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SAAS BI…challenges, dos and don’ts

I read a blog that talks about the sad demise of one of the bi on demand offerings and this prompted me to read more on the challenges of BI on demand. At a broader level the major challenges are in the area of data and the end user experience.


Loading of data needs to be fast in addition to the required data processing for reporting. Query execution needs to be optimized to suit the needs of the customers with respect to amount of data and the speed at which it is processed. Low latency or real time BI would be the ultimate goal.

The data moved from the corporate databases to the data  warehouse on the cloud, concerns customers. Some customers prefer to instead send data extracts to the cloud, which in turn adds an overhead of synchronizing the extract periodically. The strongest possible security measures are required to safeguard the data warehouse, for hackers could target the corporate data as well..

The integration capabilities offered are still not up to the mark, especially when it comes from multiple databases and applications. Some SAAS BI vendors have developed an ETL (extract transform load) service that resides on the cloud, and can integrate data from virtually any source.

End user experience:

The end user is seldom worried about the work happening in the background to fetch or process data, what matters the most is the outcome, ease of use, time required to learn and time required to execute daily tasks to quote a few. The on demand BI, should be the one place to find all information and for the user to be able to quickly analyze and make effective decisions.While analyzing data, the user would also require data to be securely loaded and saved as long as required on the cloud for easy access.

In addition to these, vendors also need to gain customer confidence, making it easier for the customer to move data across vendors, or to pull it back in the event of discontinuation of the on demand service.

Following is an excerpt from an article in Computer World that summarizes when to go for SAAS BI and when to resist the temptation.

ConsiderSaaS BI If…

  • You don’t have in-house resources to do the job or BI isn’t a core competency
  • You need something that can be built, adjusted and scaled quickly, such as customizable sales reports.
  • You need it fast
  • You can get 80% of what you need with a few customizable templates
  • You’re already using SaaS in operational areas such as CRM and HR and need to add an analytics component.

Think Twice If…

  • You’re uncomfortable processing business intelligence data outside of the corporate firewall, regardless of security assurances
  • You have a complex project or one that requires a high degree of customization
  • You have a very large data set
  • The data on which you need to perform analytics changes every day
  • BI tools will be used primarily within the organization
  • It doesn’t fit the broader business model or culture. Balancing departmental and enterprise needs is key. 

 The think twice, might require rethinking considering the offerings provided by SAP Business Objects BI On Demand. It has a rich feature set including:

  • SAP Business Objects Explorer software, with powerful exploration and visualization capabiltiies
  • No need to switch between applications and thus is a one stop for accessing, exploring, visualizing and sharing data
  • Allows access of on-demand and on-premise data, including SAP data and from other areas, Eg. Salesforce CRM
  • Allows ad-hoc reporting, what-if anaysis, and secure sharing of data

I found some more interesting reads on this topic:

BI on the cloud?yes, and on the ground, too

SAAS BI will be big in 2010

BI for the rest of us

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