowerCubes, optimized data sets that let users perform analysis with quick response times. Besides conventional OLAP features such as drill-down, slice-and-dice, ranking, sorting, and nesting, PowerPlay features a zero-footprint Web interface, graphical analysis, drill-through, pareto filtering, exception highlighting, subsets, scenario dimensions, and projections. Readers who voted PowerPlay as their favorite OLAP tool said the product is easy to implement.

Best Reporting Tool. Business Objects' Crystal Reports 10 lets you deliver interactive, graphical reports in rich-client or zero-client environments or for any device through XML Web services. Features include ADO.NET DataSet support, Web Form and Windows Form viewer controls, an integrated report designer, a runtime object model, and Crystal Enterprise Web Service for speeding report integration. Crystal Reports 10 adds advanced Web browser printing and export functionality, Crystal Reports for mobile devices, customizable report preview, component re-use, simplified deployment, and a standalone report designer. Readers said that Crystal reports is easy to deploy and use and called the product "a de facto standard."

Best Business Intelligence Products
Best Data-Mining Tool
SAS, SAS Enterprise Miner
800-727-0025, 919-677-8000
Price: Contact SAS for pricing
Best Data-Warehousing Tool
Business Objects, BusinessObjects Enterprise 6.0
800-527-0580, 408-953-6000
Price: Full-suite deployments start at $100,000
Best ETL Tool
Business Objects, BusinessObjects Data Integrator 6.5
800-527-0580, 408-953-6000
Price: Server deployments start at $25,000
Best OLAP Tool
Cognos, Cognos PowerPlay
800-426-4667, 781-229-6600
Price: Starts at $795 for 1 end-user license
Best Reporting Tool
Business Objects, Crystal Reports 10
800-527-0580, 408-953-6000
Price: Crystal Reports Professional costs $460 per report author
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