Companies today have a real need for business intelligence — businesses are trying to harness the right data sets, and analyze them in the right ways, to make good decisions about products, services, customers, suppliers and much more.
This requires a sophisticated approach to IT architecture and the ability to define what kinds of resources are going to do the most for a business, or provide better returns on investment, while also offering ease of use and scalability. IBM’s Analytics reports a 72% use rate for SaaS among business respondents.
One big decision that companies have is whether to pursue this business intelligence in-house, or utilize new cloud or Software-as-a-Service business intelligence tools. New vendors are coming up with advanced cloud-delivered business intelligence software services that can take the place of applications developed and maintained in-house on internal servers. But those shopping around for business intelligence software products should know that there are some benefits and disadvantages to SaaS BI adoption. Here are some of the pros and cons of using software as a service delivery methods for business intelligence tools.
Flexibility and scalability — one of the biggest advantages of SaaS BI tools is that companies no longer have to do the hard work of purchasing, installing and maintaining software products in-house. Enterprises that use SaaS BI can skip all kinds of gatekeeping hurdles, such as installation processes, and just enjoy on-demand delivery of the services that they need.
Pricing — companies that are customers of SaaS BI vendors can also enjoy different kinds of payment models. Subscription pricing allows companies to just use what they need, again, with on-demand delivery, and get rid of it when it’s no longer necessary. That’s not true with in-house structures where companies have invested in a certain amount of data handling for the long haul. Learn more at ComputerWeekly.
Less responsibility — companies using some of these business intelligence tools that are available through the cloud can keep fewer staff on hand and avoid purchasing additional servers and hardware. It’s not hard to see how getting a vendor-delivered system can provide better efficiency and less cost when it comes to scaling up to handle various amounts of data.
Attracting top talent — there’s also a case to be made that using the most modern SaaS BI tools can also help a company to develop a good reputation within an industry. In today’s hiring climate, with slightly lower unemployment and a dearth of highly educated IT professionals, companies are playing hardball when it comes to hiring and recruiting. One way to attract the best people is to advertise to them that they’ll be working with the best tools — not wasting their abilities trying to tend to garden-variety server systems.
There are some potential downsides to SaaS BI as well. Here are some of the points that shoppers should think about when considering these types of solutions.
Security and regulations — one of the obvious disadvantages with any type of SaaS BI tool is that it requires putting sensitive data in the hands of a third party. In heavily regulated fields like medicine and finance, this is often a violation of a central industry commitment to keep data 100% safe and secure. However, to the extent that the vendor can provide security guarantees, SaaS BI may be considered just as safe, or nearly as safe, as going with an in-house system.
Hidden costs – there’s also the phenomenon of hidden vendor costs. Pricing may not be as transparent with some cloud services as it should be, and it’s possible for companies to find themselves overspending as a result. By contrast, companies can always know how much it’s going to cost them to build in-house systems. It’s important to have an in-depth discussion with vendors to avoid pricing miscommunications and other kinds of similar problems.
Lack of customization – another potential problem with SaaS BI is the inability to customize it to a particular company’s needs. While many of these services are pretty flexible, there’s obviously a benefit to developing an in-house system that’s proprietary. You build it from the ground up, from scratch, and thus, you can make sure it is completely tailored to the needs of the business. Companies can also get some bragging rights by developing their own systems in-house. But again, the balance is the cost in terms of time, money and resources.
A harder time with integration- some who are critical of using SaaS BI tools also contend that it might become a bit harder to integrate other types of software into an architecture that’s using vendor tools. Today there is a lot of talk about the ‘API ecosystem’ or the use of application program interfaces to patch together parts of a Frankenstein architecture in order to achieve diverse functionality without having data silos or bottlenecks. While integration can be easier on an in-house platform, again, it depends on the particular vendor services and the agreements that are in place.
Most of the downsides of using SaaS BI tools are actually points to consider when shopping for these types of vendor services. Using any easy selection platform can help shoppers to understand how various SaaS BI tools contrast, and how vendors compete for their business. Take a look at all of these systems side by side, and choose what’s best for your enterprise.