E-Commerce

10 reasons to use embeddable BI solutions

Today's business users expect their software to offer BI features, such as dashboards. See why embedding BI functionality into your products might be smarter than building it from scratch.

The seemingly insatiable demand by business end users for data visualizations and analytics has reached the software and SaaS provider segments in full force. Just as they're calling for IT to deliver data-driven applications, they're also expecting their software vendors to offer this same kind of analytic support inside their products. Dashboards, reports, and interactive visualizations are now market requirements in most software segments.

You already made the decision that BI is worth pursuing. But before you start on a development plan to add this functionality to your own product, you might want to consider the benefits of using an embeddable BI approach.

While creating a BI system in-house offers benefits like full customization and the luxury of not being tied down to any particular vendor, it can be a time and resource drain on businesses that ship the decision to build before analyzing all the potential drawbacks.

The decision to bring BI in-house should be made after careful consideration of the needs and availability of your business. Here are 10 benefits of using an embeddable option that might make it a better choice than bringing operations in house.

1: Add value quickly

Customers aren't always patient when it comes to the delivery of functionality they consider a basic required feature. And so it is with data visualization. Basic dashboards and reports are giving way to more advanced, interactive analytics, and if you're not delivering them, your competitors might already be. There are a number of ways you can utilize BI, which means countless options for meeting your customers' expectations.

2: Reduce costs

The desire to develop from scratch and/or embed off-the-shelf display components is often the first reaction of a product team on a budget. But there are a number of hidden costs -- some which aren't obvious until it's too late.

The first is maintenance costs. With anything you've built yourself, you've inherited the obligation for engineering support along with the corresponding hit to your development resources. However, third-party vendors have a strong incentive to keep their products up to date, and they devote a significant portion of their R&D to doing just that.

Second, there are the costs of adapting your implementation as user requirements change. From your market as a whole to individual customers who demand custom implementations, it's important to remember that you're always trying to hit a moving target. To ease this challenge, many third-party solutions are designed to allow for easier adaptation, so you can meet today's needs, as well as those that come in six to nine months.

3: Reduce your time to market

Let's face it: Launch deadlines often drive development decisions. Hitting these deadlines can be essential to capturing and maintaining a competitive advantage. Embedding third-party BI technology can dramatically reduce time to market as compared to building from scratch, helping you immediately add value to your products without delaying your launch.

4: Stay focused on your core competency

Your team is good at what they do, and they have to stay focused on the primary needs of your market to remain competitive. Asking them to also become experts in the design and delivery of BI and interactive data visualizations can be a detrimental, and often futile, distraction. BI vendors, on the other hand, do only BI. Just as your company has its realm of knowledge, BI vendors have developed expertise resulting from their single-minded focus. Embedding allows you to leverage this expertise without investing the time to learn the intricacies of a new market space and related technology.

5: Be more agile

Most likely your team already knows how your customers want to see and use data visualizations. Consequently, your needs may focus today on only providing a few specific types of dashboards and reports. But remember, BI is evolving rapidly, and these requirements will undoubtedly change -- maybe sooner than you think. Some third-party solutions possess architectures that make these kinds of adaptations far easier, allowing your team to stay agile and deliver changes to your customers faster.

6: Retain and extend your brand

This may seem counterintuitive, because most people assume third-party components often deliver data visualizations that look the same. However, this isn't true of all third-party options; some actually make it easier to customize the look and feel of your implementation -- to create a "white label" product -- making them not only seamless, but well-differentiated from your competitors. This is particularly true of Web-based solutions, as they leverage all the display editing options that HTML offers.

7: Ensure a positive and seamless end-user experience

It's not just a question of how your product looks, but also of how it behaves. If you build your BI from scratch, without in-house expertise on data analytics and related user interactivity, your implemetation might seem odd or confusing compared to the other analytics your customers use. For example, if clicking a feature in your application forces them to use an unfamiliar interface or action, the result can be an inconsistent and confusing experience. Many of the more complete BI solutions already have these types of best practices for data visualization built into them, so it's harder to go wrong.

8: Increase customer adoption and long-term value

When users have a high quality experience, they use your product more. Embedding a third-party BI solution -- because it helps to ensure that this part of your application is well-designed -- can drive adoption of your product within your customer accounts. This, in turn, is good for both retention rates and follow-on sales.

9: Safely give control to your customer

Some third-party BI solutions allow for customized (ad hoc) views of data and access to functionality by each end user, something that's often much harder to achieve when building from scratch. In addition, some vendors also offer automated role-based views and permissions that can be centrally controlled, giving both end-user flexibility and data security. By delivering this kind of controlled power, you can make your customers happy without having to spend development hours trying to satisfy their requests for special views, reports, charts, etc.

10: Keep your options open

Integration is often the number one concern among IT professionals when it comes to BI. However, when embedding some third-party BI solutions, the integration is typically less involved than when building the functionality directly into the fabric of your application. Many vendors' products are in fact designed, to varying degrees, with this ease of development in mind. An added bonus to this approach is that it is ultimately easier for you to switch from one solution to another should the BI landscape, and the capabilities of the vendors in it, change.

Your take

Can you think of additional reasons why embedding a third-party BI app is better than building from scratch -- or why building from scratch is the better option? Share your thoughts with other TechRepublic members.

About the author

Ken Chow is the CMO at LogiXML, a Web-based BI company that helps companies deliver business analytics, dashboards, and reports to a broad range of users, as well as embed them into existing applications. Ken has more than 25 years of technology marketing experience.

4 comments
annetteg
annetteg

Agreed with the comments on the lack of a definition. I consider it similar to beauty - "the eye of the beholder." What do you want to know about your current data and what does it tell you about the path your business or customers are headed down? Regardless of graphs, bubbles, tables, and charts, can you get the answer you need from what you see. I prefer tables, a colleague prefers graphs and the attention of all of us is captured with moving bubble charts. But when someone in the back of the room has a "hey what if.." question, we likely need to drill down to answer. That's where the business of intelligence comes in. Those creating reports need to know how to get to the answer and not exclude one section of data in doing so. Having the flexible tool that allows your customers to do this brings new light to the ability of your software. As a company with embeddable reporting and business intelligence components, we've done the hard work in this niche so that you can focus on your products. Windward also believes that embedding can save your a lot of time and hassle. We' got a white paper and case studies to prove it: http://go.windward.net/whitepaper1.html. Best of luck to Wikipedia on the definition of BI! Annette with Windward

paulshotan@hotmail.com
paulshotan@hotmail.com

I agree, I've just read through the whole article and yet I still have no clue what it's actually about!! I'm trying to learn as I'm sure many other readers are too so PLEASE take into account people on that level otherwise you're preaching to a limited readership. BI? What is it?

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

For us ignorant readers, kindly define "BI" for us. Recent "10 Reasons to..." lists are getting very heavy on undefined jargon and acronyms. Don't readers deserve the courtesy of, at least once, giving the full name? Thank you.

DittoHeadStL
DittoHeadStL

Whenever I read something that I don't understand, I do a quick Google search or even look it up in Wikipedia, as questionable as that source may be. Wikipedia gives about 34 meanings of "BI", so it may not be the quickest way to the answer, but the answer is Business Intelligence. BI, along with BPM (Business Process Management) and CEP (Complex Event Processing) are a new area of IT involving rapid processing of large amounts of data to arrive at important decisions quickly. For example, a credit card company might use BI technology to raise a red flag when it finds that in a span of 10 seconds, the same credit card was used in Nashville, TN and Kiev, Russia. The software sifts through thousands of transactions per second, andnayzing each one to connect dots with other events. These applications often include "dashboard" tools -- displays that give the user a high-level picture of what's going on. These might be speedometer-like displays, moving bar charts, or whatever the customer prefers. By the way, I agree with you. Every acronym that has the slightest risk of not being known to the reader should be explained on its first use.

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