BI on Demand Lessons Learned from LucidEra

BI Market, BI Solutions, on Demand BI, SaaS No Comments

If rumors are true, it is sad to see pioneering BI on Demand provider LucidEra shutting down their service, however in attempt to recognize their value to the ongoing development of BI on Demand, let’s look at what we can learn from their demise.

LucidEra has been a strong evangelist for why, who and where BI on demand had a valuable role to play:

  • Why – on-demand can be a faster, lower cost, and more effective option
  • Who – especially small and mid-size, having a solution that can be rapidly deployed on a user by user basis may be the only affordable, and technologically viable choice.
  • Where – LucidEra also understood the significant value BI contributes at the front lines, such as the sales team and support centers.

Like any pioneer, the disadvantages are that the market has insufficient experience to determine what they want, what they need and how they want it delivered. In particular, BI customers want:

  • Fully featured BI – not simplified applications. Many early BI on Demand offerings were constrained by a standardized data model approach and standardized reports. This meant customers had to adapt their business problem to the LucidEra solution, rather than the ideal of the solution fitting their particular business needs.
  • Ability to Integrate Multiple Data Sources – To simplify deployments and deliver quickly, LucidEra started off focusing on Salesforce.com data only. However, many customers wanted to combine salesforce.com data with information from other systems, such as marketing, finance, and operational systems.
  • Power of true BI – a system is powerful enough to answer spontaneous business questions or identify and address unusual trends as they arise
  • Scalability – a system that will grow with them as their needs grow.

Did LucidEra make the mistake of assuming that customers would be willing to sacrifice power and flexibility for speed and low cost? If so, they are not alone, as many onDemand applications could be said to fall into this category.

In spite of the demise of LucidEra, this does not signal the downfall of BI on Demand applications. It merely serves to indicate as a painful way for one vendor to learn what the customer wants or needs before they build a service to meet that need. There are other BI on Demand vendors out there doing just that, having learnt from the experience of early BI pioneers and early BI adopters.

Gartner Sets Record Straight on SaaS BI on Demand

Analyst Reports, on Demand BI, SaaS 1 Comment

One of the main difficulties most businesses face when selecting software is separating the hype from the reality. This also applies to considering web-based on demand business intelligence analytics.

Gartner found that of the five commonly held assumptions – three are entirely false and the other two only partly true.

Businesses often don’t appreciate how quickly software can be improved after the initial launch. With such a competitive market, software development vendors are pressured to get products to market ASAP, and no longer wait for perfection in terms of either feature richness of functional performance. However, with feedback from early adopters, development continues vigorously and the applications can be almost transformed in the first 6-12 months. I think this is actually a really good process, as it helps to validate exactly what users do want, and not waste money developing performance or features that are not appreciated.

Of the five most commonly held assumptions about SaaS BI models:

1. SaaS is less expensive than on-premises software – TRUE

SaaS applications do not require large capital investment by businesses for licenses or support infrastructure. This can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership over the first two years. After this time, client site deployed applications can become more economical in terms of financial reporting [amortisation impact], however this is not necessarily true for an operational IT expense perspective.

2. SaaS is faster to implement than on-premises software – HALF TRUE

Speed of implementation for SaaS is faster for simple applications, however one must deliniate between initial implementation time and the additional time taken to deploy it to all users, which can take 2-3 times longer. As the complexity of processes and integration increase, the gap decreases. This is due to the larger percentage of the deployment time spent on customization, configuration and integration which can be equally difficult for both models.

3. SaaS is priced as a utility model, similar to electric companies – FALSE

Many vendors claim to charge on a usage basis, but in most cases they must commit to an agreed estimated usage independent of actual use.

4. SaaS does not integrate with on-premises applications and/or data sources – FALSE

Companies can integrate web based data using either batch synchronization, real-time integration using Web services or at the user-interface level through mashups.

5. SaaS is only for simple, basic requirements – FALSE

Whilst there are limits to customisation on SaaS models, the feature set of many applications rivals that of on-premise versions. SaaS vendors provide development platforms that enable high levels of configuration and the metadata level. The area of tightest constraint is in end-to-end processes requiring complexworkflow or business process management capabilities.

I hope this gives more confidence to those businesses considering SaaS models. For more on SaaS BI and vendor options available.

SAS to Provide BI to SMB Market

BI Solutions, SaaS, SAS No Comments

SAS have announced their intention to provide SAS Business Intelligence Solutions to the SMB Market through a strategic hosting alliance with Qualex and nGenX. The hosted services will harness the processing power of the latest HP BladeSystem and VMWare technology, focusing on availability, security and the lowest total-cost-of-ownership.

The products will include:

  • SAS Analytics Pro for Midsize Business
  • SAS BI & EBI for Midsize Business
  • SAS Data Integration for Midsize Business
  • SAS Marketing Automation
  • SAS Service Parts Optimization
  • SAS Visual Data Discovery for Midsize Business
  • SAS Analytics Pro for Midsize Business

See more details on SAS BI onDemand for SMB on  The BI Guide

BI Cited ‘Top Technology’ for 2009

Analyst Reports, BI Strategy, Cloud Computing, CRM Solutions, IT Strategy, SaaS No Comments

The latest Gartner 2009 CIO Agenda survey of 1500 CIO’s has revealed some surprising and not so surprising results.

Firstly, the not so surprising is that BI has been voted as the top technology for 2009, after all BI has held this spot since 2006.  What is surprising is that the focus is not on analytics – the survey indicated that the top CIO business expectation was in improving business processes. This surprised me, as many companies have supposedly already been through this era – or maybe is just wasn’t done well enough. The other inference I have made is that BI is now focusing on the operational value it contributes – what we refer to as OBI.

The rankings of exectations and technologies are:

Expectations

  1. Reducing enterprise costs
  2. Improving enterprise workforce effectiveness
  3. Attracting and retaining new customers [#2 in 2008]
  4. Creating new products or services [#3 in 2008], however innovation is forecast to move up the ladder to top spot by 2012.

 IT Strategies

  1. Tighter link between business and IT strategies
  2. Reducing the cost of IT [#10 in 2008]
  3. Delivering projects that enable growth
  4. Attracting, developing and retaining IT personnel

 Technologies

  1. Business intelligence [BI] [ since 2006]
  2. Enterprise applications such as CRM or ERP
  3. Servers and storage technologies.

 The survey results overall are not surprising. As the current market is hardly conducive to growth strategies for most businesses, it is an ideal time to refocus on core business and get better at the basics. BI is known for its ability to improve productivity whilst reducing costs. We can not overlook the past carnage of poorly implemented BI projects and tools that were too difficult for most business users to integrate into their daily operations. However, in the past two years this scenario has changed signficiantly, with tools much more business oriented and the knowledge base of implementation best practice taking learnings from the past and crafting far better BI program practices of today. The other missing link I will personally add is the level of education the business receives, not in using BI but in why they should be using it, and exactly how it improves a business from single user self performance management all the way up to the boardroom strategy.

Virtualisation, cloud computing and software-as-a-service [SaaS] are also acknowledged as cost reducing strategies but many IT managers are still cautious around availability, security, and a full functional fit. Such technologies are gaining favor with mid to small enterprises that may not have the full IT capabilities of larger corporates.

Overall,  although BI is voted the top technology for 2009, the ‘killer app’ is ‘Leadership’. Companies don’t want consultants giving them a set of options – they want strong leadership paths to drive their businesses through the current downturn and still come out having advanced in some way. It may not be with customer growth and revenue growth, but I expect we will see leaner and meaner businesses forging ahead with renewed vigor and tighter focus.

Survey base: N=1500 CIOs worldwide, Duration= 3 months to Dec 15, 2008. Average company size = 400, average IT budget = $90 million.

Ignore It, Accept Defeat or Take Control

BI Solutions, CRM Solutions, SaaS No Comments

I am sure that most of you have been bombarded with blog entries and articles on how to survive the tough times. Although they all offer valuable advice, I have just watched a brief video by Elay Cohen, VP Product Marketing Salesforce.com, which I found extremely inspiring for several reasons. Titled ” Taking Control In an Uncertain Economy”, it resonates the same title message common in many of todays posts and articles, but the content was refreshingly simple. And that simplicity is what made the biggest impression. The opening statements were:

The three choices you have to respond to the current situation:

  1. Ignore It,
  2. Accept Defeat, or
  3. Take Control

And the way to take control is to put the customer back into the center of your business

“Act on every lead, Win every deal, Keep every customer.”

It is easy for businesses to seek complex solutions to simple problems, and whilst the magnitude of the problem today is significant, the best response is quite simple. If your business does not have the tools to give you total transparency to know how well you are performing in each of these three key areas:

Act on Every Lead – Lead generation, Query to Response Cycle time

Win Every Deal – Deal win rate, Sales Cycle Time, Average Sales Value

Keep Every Customer – Customer Satisfaction, Support Tickets, Customer Retention, Churn Rate to Competitors

You need to know exactly what your cusotmers want, deliver it in the way they want it delivered, and do it better than your competitors. CRM and BI tools are NOT just for big businesses, and they are not only affordable by big business. With the Software-as-a-Service model:

  • Simple – Customers do not need any hardware or software installed on premise, meaning implementation times are short and painfree.
  • Affordable – Access to the tools is on a monthly pay-as-you go basis, meaning there are no hefty up-front licence fees.
  • Effective – dashboards and screens are out-of-the-box configured, and easily customised by the business to start giving invaluable information in a very short time.

These tools convert the data you already have and are collecting on an hour by hour basis into usable, actionable information. If you can not see the change in state of your business in real time, you are going to find it very difficult to make the best of the current market environment.

The type of successes experienced by even large, cumbersome businesses are:

Sales Pipleline – 172% increase

Sales Growth – 70% increase

Team Productivity – 20% increase

It’s no longer a matter of not being able to afford CRM/BI tools – it’s a matter of not being able to afford to NOT have them.

I highly recommend you take 15mins to view the Webinar as a reminder as to what the core of your business is all about

For more information on SaleForce.com  solutions