You lay lazily, your scruffy hair half submerged in the marshmallow-like curvature of your pillow, lethargically following the steadfast progression of a solitary ant along the windowsill.
You’re sprawled across your arm; it’s numb. But the mere thought of moving is too much. After all, it’s Sunday, and you’d need a good reason to disentangle yourself from the bed sheets. Without motivation, it’s pretty easy to just let the day pass by in an unproductive haze.
I think many companies have a similar disposition towards embedded Business Intelligence (BI) – the integration of a reporting and analytics module within an existing software application.
I’m not suggesting that most organizations considering integrating analytics functionality within existing applications and business processes are somehow trapped within a permanent state of Sunday slothfulness. But, I am proposing that unless supplied with appropriate motivation, inaction will triumph over action.
And the best type of motivation? Clearly discernible benefits.
The Aberdeen Group’s Data Management for BI: Fueling the Analytical Engine with High-Octane Information study underscores the growing demand for embedded BI capabilities, reporting that organizations are struggling to effectively utilize increasing data volumes. The report found that, in 2012, the average organization is experiencing a 41 percent year-over-year increase in data volumes, from an average of 15 different data sources.
More importantly, another Aberdeen report – Embedding BI in Enterprise Applications: Magnifying the Analytical Impact – found that organizations using embedded BI enjoyed a number of notable benefits, including:
According to research and analyst giant Gartner, less than 30 percent of the potential users of organizations’ standalone BI tools use the technology. Other firms estimate that BI adoption rates for standalone BI solutions are even lower, languishing between eight and 20 percent.
Comparatively, Aberdeen’s Embedding BI in Enterprise Applications: Magnifying the Analytical Impact report found that 60 percent of those embedded BI users surveyed came from organizations with a “strong analytical culture”, where data-based decision-making is highly valued.
So what are the underlying reasons for such embedded BI benefits?
Respected analyst and researcher, Wayne Eckerson, argued in the TDWI paper Embedded Analytics: Closing the Loop Between Operational and Analytical Applications that “the best way to simplify and operationalize BI is to embed it directly into operational applications and processes that drive the business.”
“Rather than using standalone BI toolsets that require setup and training, business users will leverage embedded BI functionality that is an integral part of a larger application or package,” wrote Eckerson. “Users will no longer shift software contexts when moving from operational processes to analytical ones.”
Eckerson intimated that because users of standalone BI solutions are required to exit operational applications in order to access relevant reports, then subsequently re-enter the operational application to take appropriate action based on the intelligence garnered from the BI tool, their productivity is reduced.
Eckerson said reduced productivity was a result of two key factors:
Eckerson suggested that these obvious impediments to the effectiveness of business analytics would see many organizations and software developers turn to embedded BI.
“In the future, users will gain analytic insight within the context and flow of a single, process-driven application,” wrote Eckerson. “At this point, BI simply slips into the background of a primary application that users use to do their jobs. Users may no longer realize that they’re using distinct BI tools to access and analyze information.”
However, as Eckerson noted, embedded BI is a compliment to, rather than a replacement for, standalone BI software.
“Embedded analytics will not replace standalone BI tools,” wrote Eckerson. “Rather, embedded analytics will make the functionality offered by such toolsets more readily available. By embedding BI functionality within operational applications and processes that drive the business, embedded analytics will make BI more operational, easier to use, and pervasive.”
There are a multitude of potential benefits that can be attained via embedding reporting and analytics functionality into existing operational applications and processes.
Essentially, unless you have substantial time, resources and specialist skills at your disposal, embedding a dedicated third-party BI platform into your core applications is the most realistic way to deliver enterprise quality reporting and analytics capabilities to your users.
For more about why buying an embedded BI module beats building your own, check out our formative blog post: 8 reasons why embedded Business Intelligence beats DIY.
In a recent media announcement, publicizing the launch of a new report entitled Build vs. Buy with BI: Key Strategies for Embedded Analytics, the Aberdeen Group’s Research Director for BI, Michael Lock, said that research supported the notion that integrating third-party BI functionality into existing applications boosted adoption, salability and deliverability.
“Our research demonstrates that companies buying off-the-shelf BI functionality saw a greater adoption rate of their CRM tools than those using homegrown BI,” said Lock. “Having BI as part of the pre-deployed CRM tool increases the attractiveness of the solution, and ultimately boosts its adoption.
“The majority of our survey respondents use a hybrid approach where they tailor a pre-built BI package provided and supported by a BI vendor, to meet their needs. While this approach does create integration challenges – which in itself shows the importance of a pluggable BI architecture, companies who choose a hybrid approach vs. a fully home-grown solution are well positioned not only to deliver an easy-to-use analytical tool to their key decision makers, but do so at a substantially reduced burden of IT expertise and time.”
For that reason, another research report by the Aberdeen Group, dubbed Embedded BI: Boosting Analytical Adoption and Engagement, found that only 17 percent of ISVs that had integrated BI functionality into their core application had built that functionality in-house.
Looking for more advice on business intelligence packages and integrated vs standalone BI solutions? Check out the business intelligence software resource page for a variety of content covering implementation tips, industry trends and software recommendations. You can also compare specific solutions in our Top 10 BI Software report if you’d like to review specific packages.