We all have THAT friend. You know the one. He never asks for help, refuses to concede when even his best laid plans go horribly awry, and always has to do it himself.
He’s the Do It Yourself (DIY) tragic with the scruffy haircut, crooked kitchen spice rack, and the skewed garden shed.
Sometimes it’s just better to leave it to the experts. Embedded Business Intelligence (BI) is a bit the same. If you’re an ISV looking to incorporate reporting and analytics functionality into your application, why would you subject yourself to the costs, heartache and high risk of DIY failure? Why would you attempt to build your own BI tool in-house, when you can grab enterprise-grade BI right off the shelf?
Let’s explore some reasons why embedded BI beats DIY.
Defining embedded BI
Embedded BI can be thought of as the process and outcome of integrating reporting and analytical capabilities into existing – normally industry and / or job function specific – operational applications.
Embedded BI = specialist BI = BI ease-of-use = BI success
The key advantage of integrating BI functionality into an existing application is that its prevailing user base can access reporting and analytics within a familiar and trusted environment – an environment that they’re already comfortable and adapt at using. Not only does this situation then promote confidence and help drive data-based decision-making, because users aren’t required to leave that core application to perform data analysis, it reduces any time-to-action latency. Additionally, BI functionality designed by a stand-alone specialist BI vendor ensures a user-friendly and intuitive end-user experience – it’s their job to get BI right!
This is particularly crucial, as most BI implementations fail because the BI tool itself is perceived as too complex, resulting in poor user adoption. Given this reality, it’s no surprise that Gartner’s last two BI Magic Quadrant surveys rated product ease-of-use, ahead of product functionality, as the number one purchase criteria for organizations selecting a BI solution.
If you’re an ISV creating software for the Human Resources (HR) industry, it’s a tall order to expect your development team to become over-night BI experts and add BI functionality to your core application that delivers a highly polished and intuitive user experience. For that reason, a recent research report by the Aberdeen Group, entitled Embedded BI: Boosting Analytical Adoption and Engagement, found that only 17 percent of ISVs that had integrated BI functionality into their core application had built that functionality in-house.
Here are eight good reasons to choose third-party BI integration over DIY BI.
1. Cost (money and personnel)
As an ISV, you know that your development team is good at what they do – so let them focus on your core competency and what they do best. Expecting your development team to miraculously acquire the specific knowledge and skills required to effectively design and deliver a BI interface, and all its trimmings, is unrealistic. It’s also greatly time consuming, taking away focus and efforts that would otherwise be dedicated to developing your core product and addressing the chief needs of your market.
So ask yourself: Are the resources required to build and maintain enterprise grade in-house BI, both in terms of finance and personnel, really worth it over the long haul?
2. Increase the salability of your product quickly and tap into new market segments
Adding modern reporting and analytics functionality to your existing application can increase its market value and salability, enabling you to win more deals in shorter timeframes at a more profitable price point, as well as tap into previously unexplored market segments.
The aforementioned Aberdeen report assessing embedded BI benefits and adoption found that “adding value to existing software investments” was a major driver and outcome for ISV’s adding reporting and analytics competences to their products.
Additionally, integrating advanced and interactive analytical capabilities into your product allows you to meet and exceed the expectations of your current and future customers.
3. Maintain your competitive advantage: Keep up or give up
Sophisticated BI technologies are bursting out of the traditional confines of the IT department, moving into operational roles and across the sales and marketing department. BI is also rapidly spreading across a multitude of industries and industry-specific applications, emerging from the shadows of the financial services back-office, to more customer and process-centric functions throughout the retail, education, manufacturing, supply chain management, healthcare, automotive, telecommunications, natural resources, insurance, transport and logistics, real estate and utilities industries – and they’re just some of the more prominent examples!
Aberdeen’s report found that embedded BI is most commonly used in finance (67%), corporate management (56%), supply chain operations (49%), sales operations (46%), and to assist product / purchasing functions (43%).
The top industry specific software applications incorporating embedded BI into their core product offering were reported as: CRM (65%), enterprise resource planning (56%), financial accounting software (49%) and supply chain management (26%). HR and e-commerce also rated a mention in the report.
In fact, the development of more powerful, consumer-oriented and comparatively cost efficient, analytical back and front-end technologies has made data analysis so accessible, that entirely new data-centric industries are in the process of being created. This new economic sub-set of industries is being solely built around capturing and analyzing information, and on-selling that information and consequent insights.
The point? If you’re not embracing analytical functionality in your application, odds or, your closest rivals are.
4. Support and maintenance
Whilst DIY BI might appear like a cost-saving approach in the short term, designing, implementing and delivering that BI functionality successfully, on an ongoing basis, requires substantial IT expertise and commitment. This commitment is long term. Your clients and users will require and expect an unyielding guarantee that you will maintain, support and continuously enhance that BI functionality in line with industry standards.
Can you justify the resultant and substantial enduring blow to your development resources and budget? It’s probably an obligation you could do without.
Conversely, dedicated BI vendors are continuously updating and enhancing their products to meet the new and ever-changing demands of the BI marketplace. If they fail to do this, they’ll go out of business – their entire business model depends on recommitting an extensive percentage of revenue to R&D. It’s hard to think of a stronger motivating factor for keeping their product fresh. Will you be able to match that commitment if you go in-house?
5. Limited product functionality
Chances are, if you decide to embark upon the DIY BI route, your current development team wont also – by some unparalleled coincidental fluke – be able to successfully double as analytic experts. That being the case, your resultant implementation is likely to be confusing compared to those BI products developed by BI professionals.
In fact, it will probably simply be comparatively substandard.
When your users have a high quality experience, they’re more inclined to use a product repeatedly, and more frequently. Can your in-house BI tool deliver the same quality user experience?
It’s now a widely accepted view that enabling as many people as possible, from across a breadth of functional business roles, to independently access reporting and analytics functionality is the key to BI success and ROI.
Will your in-house BI tool be intuitive enough to spur better and faster fact-based decision-making by your customer’s business users, and, underpin the widespread end-user adoption patterns indicative of a successful pervasive BI deployment?
6. Reduce your time to market and time to action
Purchasing BI technology can dramatically reduce your time-to-market when compared to building in-house BI capabilities from the ground up. The same Aberdeen report found that speed / ease of deployment and adoption were perceived as the main benefits of embedded BI (53%).
Integrating a read-to-go BI solution into your application also means that you and your customers will be able to start making analytic-based decisions and taking fact-based action in shorter timeframes; helping to instill an analytic culture that supports fact-based decision-making. The same Aberdeen report revealed that the speed of integration and ease-of-use that accompanies embedded BI leads to “cultural and process improvements”.
7. Lack of agility: What happens when your needs change?
Adapting your BI capabilities as user requirements change is costly. And if you can rely on one thing, and one thing only, it’s that user requirements will always change. Your business, and that of your customers, is always shifting and responding to marketplace demands. The type, velocity and volume of data required for collection, collation and analysis will always change depending on which aspects of the business, its goals and operating environment need to be tracked, measured and assessed. Therefore, reporting and analysis requirements will always change too.
Unsurprisingly, another major benefit of embedded BI identified in Aberdeen’s March 2012 report was “the ability to tailor analytic functionality”.
8. Control and confidentiality concerns
Building customized views of data, and access to functionality, for each end-user is difficult to achieve when building from scratch. Dedicated BI products, such as Yellowfin, include role-based functionality, enabling the view and permissions of individual users to be centrally managed and altered according to their data needs, and the particular security protocols of each client organization.
Whilst specialty BI products can offer user flexibility and security, it also removes the need to dedicate enumerate development hours addressing individual requests for personalized data access.
Where to next?
So, to avoid becoming THAT friend with the dodgy hair and home full of shambolic self-erected shelving, register for our upcoming Embedded BI Best Practices Webinar, and discovered how the pros can rescue you from imminent DIY disaster.