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BI Software as a Service [SaaS]


The On Demand Business Analytics/SaaS model is being heralded as 'the wave of the future for small to medium size businesses that do not have large IT budgets. BI tools are regarded as a high price step up from reporting tools, and in spite of the extremely good ROI's, many SMB's cannot afford to make the jump.

In recognition of this, vendors are rolling out SaaS versions of their BI applications. This provides SMBs an immediate ROI through the accurate view of essential business information that can be shared easily by their entire organization, regardless of desktop configuration.

In addition, this allows businesses to engage with multiple BI applications, as many decision-makers have found that in-house BI solutions have not been able to provide single reporting and analysis solution that allows them respond in real-time to changing conditions.

The basis for such claims have been that traditional BI solutions:

  • Process data too slowly
  • Do not process all of the organisations data
  • Provide a limited view of essential information about daily business operations.
  • Encourage silos of department information - information is not shared across the entire company
  • No single version of truth - focus on transaction systems and not on data quality - much of the data is useless
  • Expensive - prohibitively expensive and require long implementation periods [up to two years]

 

On Demand Business Analytics

On Demand business analytics provide the ability to combine demographic and behavioral data with sales information in real-time to leverage customer, vendor, and supplier relationships.

By using hyper-optimized automation processes to cleanse, normalize, and integrate huge amounts of disparate data from any source, business data can be aggregated with data from external sources to provide a real world view.

A key concern about early BI SaaS models was the lack of ability to update data real time, instead these solutions relied on nightly updates. Since then, BI vendors such as Pervasive have developed SaaS integration tools to allow a combination of data updates [real, batch, overnight].

 

How BI SaaS Is Deployed

Data

  1. Data is collected from virtually any source - multiple business systems, operating systems, or hardware and software platforms and sent to the hosted service
  2. Automation processes are used to cleanse, normalize, and integrate this large volume of disparate data.
  3. Following the initial data load, customers provide data via real time integration tools or automatic incremental updates

The entire implementation process requires only minimal time from IT staff and is completed within weeks, compared to the 12 to 18 months required for traditional BI solutions.

Once the solution is implemented, the users log into a secure Web site, and in no time are actively using the business intelligence product.

 

Reporting and Analysis

On Demand analytics solutions provide a library of pre-built reports using multidimensional views. Users can interactively configure their data via drill-down menus so that only relevant data is displayed.

Data can also be sliced and diced and "what-if" scenarios generated.

Information "dashboards" provide executives immediate access to exception information to identify potential trouble spots and to act decisively in real-time to correct them.

The "hosted" aspect of On Demand analytics now makes it possible for organizations to have a continuously accessible 360-degree view of its business.

 

Evaluating On Demand Analytics Vendors

When evaluating a hosted On Demand business analytics solution, it is important to consider all aspects of the service - costs, delivery times, training, support, and user interfaces:

  1. Delivery - ensure that the vendor can provide fixed start and end dates for implementation of the solution.
  2. Resources Required - - what internal resource allocations are required during the implementation period and after the project is completed. A successful implementation should not require extensive IT resources.
  3. Cost - if the implementation is not bid at a fixed cost, find out why. Avoid costly open-ended budgets and implementation periods. There is no justification for either of these in an On Demand model. The monthly hosting fee should equal a fixed yearly fee of 15–20 percent of the initial implementation.. As reporting/analytics capabilities are increased, expect a reasonable increase in hosting fees from the vendor.
  4. License fees - pay-per-user licensing fees are less popular as the SaaS market becomes more competitive. Know the license fee up front, and where possible, select a vendor with little or no per-user fee. You may find that monthly fees relating to access and data volume is applied. Ensure the maintenance fee is covered by the monthly hosting fee.
  5. Configuration - only select products that are accessed via a browser-based interface. Old ASP type installations using client software can be expensive and can potentially be a drain on IT resources. In addition, they are not designed in more efficient SOAP and AJAX.
  6. Roll Out Program - where a browser interface is used, and where the solution has a well-designed user interface. very little training is usually required. The solution should be easy to use and intuitive, promoting rapdi adoption. The vendor should specify an employee adoption program in its contract for the initial implementation period.
  7. Support - like any technology, ensure the vendor stands by its solution and views customers as partners. There should be clearly stated benchmarks for customer satisfaction and recourse if the implementation does not deliver the expected results. Check for a guarantee of satisfaction after the implementation.
  8. Proof - after selecting a shortlist of potential providers, ask these vendors to provide demos and customer references.

On-demand business analytics provides rapid visibility into critical business conditions, both within and outside of corporate boundaries. This enables companies to act decisively and produce results that dramatically increase agility and competitiveness.

 

Using BI SaaS

On demand solutions are accessed online, making access from anywhere possible, and in many cases, over multiple devices.

The real advantages of SaaS models is also likely to lead many larger corporations to access BI tools using this model.

 

BI SaaS Vendors

As of April 2008, there are more than 20 vendors offering SaaS in the BI arena. Many of these offer their services to niche markets e.g. retail, restaurants etc. Larger BI vendors like Business Objects, Cognos, and SAS Institute are also angling for a slice of this market.

Current vendors offering BI on demand in an SaaS model include:

For a full list of BI SaaS vendors

 

NEXT: BusinessObjects

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