Choosing an embedded business intelligence or embedded analytics tool isn’t like choosing furniture. It’s more like choosing a friend who’ll join you on a journey over the course of the next few years. A journey that, in a fast-changing world, will be filled with unknowns and challenges. Luckily, you’re not flying blind. This guide will help you understand the basics of embedded analytics software, what embedded business intelligence (BI) software does and how to choose the right one for your business.
What Is Embedded Analytics?
So what is embedded business intelligence? Gartner gives us a simple embedded analytics definition: embedded analytics is “the use of reporting and analytic capabilities in transactional business applications. These capabilities can reside outside the application, but must be easily accessible from inside the application, without forcing users to switch between systems.”
Basically, this means that embedded analytics offers the analytics capabilities of a business intelligence application without requiring users to open a different interface. Embedded analytics tools are, as the name suggests, embedded directly into your other business software. This allows users to perform the amazing tasks of BI without the workflow-halting process of changing windows.
We can go a step further with the definition and include the ability to embed into any cloud solution or product. This feature is known as embeddability. Another key capability of embedded business intelligence is maintaining a consistent user experience when switching between systems. Embedding is not only about sharing the same authentication (single sign-on), but also about having a continuous and coherent look and feel for all the systems involved in the solution.
Benefits of Embedded Analytics
Embedded analytics sounds pretty cool, right? But what’s in it for the user? Why might someone choose them over a standalone business intelligence or business analytics system? Here are a few benefits of embedded BI:
While every software comes with a very different price tag, embedded BI is often a more cost-effective solution than a more robust standalone BI platform. For SMBs or cost-conscious users that have already invested in other types of business software, embedded analytics may be the perfect solution.
Because it is designed to be embedded in another software platform, embedded BI has extensive integration capabilities. Integration opens up data processing speed, pulls data directly from the source system and streamlines interfaces.
Speaking of streamlined interfaces, one key perk of embedded BI is the seamless flow from one software into the analytics interface. This may not seem like a big deal, but one study estimates that employees lose up to ten percent of the time they spend working to the productivity-crashing phenomena known as task-switching. Embedded analytics reduces the need to switch to a new system and task, streamlining workflow.
For example, let’s say you’re using a customer relationship management (CRM) system and want to generate a sales report. If you use a traditional BI tool, you typically have to open a new window within the BI software in order to execute a report. With embedded BI tools, this need to switch windows is completely negated. This continuous experience helps keep productivity levels high and workflows streamlined within a single interface.
Features of Embedded BI
So now we know what embedded analytics is, but how does it deliver on these promises? This type of software can be broken down into several groupings of features. Each system varies in its offerings, but the core features are more or less universal. Here they are in no particular order:
This refers to the features that make embedded analytics embeddable. First, the system needs to offer white-labeling. This makes the application customizable so users can match the look and feel of the host application. Next, there’s multi-tenancy support. Every user needs a unique version of the software, and this feature allows that. Version control helps development teams manage source-code changes over time. These features allow users to embed unique versions of the same software into a range of applications, customize those systems, and store previous versions to protect against crashes or hacks.
Data Management and Visualization
BI tools are designed to analyze and visualize data, so data management is a huge aspect of the software. Embedded BI explores, prepares, maps, diagrams and models data into a range of visualizations like line, bar and pie charts. They can also be presented via interactive dashboards that let users interact with their visualizations. Users can examine these visuals for data trends and patterns in order to draw insights from them. Embedded BI supports online analytical processing (OLAP) which allows multi-dimensional data analysis.
Reporting refers to summaries of data points and trends. Users can create ad-hoc reports that deliver information on a specific key performance indicator (KPI) or metric, scheduled reports, recurring reports, and more. These reports can then be exported in a range of standard formats for easy sharing.
Embedded business analytics offer a range of analytical capabilities. These include predictive, descriptive, prescriptive, diagnostic, ad-hoc and decentralized analytics. Users can identify benchmarks and monitor business practices, generate business plans based on data predictions and share data throughout the organization.
This feature allows embedded analytics software to integrate data from a range of sources. This includes Excel and the Microsoft Office suite, CSV, XML, and more. It also enables users to connect to big data sources like Hadoop. Embedded BI can draw data from both relational and NoSQL sources via parametrized database connections, also known as passwords and usernames.
Extensibility, Availability and Scalability
This collection of features refers to the ability of the software to be scaled and stretched. Embedded BI by nature should be very versatile and adaptable, so extensive scalability features are crucial to the software growing with your business.
Embedded BI should be vertically and horizontally scalable. Vertical scalability involves a software system’s ability to grow by adding extra resources like CPU or processing power. Horizontal scalability connects other devices or programs into a single unit.
Dynamic embedded analytics software can automatically scale resources in order to accommodate different amounts of throughput during the workday. This relates to the system’s availability — more simply, the amount of time a system is up and running.
Selecting Embedded Analytics
Some companies are able to maintain a project with the same set of requirements for years. This isn’t the norm, however. Products and solutions evolve quicker and quicker every day, and your embedded analytics module will have to keep up with this evolution.
Here’s an example: according to an IcCube survey, over the past four years, only one icCube customer has continuously run the same version they initially launched with in a 24/7 production environment without installing any updates. A robust integration like this was only made possible because of the great teams, months of testing and a complete list of detailed requirements obtained beforehand.
While some organizations may have a strong IT team that can handle the technical side of implementation, you should still expect to need assistance during the process. You’ll most likely find yourself working closely with your vendor — not only during the integration phase, but for the next few years. Like trekking in the middle of the mountains when bad weather hits, you’ll appreciate being with somebody you can count on. Choosing a high-quality partner is an important factor to ensure you’ll have a smooth journey.
Some ways to identify a good vendor partner are:
One of the best ways to get a feel for how a vendor treats its customers is to read testimonials by previous or current customers. There are many places to find reviews on the internet, and we recommend a third-party site rather than the vendor’s own page.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a surefire way to determine the quality of e vendors — in one survey pool, 95 percent of people who had a bad experience with a company told someone else about their experience, versus 87 percent of those who had good experiences.
Identify User Support Features
Because embedded BI changes so frequently and needs upkeep and updates, a consistent contact line with the vendor is important to resolve issues and get questions answered. Support offerings go all the way from email ticketing only up to 24/7 live chats and phone support.
Organizations with a robust IT department might not feel a need for more extensive customer support lines. There is also a cost benefit to less support — the more they offer, the more it will likely cost the user. But if customers want speedy resolutions to problems and attentive customer service, the user support is often more than worth the cost.
Explore Community Support
It’s often not wise (or even possible!) to rely solely on the vendors for communication and troubleshooting, so another thing to keep an eye out for is a community support platform. These can exist in many forms — for example, Salesforce has a platform of videos, forums and Q&As called Salesforce Knowledge that helps users answer simple problems and build collective experience.
Difficult times happen even to companies that deliver high-quality products, so choose a partner you can make your journey with; a partner that shares your values and is flexible enough to align with your goals.
How to Choose Embedded Analytics Tools
Choosing the right embedded analytics software is a delicate process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
To choose the best solution for your unique organization, you need to identify the features of embedded analytics that you’re likely to use. This will help you make an informed decision based on data — just like you’ll be doing for your business once you implement an embedded analytics system. This interactive requirements template can help you get started.
Once you’ve identified the key requirements for your organization, you can compare solutions based on how well they deliver on those requirements. This embedded BI comparison report rates industry leaders based on their performance in the requirements mentioned above. We recommend choosing five to six solutions that best match your requirements.
These top platforms are your shortlist. Now it’s time to contact vendors, get custom price quotes and try out the products. Most vendors offer free demos or trials that allow users to get a feel for how the system operates. Between the price quote and the test drive, you should have no trouble identifying the best match for your business.
Embedded analytics can bring your business all the benefits of business intelligence with the convenience of staying put in your other software systems. Users can generate a range of report types and perform analysis of their data in order to make informed business decisions.
Do you still have questions? Leave them in the comments!