The goal of a BI project is to bring information and analytics about the business processes to a wide variety of people across the enterprise. Many believe this involves building out data warehouses, investing in expensive tools and spending a lot of time filtering, cleaning and transferring data. This could be the case for many businesses, but it really depends on your particular company's analytic needs and the complexity of your data. Some data may be unintelligible to the average user and something may be needed to fashion the data into a report that can be used for meaningful business analysis.
But could there be a simpler way to deliver information to your users? Many companies have been generating static reports for their employees for years, usually on a monthly basis and on reams and reams of paper. But those reports usually just contribute to information overload.
So there are two extremes, the high-cost, high-resource, data-intensive method or the low-maintenance, low-tech, paper-intensive method. But what if your company falls in the middle? One option involves utilizing a little-used program on nearly every desktop, MS Access. MS Access by itself won't have any of your company's data in it, but with a few ODBC calls and links to SQL Server, Oracle or, even, IBM databases data can be extracted and used to form low-cost reports.
Most of the queries and reports in MS Access can be created with wizards that simply need a few attempts
This method may not be for everyone, it is limited and simplistic, but it is a low-cost, low-risk alternative if your company is medium to small-sized and not ready to commit the type of resources necessary for a full-blown BI solution.
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Ben Vigil is a technical editor at searchCRM parent company TechTarget. He can be reached at email@example.com for questions/criticism.
This was first published in January 2002