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Is SaaS BI in your 'best interest'?

In writing for the Web, as in movies, sometimes there are choice bits that don’t make the final cut. (That’s why DVDs include extras, and blogs are, well, blogs.) Here is some food for thought from Gartner analyst James Richardson that didn’t make it into a recent story about the growing interest in Software as a Service (SaaS) business intelligence (BI) tools.

When asked if SaaS BI is now mature enough for the enterprise, Richardson said it was. Adoption, while still “patchy,” is definitely under way. He pointed to data from a Gartner survey of approximately 1,300 IT executives: About 30% said they used or planned to use some form of cloud-based BI or analytics tools in the next 12 months. And while much of the action on the SaaS BI scene looks to be coming from pure-play startups, the growing acceptance of cloud computing architectures in IT has nudged established BI vendors like Microsoft, SAP and IBM to offer this model, he said. IT leaders want options, and they’re not necessarily looking for all-or-nothing propositions. To that end, SaaS offerings are not yet replacing on-premises BI entirely. 

“In the main, they’re being used to augment what’s already there, often for urgent tactical needs where this delivery model offers value,” Richardson said.

In fact, of those companies already using SaaS BI solutions, 37% said “implementation cost and effort” was a key reason for their adoption. Cloud-based BI tools do offer faster, typically lower-cost and easier-to-deploy alternatives. But these solutions are not without their areas of concern that need to be scrutinized — security and privacy topping the list.

“Especially in an age of compliance, security and privacy must be considered carefully when evaluating whether to store data off-premises,” Richardson said. “Business purchases of SaaS BI and analytics systems can disrupt long-term data management, governance and stewardship processes recently put in place.”

Another risk to watch for? The unintended creation of off-premises BI silos.

“If data is now spread across multiple SaaS analytic applications, there’s a danger of firms heading back to the days when analysis was done in silos with limited connection across the enterprise,” Richardson said. “Firms must consider how, when and what data to bring back on-premises to ensure SaaS BI systems and the insights they contain are reused fully.”

Are you part of the wave looking at the cloud as a home for some of your BI tools? Maybe you’re already there. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on whether this is a trend that’s here to stay.

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