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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Can BI Survive As a Standalone App?

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One of the things that's always intrigued me about business intelligence has been its ability to survive as a standalone application category. This is especially true of BI delivered as SaaS. Like social collaboration, there's a constant tension between the convenience on the one hand of having the capability embedded in an operational application and the benefits on the other hand of having best-of-breed capabilities that are accessible from, and operate across, a large number of different applications. Which side of this tug-of-war will prevail in the end?

The momentum shifted a little further towards absorption into mainstream applications last week with SuccessFactors' acquisition of Danish startup YouCalc, which adds real-time analytics across the vendor's business execution and performance management suite. Since both apps are built on a Java stack, YouCalc will be easily absorbed. "It's not just an integration, it's a full merge of code, that allows us to be a platform component across the SuccessFactors portfolio," said Rasmus Aaen Madsen, YouCalc's CEO and now SuccessFactors EMEA VP of product management, in a telephone briefing ahead of the announcement.

This is SuccessFactors' second acquisition of a BI vendor, following on from its earlier purchase of Inform, which specialized in HR analytics. "Inform had twenty years' experience of working with analytics for HR. Now you're adding the real-time analytics from YouCalc," explained Madsen.

The Inform data warehouse handles connnections to on-premise systems such as SAP and Oracle for workforce analytics data. YouCalc adds real-time, on-demand data fetched from online applications such as Salesforce.com or Google web analytics, and can combine this with data from the Inform data warehouse to produce sophisticated yet user-friendly visualizations.

SuccessFactors, of course, has also absorbed social collaboration into its application with its acquisition earlier this year of CubeTree. So perhaps this is merely a strategy being pursued by this particular vendor rather than an indication of a wider trend.

I'll follow up this posting with a counter-point based on the example of GoodData, which is a real-time analytics SaaS vendor that's taking the opposite approach of getting itself embedded into a wide cross-section of applications, while staying independent.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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