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Beyond Self Service: Strategies for Successful BI

  • March 2014
  • -
  • Frost & Sullivan
  • -
  • 12 pages

Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan believes that the current cycle of BI analytic technology adoption being catalyzed by the latest BI self service analytic tools will be broadly disruptive and transformational. This report explains why; and how self-service is a necessary, but insufficient transformative trigger. Given this assessment, we then explore the self-serve perspectives and customer support strategies of seven leading BI vendors, concluding with four recommendations for both sides of the buy/sell equation.


Introduction


After decades of high expectations, false starts and workarounds, the possibility is again in view that mainstream businesses and other organizations might be able to apply information technology directly to complex issues and to high-level decision-making. Products that capitalize on this idea have come to market before, in roughly 10-year intervals: expert systems in the 1980s; and business intelligence (BI) systems and data warehouses in the 1990s. Since the year 2000, advancements in database technologies—which have come to be known as Big Data—and in related techniques for data discovery, mining, and visualization, have triggered a new round of enthusiasm for business intelligence (BI) nalytic tools.

In every department, at every level in the organization, and across all industry verticals, people are attracted by the idea that these new tools can help them to make better, faster, so-called data-driven decisions— meaning, decisions that are informed by deeper insights into more data. Other attractions include escaping from unwieldy spreadsheets, and getting answers now rather than waiting for query responses from overburdened internal analysts. Add these benefits together, throw in a free trial, and the newest self-service BI analytic tools are all but irresistible. Along with these very attractive carrots, however, comes a rather large stick: the growing concern that whoever avoids this wave of BI echnology adoption could see their ability to compete significantly diminished.

Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan has identified more than vendors of business intelligence (BI) analytic software who address this portion of the Big Data & Analytics market; and new vendors continue to arrive on the scene. In addition to the newcomers, the traditional enterprise software powerhouses (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and SAS Institute) have BI solutions; and another handful of vendors have specialized for many years in BI and related enterprise resource and process management software (e.g., Actuate, arcplan, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, and TIBCO Spotfire). To serve their embedded base, and to compete with the newer vendors, these established solution providers continue to innovate and evolve their products today.

The most obvious example of innovation and evolution in the BI market is the practice of front-ending the sales process with fast and free demonstrations that prove the value of what are still expensive and complicated software systems. The latest BI analytic tools cost the potential customer nothing but his or her time and effort to try them out for a few weeks to a month. They can be accessed in the cloud or downloaded, and put to beneficial use in a matter of hours or days. Their user interfaces are clean and easy to use, making data discovery, analysis and visualization a pleasure for anyone with a modicum of spreadsheet proficiency.


Frost & Sullivan believes that the current cycle of BI analytic technology adoption being catalyzed by these self-serve tools will be broadly disruptive and transformational. This report explains why; and how self-service is a necessary, but insufficient transformative trigger. Given this assessment, we then explore the self-serve perspectives and customer support strategies of seven leading BI vendors, concluding with four recommendations for both sides of the buy/sell equation. Why Disruptive? How Transformative?

Self-service is the most visible disruptive aspect of the new BI analytics. Quickly empowering individual end users speeds up and shakes up the software sales cycle, but that is only part of the impact. As self-serve analytic downloads, demos and trials bubble up in different work groups and departments, in different business units and organizational silos, their findings are bound to differ. Even similar findings can be interpreted differently, leading to different ideas about indicated changes or improvements. Innovative new insights may not fit well with established business policies and procedures. Other unintended consequences of department-level analytics are discussed in previous Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan research.

Even organizations that choose to bring self-serve BI analytics onboard with a controlled, top-down initiative will confront disruptive challenges to the status quo as soon as new analyses indicate the value of modifying existing business processes. Implementing such changes will be worthwhile if they save money, improve customer service or reduce time-to-market, but they also will require corresponding changes to existing metrics in order to accurately measure the new processes. Here, the disruption factor is potentially high, because these metrics are (or should be) the same ones on which budgets, performance evaluations and compensation are based. It will be very challenging to change key performance indicators (KPIs) that have served the organization for many years.

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Beyond Self Service: Strategies for Successful BI

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