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Does the promise of free BI exist?

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsThursday, July 22, 2010

Over the past year, many BI solution providers have developed free offerings to help expand the use of business intelligence overall, and specifically their individual popularity within the market place. Consequently, free trials and desktop versions of software are in abundance, enabling organizations to use BI and compare solutions before implementing a platform within the company. The benefits are obvious and not limited to – the ability to use analytics without developing a supporting BI infrastructure, low cost experimentation, and the ability to evaluate multiple solutions at one time.

Limitations on licensing, distribution, and time mean that the promise of free BI has limitations based on vendor constraints.  After all, the end goal is to have organizations purchase software, professional services, licenses, and support. Therefore, in many cases free trials and general offerings are meant to whet the appetite in hopes of future expansion. In many cases, smaller organizations do not require broad BI solutions and may prefer individualized offerings depending upon the role of the individual within the organization. For these businesses, free individualized software offerings may be the way to get the benefits of BI without the cost associated with development and deployment.

In addition to personalized free online or desktop offerings such as QlikView, Tableau, and InetSoft, TIBCO Spotfire has also recently announced a free one-year trial to enable one user to author and share dashboards.  In addition to the ability to develop analytics and post them to the Web, TIBCO Silver Spotfire enables end users to have three files hosted online and to share the dashboards created.  With hosted solutions and the increase in cloud based computing, the potential for free BI no longer only applies to the front end reporting and analytics.  Now businesses can have data and dashboards hosted for free, meaning that developing, deploying, and managing data takes place within the free trial. 

Although this represents the next level in providing free services and solutions to organizations – in essence further commoditizing analytics – the idea of having free hosted solutions provides new opportunities and poses greater risks to organizations. On the one hand, for the trial period, end users do not have to worry about developing a BI infrastructure or managing their data.  Their main concern relates to creating analyses and developing dashboards that are valuable related to decision making.  On the other hand, once data is hosted outside of the organization, the freedom to take that information after the free trial is over or to add to what is hosted may be limited based on the parameters of the actual offering.

So, when looking at the overall BI landscape, even though the promise of free BI is becoming more of a reality, it will still take some time before organizations can really take advantage of free trials and limited free offerings without the roadblocks that currently make solutions that are touted as free, almost free or low cost solutions.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.

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