ebizQ podcast: TEC's Lyndsay Wise on Choosing Web-Based BI Applications
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Click here to send Lyndsay Wise a question -- she'll respond in this space.
Follow-up question submitted on 7/16 by Sreekanth Nelabotla: Hi, Lyndsay! My question is on OWB and OBI. What is the future of OWB and OBI?
Lyndsay Wise: As an organization’s BI environment matures, there is generally a move towards the use of Operational Business Intelligence (OBI) to embed BI within the organization’s business processes. With the increase in the amount of data being captured and the frequency of delivery to accommodate OBI, the quality of that data becomes more important. Oracle’s Warehouse Builder (OWB), with its built-in ETL and data quality tools, enables Oracle-based organizations to take advantage of built-in functionality to develop or maintain their OBI environment. Since OWB offers these features centrally, the ability to implement solutions more easily within Oracle environments may help pave the way to more use of OBI in the future. Moreover, it will allow Oracle users the advantage of best-of-breed BI and data integration functionality.
BG-B: In this podcast we're going to be focusing on Web-based business intelligence solutions.
So, Lyndsay, can you first please tell us the different types of Web-based business intelligence solutions?
LW: Sure, Beth. There's actually four different types of Web-based business intelligence solutions available. The first one, is portal deployment, the second one are full Web-based BI suites. The third are actually hosted or SaaS-based models. And the fourth are open source. So basically the first one includes reporting and analysis that is deployed through an organization's portal and different examples of this would be about five years ago companies such as Cognos, Business Objects, Information Builders and MicroStrategy actually started to develop their own in-house solutions that would be developed like a regular business intelligence solution but would have the front-end reporting and analysis deployed on the Internet to allow for collaboration across multiple geographic regions.
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The second type of Web-based business intelligence solution actually involves downloading the software from the Internet so all of the deployment and development would actually be Web-based. And this can kind of compared in like to downloading Skype or IM messenger or as well a Microsoft application that you're using for trial, So it would be the same thing that organizations would download this software and then develop and deploy it online in that sense.
The third types are hosted or Software-as-a-Service based business intelligence solution. And what this means for organizations is that the front end of the business intelligence tool is actually provided as a service to organizations. The back end in terms of the data warehousing, the ETL processes as well as the actual development of the reporting or scorecarding or dashboarding is provided as a solution by the actual vendor and the good and bad about this is that it's either provided as a subscription base or based on the data, so one thing for organizations to consider within hosted or SaaS-based solutions is how much data they're going to actually use in terms of being provided as a service.
If they're starting in one area and they don't have a large IT infrastructure in-house then it might be an actual good option for organizations to have everything provided as a service so that they don't have to worry about it in-house.
However, if data volumes grow exponentially then organizations need to understand that with it the price might also grow exponentially. But in general, it's a very big trend in terms of other areas aside from business intelligence that are really moving to this model that use Software-as-a-Service to optimize their business intelligence and different applications in-house to look at applications and software tools as more of an internal business structure as opposed to just a set of software.
One good thing about open source software in general is that open source vendors are very particular to develop their software based on their community need, so the input from the end users are looked at as very valuable and vendors will actually develop different solutions and features and functionality based on the offering that end users are actually looking for.
And the fourth is the open source model where end-users can download business intelligence software from the Internet and what this means is that organizations use this software for free. Alternatively they may pay for training, documentation or services. One good thing about open source software in general is that open source vendors are very particular to develop their software based on their community need, so the input from the end users are looked at as very valuable and vendors will actually develop different solutions and features and functionality based on the offering that end users are actually looking for.
Additionally, open source vendors provide professional versions of their software, and what this means is that end users can pay for these versions of the software that will provide enhanced administration as well as security tools. But in general the regular features of both software is the same so that basically gives you an overview of the different types of business intelligence software that's available for Web-based use.
BG-B: Any ideas of where people can start looking for those open-source solutions?
LW: There are actually three main BI open-source vendors. One is Pentaho, one is Jaspersoft, and one is a European vendor called SpagoBI. Those are the three main vendors within the BI space for open-source solutions.
BG-B: Now Lyndsay, are these different types of solutions more suitable for different types of business requirements or perhaps more suitable for different types of business cultures?
LW: That's a very good question. I'm going to start off by going into the IT infrastructure because that's a good place to start in terms of the different types of organizations and how different BI solutions for the web would best meet those needs. So for instance, if an organization is larger, whether it's an enterprise organization or a larger mid-sized market based organization with a very strong IT infrastructure, it might actually be better for them to go with one of the solutions such as a Business Objects, a Cognos, or a Hyperion, just as examples, that actually really need that strong IT infrastructure and interoperability requirement to utilize their tools to the best of their ability. Additionally, it would help having internal expertise within IT to be able to develop those skills to maintain and develop enhanced applications.
On the other hand, if it's a smaller shop and there isn't much IT infrastructure, than going with a SaaS-based model would be more beneficial because of the fact that everything is hosted and provided as a service so the IT infrastructure doesn't matter as much. Additionally, in terms of SaaS-based offerings, another aspect to consider is that in certain organizations IT and business work cohesively, but in others, business units themselves will really drive the IT selection process. So in terms of those organizations, they also might be better suited to the SaaS-based model. In terms of open-source or regular Web-based BI offerings that are downloadable, then it would be more of a transfer over to really identify if those vendors meet the needs of the organizations in terms of identifying what the business pain is, what business unit is going to use these software offerings and go from there. In that case it's not as cut-and-dried. It's more that organizations would also have to consider other areas as well.
BG-B: Now Lyndsay, as we know, success with any technology is more about what you do with it than the technology that you chose. Is there any advice that you can offer on best practices to organizations considering implementing a web-based BI solution?
LW: Sure Beth. One of the first things I would say is to really look at the business pain. Organizations that want to implement BI in general and not just web-based BI should really look at why they need BI solutions and start small because the problem with implementing a full organization-wide solution is that organizations might be trying to do too much at once. It's very important to identify what the need is, what different metrics an organization is trying to match. Are there different performance issues? Maybe sales aren't performing as well as they are or there is a high customer return rate. How can we get sales up? How can we increase customer satisfaction? These are different things that should be considered but really on a case-by-case and department-by-department basis. That's one area in terms of the best practices approach.
The second area in terms of what organizations should consider are really industry specific needs. Does the organization have specific needs, such as compliance issues where it's better to go with a vendor that has actually built in these different, whether its SOX or Basel, etcetera, where organizations can use these tools out of the box instead of developing their own. Additionally if the organization is actually within a vertical market such as government or healthcare or manufacturing, then it might make sense for them if they need a vertical-based solution that really meets those needs to go with that kind of solution as opposed to a horizontal base.
...because the market is a fast-changing market and business intelligence has been changing and the types of offerings have been evolving very rapidly, it's very important to identify whether or not the vendor is viable.
And the final one in terms of identifying Web-based BI solutions and the different type to go to, is really because the market is a fast-changing market and business intelligence has been changing and the types of offerings have been evolving very rapidly, it's very important to identify whether or not the vendor is viable. And what I mean by this is, what will the landscape look like in five years? For organizations who have the strong IT infrastructure and are going to implement let's say, a Cognos, then we know that Cognos has been around even if they've acquired different vendors, we know that they have pretty much proven themselves within the industry. But other vendors that are newer to the market or are starting to offer different offerings such as web-based BI solutions that are full web-based BI, will they be around in five years and what referenceable customers do they have now that organizations can look to, to see really what their levels of service and support are.
And then additionally, for these vendors that are newer, what is their strategy? Do they hope to be acquired eventually, as some vendors do? And then if that's the case, what will their service offerings look like at that point? So those are really three key issues in terms of best practices that organizations should look at.
BG-B: Thank you very much Lyndsay and thank you to all our listens. For more information about Lyndsay's research, please visit technologyevaluation.com. If you have a follow up question for Lyndsay, please visit BIinaction.com where you can submit your question to Lyndsay.
And please be sure to tune into the BI in Action Virtual Conference, which will be broadcast live on June 20th. At 11:00 a.m. Eastern you can hear Bill Gassman, research director at Gartner, talk about how BI can be used to drive business performance. At noon Eastern Time Boris Evelson, Principal Analyst at Forrester, will talk about the current state of the BI market. Then at 1:00 Eastern for a panel discussion and some prize giveaways. All of these Webinars and podcasts will also be available for replay, so please make sure to check out BIinaction.com. Have a great day.
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