As corporate demand for analytics and business intelligence keeps rising, CPAs need to play a major role in helping drive BI projects, providing both analysis and expertise as well as determining the critical metrics needed to ensure the success of the enterprise-wide initiative.

"The [BI] will fundamentally change the way your organization works," said co-presenter Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC at the AICPA Information Technology Conference, here. "CPAs should take the lead in enabling BI within companies." Shimamoto teamed with Kenneth Rona, formerly of AOL and now with IXI Corp., in a session on business intelligence. "They can provide analysis and expertise, and need to work with the other business units to identify the information needed," he added.

Business intelligence, which this year ranked No. 8 on the Top 10 Technologies roster as determined by the American Institute of CPAs, can be a risky undertaking, however, as studies have shown that 50 percent of data warehouse initiatives will fail.

Both Shimamoto and Rona cautioned that a company's operations people have to be trained on what to do with the resulting data - to understand what the numbers mean and the actions that should be taken.

"The endpoint should enable your people to make informed and proactive - rather than reactive - decisions," Shimamoto said.

Rona, who spearheaded an enterprise-wide BI project for AOL last year to measure Web page content, said that as more BI vendors begin to appear in the marketplace, ease of integration should be one of the key metrics when choosing a solution.

He also advised session attendees that, upon completion of a BI project, it's crucial to conduct one-on-one sessions with senor executives to determine whether they "found the BI tools useful and informative."

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