PwC adding integration and analytics arm

Without yet making its intentions public, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) is building a new unit to focus on helping customers integrate and analyze their enterprise applications for a big-picture view of how well their organizations are operating.

New York-based PwC plans to call the unit iAnalytics -- the i stands for integration.

The consulting house currently has a data warehousing practice, and iAnalytics primarily will be a superset of that encompassing the data warehousing and data mining unit, according to Larry Gosselin, director of PwC's global data warehousing practice.

"We're expanding the scope of the [data warehousing practice] and taking it to the next generation of analytics," Gosselin said.

The differences between iAnalytics and the existing data warehousing unit, Gosselin added, is that the new arm will allow for cross-value chain analytics, thereby enabling customers to analyze the various aspects of their business as a whole. So instead of HR, CRM (customer relationship management), and ERP (enterprise resource planning) all existing as unconnected silos of data, they can be integrated and analyzed.

"What's new here is to be able to analyze these together, so you can get better insight into your business," Gosselin said. "Companies need visibility into their organizations to adapt to changing economies."

Doug Laney, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based Meta Group, said that his firm's research shows enterprises crave the ability to use data warehouse solutions as the basis for enterprisewide analytics.

Laney continued that the benefits include business performance across all processes, including optimizing, maximizing, or even eliminating processes at a strategic and operational level.

"Integrating the information and analytics achieves not just business integration, but business performance," Laney said.

Gosselin added that PwC's goal is to provide customers with the capability to pull information together in a timely manner.

"The concept here is to create actionable information," he added.

Henry Morris, an analyst at market research firm IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, said that with such analytics customers can establish an enterprisewide plan that spans several of their business operations.

Morris indicated in a recent report that signs of major progress toward enhancing analytic applications by incorporating heterogeneous data types are emerging, and as a result creating a richer base of information on which to perform analysis.

Indeed, enterprise application vendors, such as SAP, PeopleSoft, and Seibel, are at work to release later this year updated and new products that enable such integration and analysis.

Morris cautioned that although the technology is taking hold, customers should implement a solution piecemeal by honing in on one particular application or business unit, then build out.

"You can deepen the model by building on one data warehouse then expand it when you need more functionality," he said.

Gosselin said that PwC has begun working with clients but has not yet set a time frame for formally introducing the practice.

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