Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fewer BI Tools in Your Future

According to a July 2009 survey conducted by InformationWeek Analytics and Intelligent Enterprise, organizations are continuing to reduce the number of BI tools and many are moving to a single standard.

When an earlier version of the survey was conducted in 2007, a third of the business technology professionals said that their company had standardized on one or a few BI tools deployed throughout the company. Two years later, the response to that question went up to almost half.

Here are some other findings:

  • Deploying BI tools on a project-by-project basic dropped from 22% to 19%
  • Having many BI tools scatttered through departments, operations, and locations dropped from 25% to 18%
  • Deploying BI tools as part of other technology initiatives dropped from 17% to 14%

That indicates that it is harder for a business fiefdom to buy its own reporting solution.  It is also harder to sneak in a new reporting tool with another software purchase (like in the past when Crystal Reports was bundled with Microsoft Visual BASIC and third-party applications).

Doug Henschen, editor in chief, says that while BI tool consolidation and standardization is not just marketing hype, no software vendor produces a single stack of technology that can meet all of the BI needs of an organization. That makes picking a single vendor's product as a BI standard difficult.

Doug adds that companies are also interested in "BI 2.0" technologies:
"Another key trend revealed in our survey is that businesses are forging new BI agendas. Yes, the longstanding challenges of accessing data and developing reports are still there, as is the push to share BI more broadly across the enterprise. But there's growing interest behind analytics, embedded BI, and search-style querying.
  
New business requirements and new vendor capabilities make it unlikely an organization will settle on a single BI vendor. But consolidating around two or three vendors can help meet requirements and get the resource- and time-savings of standardization."

Of course, identifying a BI tool or two as your standard might actually be the easy step. Actually replacing all of the existing report writers in your organization is the hard part.

When you look at the amount of work, several obstacles stand in your way of actually converting to the approved technology: 
  • There are thousands of legacy programs!
  • We don't have the resources to convert these programs! 
  • There are hundreds of users impacted!
  • There are some power users who don't want to change!
  • There are years of work effort involved!
  • We would have to spend millions of dollars!

It is easy to argue that moving to the new standard is an "undue burden" and therefore something you should not be forced to do. Yet smart companies are doing it because reducing the number of BI tools (especially legacy ones) can: 
  • Reduce license costs
  • Reduce internal support costs  
  • Reduce human resource challenge of scarce skillsets
  • Reduce the number of vendors with whom you must work
  • Improve productivity (e.g., no disputes about or research into BI tool selection)
  • Improve BI project success (consistent usage of the approved product)
  • Modernize to web-based and Microsoft Office-integrated technology

More companies will standardize their BI products and reduce the number of reporting tools they support -- it is a natural progression (like the movement toward supporting single versions of spreadsheets, word processing, e-mail packages, and databases).

For a limited time, you can get a free copy of this BI report at InformationWeek.

1 comment:

we are cloud said...

It's interesting to read articles like this one and compare it with what other people think about the future of BI now. Here's a summary of some LinkedIn activity on the same subject that you might find interesting: http://bit.ly/cloybD

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.