We’ve seen it happen many times. A customer is sitting through a polished demo of some commercial-of-the-shelf product from one of the big Business Intelligence vendors. Screen after screen of dashboards and reports with perfect data flash by. The customer’s first thought is that this is the tool that will improve all business decisions. The salesperson’s goal is to close the sale. In most cases, these customers are walking into a world of hurt.
I’m not saying that big BI vendors are evil, they just have their place. Steven and I have sold and installed commercial-off-the-shelf software to many companies and these BI tools are used every day by our clients. We’ve found that these BI stacks often work well in larger companies with big IT budgets and resources but implementing enterprise BI can be hard for most small to midsize companies. In many cases, it’s like trying to “crack a peanut with a sledgehammer”.
Let’s take a look at the BI pains experienced by different users in an organization.
Business Intelligence Pains for C-Level Executives
- High Costs – Current BI vendors make money selling software which is feature rich and over-engineered. These big enterprise business intelligence vendors make their money selling you solutions with features you don’t need. Furthermore, licensing fees are often complex and have annual maintenance costs as well.
- Esoteric Skill Sets – Content development requires specialized skills and these skilled-up developers often move to greener pastures. The market for talent in any given enterprise BI product is limited to the people who have had access to them which creates an artificial scarcity that drives up prices. In addition, market value increases as your people get “skilled up”. This can lead to increased turnover and high replacement costs.
- Shelfware & Adoption of technology – Most BI vendors have many embedded tools. These features and options show well during the sales cycle but are often not used after implementation. In order to satisfy a broad set of the buyer’s checklist, many business intelligence vendors focus on feature abundance over feature excellence. After implementation, most solutions use only 20% of a product’s tools, in spite of paying for 100% of a product.
Business Intelligence Pains for Users
- Inconsistent information – A common mistake is that users rely on the front end BI tools to define the business rules instead of a common information database.
- Multiple Versions of the Truth – In spite of the “Single Version of the Truth” benefit of business intelligence solutions, the reality is that it is difficult to achieve. Part of the problem lies with the fact that there is a lot of leeway in how a solution is implemented. Improperly implemented solutions scatter multiple versions of the same business logic across multiple layers of the solution. This eliminates the possibility of achieving that “Single Version of the Truth”.
- Learn new complex tools – Users just want the information they need in the tools they already use but users are often forced to navigate & learn complex software. Enterprise software is known for being user-unfriendly. Part of the problem is that the designers and developers rarely use the software themselves. Forcing users to navigate and learn complex software costs your company money. Having to learn new technology can also increase the stress level of your team members.
- Forced to use standard tools – Different users have different information needs. Out of the box query, reporting, analytics, and dashboard tools restrict the user’s delivery options.
- Limited Functionality – Different users have different information needs. Out of the box functionality of enterprise business intelligence tools can make or break your company’s implementation.Users are often beholden to the release schedules and feature prioritization of their enterprise software vendors when looking for new features.
Business Intelligence Pains for Developers
- Specialized knowledge required – IT managers and developers don’t want one more complex tool to manage.
- One More Tool – Most IT departments are already busy and adding one more tool to the mix simply adds more complexity and work. Enterprise solutions build on the same underlying principles of moving data and querying databases. They have their own way of doing things and ultimately that leads to increased training, development and maintenance costs.
- Constraints on development – Customizing packaged software can be like “stuffing a square block in a round hole”. Developers can’t customize solutions when the proprietary software is “locked down”.
- Software administration is hard – BI vendors make money with version support changes and licensing. Upgrading and migrating content between versions can be difficult and time-consuming.
Relief for C-Level Executives
- Reduced Costs – Knodeo software costs are $0. Knodeo base components build on open source software and have no software costs.
- Commodity skill sets – Many of the technologies used already exist within most companies. Using common technology makes it easier for the business to find the needed skill sets.
- Adapts to your business – Many of today’s technologies used are open and extensible. Businesses change daily and Knodeo’s tools adapt to your business without the constraints of proprietary software.
Relief for Users
- Trusted Information – A common information backbone contains all the business definitions. The centralized analytics database defines the business definitions instead of the individual BI tools.
- Use established familiar tools – Users are already familiar with tools like MS Excel for reporting or MS Access for queries. Knodeo can integrate with any existing BI tool.
- Customized reporting – Create customized reports, analytics, and dashboards in the open Knodeo Launchpad. Develop apps to help with your business processes.
Relief for Developers
- Unlimited toolsets to support business needs – Developers have options to select the toolsets that fit best for the required business case.
- Open Extensible architecture – Open architecture gives developers the freedom to implement solutions based on the user requirements and not the constraints of proprietary software.
- Automated systems – Tasks like installations, upgrades, data loads and report delivery execute using the open Knodeo automation tools.