Over the past year or so there has been a huge shift in the BI (businesss intelligence) industry. People have recognized SaaS (software as a service) as the future of business intelligence and other companies are racing to try and catch up. Now with the increasingly widespread use of cloud computing, small and medium sized companies (SMBs) have been able to take advantage of these tools, just as large enterprises have in the past.
Perhaps we should clarify very quickly, what is BI?
Business Intelligence is the use of data to better inform decision makers within a company. Perhaps it would be better referred to as Business Knowledge as it is really about understanding the way your company, customers and competitors work to allow better decisions. This is achieved by combining internal data (sales, financial data) with external data (market data, public data) and using a tool to display and explore it. In its simplest case, Excel could be used as a BI tool, but real BI applications offer easier, more powerful analysis, better visualization, better version control and collaboration features.
So why is Saas BI so suitable for smaller businesses?
1) Small and medium-sized businesses often cannot justify the large CapEx (capital expenditures) of traditional BI, do not have the IT resources to run an on premise database and server system and are not sure that they have the breadth or depth of data to warrant such a system. Often their needs change and evolve far faster than software is developed and installed. SaaS payment structures mean that you have no CapEx and only pay for the amount you use the product. If half your users find they they aren’t deriving any value from the software, they can easily cancel their subscriptions at the end of the month, halving the cost.
2) Traditional BI demands technical expertise both to manage and use. Business users could not quickly perform analysis themselves; queries had to be made through the IT department and often involved long delays. As there is no software to install, there is no daily maintenance or routine tasks to be done, so nothing to require extra IT hands or expertise. This frees IT professionals to concentrate on strategic IT and growing the business.
3) With traditional BI having enough data to justify the BI spend is certainly a problem. The huge upfront costs and time investment often cannot be justified by the need for a couple of key decision makers to analyze a small number of records. SaaS BI gets rid of this problem as it provides fully functional BI suite available for just one person. SaaS applications can be rapidly scaled up or down as your business needs change.
4) Most SaaS products are lightweight and designed to complement the investment in data storage and manipulation that you already have. For example, Bime, a SaaS BI solution, plugs directly in to online and traditional sources to extract data, then allows creation of visualizations and dashboards with a few clicks.
5) Access and sharing were the original drivers of the SaaS cloud computing model so applications make it easy to get useful visualizations to the right people quickly by inviting people to your dashboard’s URL or embedding it in a website or blog.
BI products have traditionally required huge upfront costs, had long lead times and demanded technical expertise to use. SaaS allows powerful functionality without the need for any of these, making it a highly profitable investment for SMBs.
Guest Author: Kirsty Lee
Kirsty works at We Are Cloud, the producers of the SaaS BI application Bime. Bime delivers simple-to-use yet powerful BI, data visualization and dash-boarding in a software-as-a-service application, making data analysis faster, easier and cheaper. Find out more at http://businessintelligence.me