Supporting the Smart Business: The Extended Corporate Information Factory

Originally published November 1, 2005

Since its introduction in 1998, the Corporate Information Factory has evolved to support the many business and technology changes that have taken place in data warehousing. While the basic tenets of the original CIF remain the same (data warehouse, operational data store, data marts and metadata), overall data warehousing has changed dramatically in recent years. This change was so dramatic that it became apparent that the original CIF had to be reconfigured to embrace new uses and technologies. This was done to reflect the important role that data warehousing and modern business intelligence (BI) applications play in today’s fast paced business environment. The result of this reconfiguration work is the Extended Corporate Information Factory, or the CIFe.

Before looking at the CIFe, it’s important to quickly summarize the business and technology changes that made reconfiguring the CIF necessary. These changes can be viewed from the perspective of the four forces that govern business strategies in organizations: plans, processes, people and performance.

The Force of Business Plans

In the past, business planning was based on the annual budgeting cycle, but this is now changing for a number of reasons. These changes include: 

  • The business focus has shifted from products to customers.
  • Strategic plans now drive iterative tactical and operational planning.
  • Internet and bricks-and-mortar selling and marketing are converging.
  • Innovation is shifting from a trait to be admired to a necessity for survival
  • Competition is expanding to a global marketplace.
  • Business drivers are profitability, quality and satisfaction and not just revenues.

The Force of Business Processes

Business processes drive daily business operations. These processes no longer simply consist of business transaction applications, but also incorporate collaborative and business intelligence processes that enable organizations to react faster to changes in the marketplace. These include:    

  • Flexible supply chains that provide mass customized products and services.
  • Demand chains that reach deeper into customer organizations to deliver products and services.
  • Partnering between providers of products and services is increasing.
  • Knowledge management has evolved to support role-based information sharing and collaboration within virtual enterprises.

The Force of People

The key force driving how companies run their businesses are the customers, partners, suppliers and employees that make up the modern value chain. How these people relate to the enterprise is changing. There are various examples of these changes:

  • Acceptance of the Internet as a marketplace is changing the way products are acquired.
  • Maturity of global marketplaces creates demand for skilled team members.
  • The increasing number of companies in the value chain, which changes the emphasis from employee to team member.
  • Knowledge management has changed from the “job of the few” to the “task of the many.”

The Force of Business Performance

The changing forces of business plans, business processes and people require organizations to supply business users with the information needed to measure and manage business performance. This must be done to support the constantly changing business needs and requirements.

  • Vast amounts of data are being leveraged for business intelligence.
  • Business intelligence enables unprecedented availability of strategic, tactical and operational information.
  • Business user workspaces and business portals provide the ability to share information and knowledge across the enterprise.
  • Emerging tools make business performance easier to measure and manage.

We can see from the above discussion that supporting today’s volatile and competitive business climate requires companies to work smarter and become more agile. To achieve this, organizations must create an appropriate architecture and exploit modern information technologies that enable them to tightly integrate their business transaction, business collaboration and business intelligence environments. When these activities are done, personalized business information can be delivered to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The objective of CIFe and its associated Smart BI Framework is to support such an environment. The ultimate use of such a flexible infrastructure enables any company to become a smart business. 

CIFe and the Smart BI Framework

The CIFe was co-developed by Intelligent Solutions and BI Research. This development involved merging and extending existing concepts of the Intelligent Solutions’ CIF with an earlier version of the Smart BI Framework, which was developed by BI Research. The results of this merger were two new frameworks that collectively provide the required infrastructure for supporting the smart and agile business. These frameworks are shown in Figures 1 and 2, respectively.

The objective of CIFe is to provide a business intelligence environment for delivering consistent and high quality business information to IT applications and business users. The role of the Smart BI Framework is to identify the technology components that are required to integrate this BI environment into the overall IT infrastructure. From the perspective of the four business forces, the Smart BI Framework integrates the business performance environment provided by CIFe with plans, processes and people.

An Introduction to CIFe

The basic data components (operational sources, data warehouse, operational data store (ODS) and data marts) of the CIFe have not changed, at least not conceptually. What has changed, though, are the processes and techniques we use to create and access data from these critical pieces. Therefore, we have combined data acquisition and data delivery together into a single process— Data Integration and Data Delivery.

Figure 1: The Extended Corporate Information Factory

For example, we now have the ability to combine strategic analytical results with current information. This can be done by propagating the results from analytic applications to our operational sources, or to the ODS using EAI technologies.

Similarly, we could create a virtual ODS or data mart using EII technology. We may wish to virtually combine analytic results with current operational data, and forego moving the data at all. The same technology can be used to do this as well.

Finally, the integration process must include traditional ETL processing, which is  mandatory for creating data warehouses. The same technology may also be used for some data marts and ODSs requiring complicated integration processing, as well as the physical instantiation of “one version of the truth.”

In addition, we have surrounded the core data integration components with the traditional mechanisms that use them—business intelligence, business operations and business management. These ensure that the CIFe interfaces with other major business applications. This is mandatory to create a Smart Business.

Finally, the CIFe architecture includes six new functions for supporting the entire enterprise to remain an enterprise asset. These functions include Governance, Infrastructure Management, Center of Excellence, Quality Management, Application Management and Metadata Management.

A Quick Look at the Smart BI Framework

The Smart BI Framework enables organizations to integrate the CIFe with other key IT components. These components include operational business transaction processes, business planning, business collaboration and a business portal. This is illustrated below:

Figure 2: The Smart BI Framework

The integration of CIFe with operational business processes enables BI applications to capture in-flight business transaction events and data changes for supporting right-time operational data reporting and analysis. It also allows business intelligence and data warehouse services to be embedded directly into business transaction process workflows.

Access to business planning information from the CIFe environment enables BI applications to put BI analytics into a business context. Essentially, this makes BI results actionable. This context is essential if business intelligence is to be used not only for measuring business performance, but also for managing and optimizing it.

Business collaboration enables business users to share business intelligence and similar business information. It also allows business users to communicate with each other and to use their business knowledge to make business decisions and to take business actions to resolve business issues identified by actionable business intelligence.

The business portal provides a personalized business user workspace for business intelligence and other business content that business users need to perform their role in the organization. 

Conclusion

This article introduced the CIFe and the Smart BI Framework, the two architectural components needed to create the Smart Business. The next article will more thoroughly cover the CIFe. Each component in the new CIFe will be defined, along with any necessary clarifying examples.

It will be followed by the third and final article in this series. Here, we will demonstrate how the Smart BI Framework links to the CIFe. After reading the third article, readers will have a solid understanding from which to begin building their Smart Businesses.

  • Claudia ImhoffClaudia Imhoff
    A thought leader, visionary, and practitioner, Claudia Imhoff, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert on analytics, business intelligence, and the architectures to support these initiatives. Dr. Imhoff has co-authored five books on these subjects and writes articles (totaling more than 150) for technical and business magazines.

    She is also the Founder of the Boulder BI Brain Trust, a consortium of independent analysts and consultants (www.BBBT.us). You can follow them on Twitter at #BBBT

    Editor's Note:
    More articles and resources are available in Claudia's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

     

  • Colin WhiteColin White

    Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

    Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Colin's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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