11/08/2014

By Karl Van den Bergh, Vice President, Product and Customer Success, TIBCO Jaspersoft


With the current emphasis on data-driven decision-making in business, it is perhaps not a surprise that the focus on data analytics continues to mount. According to IDC’s Dan Vesset, 2013 was poised to be the first year that the market for data-driven decision making enabled by business analytics broke through the $100 billion mark. So, given the importance and spend on analytics, everyone should have access to the insight they need, right? Amazingly, in spite of spending growth and focus, most information workers today do not have access to business intelligence.

There are a variety of reasons for this, including the high costs an overall lack of usability. However, the biggest impediment to BI adoption is that the vast majority of business decision makers do not spend their day working in a BI tool – nor do they want to. Users already have their preferred tool or application: sales representatives use a CRM service; marketers use a campaign management or marketing automation platform; back-office workers will spend a lot of their day in an ERP application; executives will typically work with their preferred productivity suite, and the list goes on. Unless you are a data analyst, you are not going to want to spend much of your day using a BI tool but that does not mean they don’t want access to pertinent data to bolster better decision-making.

So, what’s the solution? Simply put, bring the data TO users inside their preferred applications instead of expecting them to go to a separate BI system to find the report, dashboard or visualisation that’s relevant to the question at hand. If we want to reach the other 75% of business people who don’t have access to a standalone BI product, we have to inject intelligence inside the applications and services they use every day. It is only through more intelligent applications that organisations can benefit from broader data-driven decision-making. In fact, according to Gartner, BI will only become pervasive when it essentially becomes “invisible” to business people as part of the applications they use daily. In a 2013 report highlighting key emerging tech trends, Gartner concludes that in order “to make analytics more actionable and pervasively deployed, BI and analytics professionals must make analytics more invisible and transparent to their users.”

The reality is that only a small fraction of applications built today have embedded intelligence. The culprit here is that business intelligence was originally intended as a standalone activity, not one that was designed to be embeddable. Specifically, the reasons driving businesses to ignore BI platforms boil down to cost and complexity.

Fortunately, there is a new generation of embedded analytic platforms emerging that looks set to address these challenges. Wayne Eckerson, a noted BI analyst, identifies this as the third generation of embedded analytics in his article on the Evolution of Embedded BI. In summary, Eckerson describes the third generation as “moving beyond the Web to the Cloud” where users can “rent these Cloud-based BI tools by the hour”. To address the challenge of cost, a new generation of embedded analytics platforms employs a utility-based licensing model where the software is available on a per-core, per-hour or per-gigabyte basis. A study from Nucleus Research concluded that utility pricing for analytics can save organisations up to 70% of what they would pay for a traditional BI solution.

A recent report by the Aberdeen Group, based on data from over 130 organisations, has helped shed light on some of the benefits of embedded analytics. First, as might be expected, those companies using embedded analytics saw 76% of users actively engaged in analytics versus only 11% for those with the lowest embedded BI adoption. As a result, 89% of the business people in these best-in-class companies were satisfied with their access to data versus only 21% in the industry laggards. The bottom line? Companies leading embedded BI adoption saw an average 19% increase in operating profit versus only 9% for the other companies.

Andre Gayle, who helps manage a voicemail service at British Telecom, illustrates the difference embedded analytics can make. “We had reports [before] but they had to be emailed to users, who had to wait for them, then dig through them as needed. It was inefficient and wasteful.” Now, thanks to embedded analytics, British Telecom has seen a huge savings in time and cost. As Gayle explains, capacity planning for the voicemail service used to be a “laborious exercise, involving several days of effort to dig up the numbers” but now can be done “on demand, in a fact-based manner, in just a few minutes.”

The evidence is mounting that embedding analytics inside the applications business people use every day can lead to quantifiable benefits. A new generation of embedded BI platforms is making it easier and more cost effective for businesses to gain the insights from their data and we hope that BI will finally become pervasive as an information service that informs day-to-day operations.