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Self-Service BI: Analytics for the Business Community

Originally published February 22, 2010

Every employee is some form of decision maker at various points during the day. To ensure smart decision making, the right information must be available at the right time. This white paper provides an explanation of self-service BI and how this capability is a necessity among business users today.

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Posted March 1, 2010 by Robert Chapman

Claudia, as always you do a great job at highlighting the issues and demands of creating a user friendly and IT independent BI suite. I wholeheartedly agree with you that simple to use and easy to consume products are the future of BI. However, I also believe that there are further problems with the traditional solutions in creating this style of service:

Firstly, widespread non-specialist access to traditional databases has a significant performance implication as users perform high calculation density queries that can affect the processing speed of more essential or immediate requests.  Secondly, as we so often see, standard software development can take months or years, by which time the daily needs of the users may well have changed. This puts a huge barrier in front of rapid implementation of the feedback and collaboration that you call for, which prevents organic development of the service. Finally, the payment structures employed by traditional solutions do not allow for the development of such enterprise wide provisioning. The CapEx is huge for a product that is likely to end up played with once and forgotten by 80% of the company.

I believe that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) BI vendors can address these issues.

SaaS BI products allow access to data from many sources at one time and provide intuitive non-technical data analysis and visualization. Easy sharing and promoting of data is a built in feature of the cloud computing model, so successful queries can be accessed and explored by anyone, anywhere. SaaS applications are designed to deal with the demand of companywide processing requests in two ways: firstly the software intelligently distributes processing between the client and the server side meaning that a lot of the calculation is done in the users own computer. Secondly the vendors harness the army of computers provided by the SaaS platforms such as Amazon S3 to aggregate cached data.

However, the real beauty of the SaaS model is that IT not only are relieved of producing ‘end products’ but they are also freed from the burden of running the software and the platform, allowing them to focus on the strategic IT management. As the product is delivered over the web, feedback and collaboration can be incorporated into the software by the vendor without the need for on site server updates, leading to an iterative improvement rather than seasonal overhauls.

Finally, the monthly fee-per-user pricing model often employed is designed to allow the software to scale with usage, whether that is expansion with the business, or contraction as the core productive users make themselves evident.

Rob Chapman

We Are Cloudhttp://businessintelligence.me

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