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Embedded BI: It's Not What It Looks Like

By SiliconIndia   |   Thursday, 24 May 2012, 06:43 Hrs
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Bangalore: Case studies, white papers, research reports, or press releases promoting embedded Business Intelligence or analytics are very common, but they do not place sufficient emphasis on the two traps of embedded BI.

Before looking at the traps, let us take a look at what embedded BI is. Embedded BI involves building BI software into existing software or applications. Initially finance departments would ask IT to add financial modeling tools to their existing general ledger applications within their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) suites.

Using embedded BI could be beneficial as it is not too different from the regular software and applications of the user. It adds certain capabilities to software that the user is familiar with. Now, the first chief trap is thinking that there will be a significant Return on Investment (RoI). Although Embedded BI is boosting analytical adoption, quantifying the RoI is a huge challenge.

Trap number two: the expenses. The costs incurred in expanding embedded BI access to a broad range of employees who depend on embedded BI to do their jobs, is more than the additional software licensing fees.

Large scale infrastructure upgrading would be necessary. And the embedded apps would have to be user friendly, which typically means a lot of IT energy is spent recoding and repackaging the interfaces and hiding the complexity of some analytics algorithms. There is a lot more to it than making a few spreadsheets and eye catching dash boards.

The majority of BI in place today is used by analysts, managers and others in a query and response mode, noted Nigel Rayner, a Research VP at Gartner. A modest amount of BI and analytics has been embedded at the point of decision, like when a contact center agent is prompted to upsell a customer based on past actions. The next stage, he said, is embedding BI into existing processes – your apps, your suppliers' and customers' apps are all informed by analytics about optimizing their processes.

"Today, 80 percent of embedded BI and analytics use is for inquiries, while 15 percent is for the point of decision and only 5 percent are embedded into processes. In five to 10 years, 60 percent will be in inquiry-based, 30 percent in point of decision and maybe 10 percent in processes", Rayner stated.

If you buy into the argument that embedded operational BI can make your enterprise more efficient, you will quickly discover that there are no major vendors who sell embedded BI. Many vendors will try to convince you that their integrated BI solution is embedded, but this is not true. It will have dependency on other processes and have its own look and feel.

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