Cloud BI - getting real for the enterprise

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan September 20, 2013
Cloud Business Intelligence (BI) adoption is at an early stage but it is taking hold, says Birst CEO Brad Peters.

Cloud Business Intelligence (BI) adoption is at an early stage but it is taking hold, according to a new study of 400 BI professionals.

Among those who have adopted a cloud solution, there's an 80% satisfaction rating compared to their on premise counterparts who report a 51% figure.

Other key findings:

  • 83% of respondents said cloud BI solutions offer faster implementation compared to on-premise software.
  • 69% of cloud BI implementations are completed in less than 3 months compared to 6 for on premise roll outs.
  • 60% said cloud BI solutions are easier to use, and require much less training.
  • 80% stated that on-premise solutions require more administrators.
  • Over half of respondents said more employees access and use cloud BI solution.


The study was commissioned by cloud BI provider Birst whose CEO Brad Peters readily admits that it's still early days at enterprise level:

"It's still an early adopter market. But we are moving from bleeding edge, religious conversations towards really reductive, intelligent conversations abou thow corporations will integrate cloud BI into their strategies.

"I just met with the head of BI for one of the leading consumer goods organisations who had been out in Silicon Valley to check out if this was real. He said he'd concluded it was but didn't know now how to weave it in to his organisation.

"We are seeing large companies who would never have talked to us two or three years ago now trying to make it work. They are still at the 'trying to figure it out' stage but the large enterprises know that it is coming.

"Enterprise companies move a lot slower. They have been conditioned to boil the ocean., spending two year to come up with one strategy PowerPoint slide."


He adds:

"Where we shine is when you need to look across multiple SaaS applications. There's a huge number of customers who are using multiple SaaS applications such as, Marketo and NetSuite. A common one is Marketo through to to NetSuite. So the challenge for user is who you string multiple applications together.

"The ERP application tends to be the anchor application. Sales people think that the sales force application has the real data, marketing has a sliver of data, but if you want to know all the core customer economics you need ERP."

Birst partners closely with cloud ERP provider NetSuite, a relationship that is mutually beneficial, according to Birst:

"ERP and BI go together. It is a fundamental part of an ERP solution. Netsuite is the most mature of the cloud ERP vendors. It seems to be in the position to hit the core data of an enterprise."

NetSuite's two tier ERP go-to-market strategy resonates with Birst:

"SAP customers all have Business Warehouse or Business Objects. We see a lot of SAP BW customers who want to get out of that. We can give them better performance, scalabilty and a more affordable price with Amazon Redshift and Birst. "



Two tier thinking

Just as two tier ERP is working for NetSuite, two tier BI is a useful pitch for Birst. Peters cites the example of a customer that has Oracle installed on premise but now wants to expand and move into an emerging markets where the cost per unit to add to the Oracle solution is way too high. So a cloud BI solution becomes a second tier, working with the existing data warehouse infrastructure.

But there are 'rip and replace' scenarios as well:

"Once you've got a BI system in place, people prefer to leave it there as it took a bunch of work to get it in and the rip and replace costs are higher. But the lifespan of BI is shorter than ERP so the end of life comes around quicker. The next time you build, you use new cloud tools."

While acknowledging that the likes of SAP and Oracle have made more noise around cloud, he doesn't reckon much to their cloud BI thinking:

"At Oracle and SAP the corporate walls are so high. We can't see in, but they can't see out. I used to work at Siebel and it was the same there. It is amazing just how myopic that sort of company is. If you take a risk there then you get shot. The organisational structure in those companies means that they cannot possibly innovate. Their only hope is to acquire and hope they can integrate effectively.

"SAP seems to get it more than Oracle, but over there there is the golden child that gets all the attention - HANA. The theory is that HANA will solve everything. But they do seem to get that cloud is something different. Oracle has an old mind set that does well with forcing Siebel Analytics through the channel. "

But the cloud is unstoppable, argues Birst, a fact that some CIOs need to get their heads around:

"The analogy I use is that the CIO has retreated into the castle. The barbarians are at the gate and the walls have been put up. They're boiling oil and tar and throwing it out. We've been there, we've had that tar thrown at us.

"But there's news for them. Someone has built the cannon and those walls are coming down!"


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