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Everything Executives Need to Know about Open Source BI: A Spotlight Q&A with Lyndsay Wise

Originally published November 13, 2012

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Lyndsay Wise, BeyeNETWORK expert and President of WiseAnalytics. Lyndsay and Ron discuss Lyndsay's new book that looks at open source BI from a business perspective.  
Lyndsay, you’ve been a BeyeNETWORK expert for more than four years, and you have written some of the most popular content on our site. Now you’ve written a book on open source business intelligence (BI). Today’s business managers would like to benefit from open source BI, but it’s time-consuming to sort through all the options to identify the solution that meets their requirements. Is that why you wrote Using Open Source Platforms for Business Intelligence: Avoid Pitfalls and Maximize ROI?

Lyndsay Wise: That was definitely part of the reason. As an industry analyst who walks the line between understanding the world of BI vendors and organizations struggling with how to use BI to become more efficient, it started to become obvious that many decision makers don’t have the opportunity to get a full view of the market, evaluate a wide variety of solutions, and make the best decision for their organizations. In addition, as open source becomes more commercialized, more business managers and all decision makers will be evaluating open source side by side with other offerings and need to understand the implications of seemingly lower cost solutions that many developers swear by.  

Also, up until now the books that exist about open source have been targeted to developers or address the technical aspects of developing open source applications. There was a definite gap in the market in relation to understanding open source from a business and strategic standpoint, and it was time to address this need to empower organizations and help them make more informed software selection and overall BI development decisions.

What is the main reason that companies are turning to open source BI?

Lyndsay Wise: In the past, I would say it was mainly due to price and developer selection and collaboration. As open source BI becomes more mainstream, though, the main reason organizations turn to open source is cost – an expectation of lower costs, free software, and quick time to value. In addition, many developers still prefer the freedom and control to develop their own applications.

I think what most readers will want to know is if they really can succeed with open source BI. While you were writing the book, did you talk to any companies that implemented open source BI?

Lyndsay Wise: That’s a really good question, Ron. I spoke with companies using a broad range of open source technologies, from database and data integration – such as customers of Talend and Ingres (now Actian) as well as front-end reporting and BI toolsets such as Pentaho and Jaspersoft. I also spoke with some consulting practitioners who are deep in the trenches dealing with open source projects on a daily basis. One of the things that kept coming up was the high level of satisfaction of using open source.

The companies and practitioners were well aware of the potential challenges when they embarked on using open source, but based on some perceived advantages, such as getting solutions up and running more quickly, they decided to take the risks, knowing that more customization would have to occur to ensure broader efficiencies.

In essence, it is possible to succeed with open source, providing the proper expectations exist beforehand and the right resources are on hand to make it happen. In many cases, this means offsetting some of the costs that would be saved on the price of software and allocating it to pay for developers to support and grow the solution. And it also means understanding that “free” doesn’t actually exist, especially not when looking at commercial options.

What is the biggest challenge companies face when implementing open source BI and how will this book help them with that challenge?

Lyndsay Wise: One of the key business challenges involves the costs associated with managing an open source BI initiative. As mentioned above, many business decision makers hear the promise of free and think that open source represents an easy way to implement BI, not realizing that different layers of BI exist – including data management, analytics, data integration, and front-end delivery. Developing all of this using open source requires a lot of time and resources, and this means allocating proper costs and resources. In addition, costs associated with hardware, storage, and potential licensing exist.

Using Open Source Platforms for Business Intelligence dispels the myths associated with costs and the real efforts involved in implementing an open source BI project. This includes looking at the evaluation process and selecting the right solution, understanding the limitations that exist, and evaluating the ROI (return on investment) associated with these projects.

What about open source BI for “big data” and analytics? Do you talk about that in this book?

Lyndsay Wise: Hadoop is definitely a huge aspect of big data management and open source, but since this book is focused mostly on BI, I have steered clear of a large focus on technologies that are not data warehousing or business intelligence specific. With that said, the book does deal with analytical platforms and the way in which these platforms are used and managed to support complex analytics and BI projects.

I always like to ask authors this question: What was your favorite part of the book to write?

Lyndsay Wise: That’s an interesting question! I always like new experiences, and this was a big one. But I think my favorite part was speaking to so many people, getting their opinions and experiences and learning about the successes and challenges they’ve experienced along the way. I definitely learned a lot about the how different organizations are addressing business challenges and using open source in diverse ways.

When will this book be available and how can our readers get their copies?

Lyndsay Wise: The book was published at the end of September and can be purchased from the following link: http://www.wiseanalytics.com/book/book.php

Thank you, Lyndsay, for telling us all about your new book. I know it will be an invaluable resource for our readers.

SOURCE: Everything Executives Need to Know about Open Source BI: A Spotlight Q&A with Lyndsay Wise

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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