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Expanding the organization’s choice in BI delivery
Web 2.0’s effect on BI deployments

by Lyndsay WiseMonday, April 21, 2008

Due to the focus on Web 2.0, BI 2.0 and the like, the concept of deploying solutions that are managed on the business side and away from IT and using applications that mimic the way consumers use the Internet in their spare time has created three shifts within the business intelligence industry. The first is the expansion of offerings available to organizations, including Software as a Service (SaaS) and a renewed focus on Web-based applications and portals.  The second involves the expansion of open source solutions to mainstream BI that enables direct collaboration between vendors and customers to develop products and services guided by the customer community. The third shift includes the concept of pervasive BI and the ability to bring business intelligence to all decision makers within the organization by making BI more user friendly.

This article identifies how Web 2.0 concepts are affecting the deployment of BI within organizations and why it is important to learn about what options are available. Subsequent articles will identify specific deployment methods, discuss benefits and challenges, and address user friendliness.  Additionally, use cases of how different deployment options are applied within organizations will be explored.

Why look beyond traditional options

The competitive landscape and the ever-changing technologies that are available can be quite confusing. Many organizations may feel comfortable sticking with what they know. This means that organizations may not be using technology in a way that benefits their organizations and helps drive their business performance and customer experience management initiatives. Instead of using technology and business applications in a way that helps increase efficiencies, IT and the use of technology in general become a detriment.

If organizations do not take advantage of new concepts and strive to become early adopters of technologies and applications that are useful for their organization, they run the risk of losing their competitive advantage.  For instance, an organization that is focused on providing enhanced customer experiences and that measures success based on customer satisfaction ratings should deploy a customer data integration or a customer analytics solution. This enables the organization to gain greater insights into customer behavior and provide better customer service. This example illustrates the fact that cohesion between business goals and the use of technology go hand in hand. The same holds true for how business intelligence is deployed within the organization.  Whether or not organizations take advantage of the options available, the identification of what is available helps companies identify how they can push their use of technology to the next level to enable better internal processes, customer focus, and overall performance – not to mention the impact on the bottom line.

Here are some reasons why organizations should consider additional options to current or proposed BI deployments:

  1. The current environment may not be working. For organizations that are using BI, it is important to identify whether they are really having the desired affects.  Who are the main users of BI within the organization? Is that satisfactory and are they getting the return on investment expected?  This goes beyond financial concerns towards benefits that may be considered intangible by some, but the goal of any application or solution is to provide more value to a person’s work day – to enable them to get the information they need to help them make informed decisions. Even though BI touts to do just this, the reality may not always be the case. 
  2. The current environment is working. If an organization is satisfied with their current use of BI and hopes to expand, using the current provider may seem like the perfect way to go.  Up until recently, it was very common for vendors to sell the idea of BI standardization – basically meaning the goal of using one platform and a single vendor for all deployments within the organization.  Because of the diversity of departments and the variance of business units, a one-size fits all approach may not benefit each department.
  3. To identify the best bang for the buck. Not only is it getting less expensive to buy server space, but because of newer mid-market solutions and newer entrants to the market, the costs of deploying BI have lessened.  However, the cost of maintenance may not have.  Because of the various options, organizations should look at what is available to see what fits long-term versus short-term goals.  For example, using an on-demand provider may work if the organization is using a smaller subset of data.  If data volumes grow exponentially, the costs may as well depending on the pricing structure chosen (in this case being data volume as opposed to individual user licenses).
  4. Ignorance is not bliss.  By knowing what options are available, not only will organizations be more informed about the business decisions they make, but they will get a better feel for market differentiators and gain better insight into how those differences may match current or future business requirements.

So, what are the options?

The choices available to organizations include the type of BI to deploy regarding how the data will be stored, analyzed, and updated.  Aside from the strong IT infrastructure required, organizations need to consider the frequency of data and how they want to leverage BI – whether strategically or process oriented.  In the past, business intelligence was considered very data intensive.  Due to the many IT requirements and focus on gathering and delivering the most accurate data, organizations may have overlooked the business implications associated with their data choices.  Unfortunately, the focus on data warehouse performance, data delivery, and which front-end applications to deploy take the focus away from how to link the technical requirements with those of the business. 

As the Internet becomes a central access point to getting and sharing information, making daily transactions and collaboration, that interaction is transferred into the walls of the organization.  For instance, open source communities interact constantly to identify program bugs, suggest improvements and help develop the overall solutions. Although mostly used by IT developers, the fact remains that open source BI providers have been able to enter the mainstream BI market because of this interaction – as the focus on services become the most important ingredient to the success of their revenue models.

The use of BI on-demand or SaaS-based solutions has eased the hassle of an organization that may not want to manage their own data, whether due to a lack of IT knowledge or infrastructure. Overall, with this type of solution available, the promise of BI expansion and the ability for organizations that may not have had access to BI in the past, to deploy BI is becoming a reality. As BI becomes more accessible, for instance by having the ability to download Web-based applications from the Internet and customize them to suit the organization’s requirements, the overall use of BI will spread.

Conclusion

The way business is being conducted is slowly changing.  Because of the increased focus on collaboration and the use of technology to drive business, organizations are evaluating how IT can be better leveraged by business.  With BI adoption growing, and the number of options available increasing, organizations will be at a great advantage in relation to the choices available – whether choosing a solution based on services, deployment option, features and functionality, or price – and how they want to use BI to drive their business decisions. In addition, the drive to increase user friendliness and develop BI in a way that mimics personal computer use will complement the increased focus on using Web enabled BI options and continue to offer organizations more choices when evaluating how to best utilize BI.  

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