4 Questions to Ask Before You Define Your Cloud BI Strategy

These days, when it comes to enterprise software, it seems that it is all about the cloud. Some software applications such as Salesforce, Marketo, and Workday, have made quite a name for themselves in this space. Can Business Intelligence follow the same path to success? Does it make sense to house your BI in the cloud? I believe that it depends. Let’s explore why.

There are four criteria that impact the decision for a cloud vs. on-premise BI strategy.  Let’s take a look at how they affect your approach.

Question 1: Where is the data located?

Your BI Strategy should vary depending on the location of data.  If your data is distributed, some data may already be in the cloud, e.g. web data / clickstreams; and some on-premise, such as corporate data. For real-time or near real-time analytics, you need to deploy your BI as close to the source as possible. For example, when analyzing supply chain data out of an on-premise SAP system, where your database, application and infrastructure are all sitting on-premise, it is expensive and frankly impractical to move the data to the cloud before you start analyzing it.

Your data can also be geographically distributed. Unless your cloud infrastructure is co-located with your data geo zones, your BI experience can suffer from data latency and long refresh intervals.

Question 2: What are the security levels of data?

It’s important to acknowledge that data security levels are different in the cloud. You may not be able to put all your analytics outside of the company firewall. According to Cisco’s 2012 Global Cloud Networking survey, 72% of respondents cited data protection security as the top obstacle to a successful implementation of cloud services.

Question 3: What are the choice preferences of your users?

Customer preference is extremely important today. The balance of power has shifted, and users and customers are now the ones who decide whether an on-premise or a cloud deployment is suitable for them. What’s more, each customer’s maturity model is different. As an application provider or business process automation provider, you need to cater to your individual customers’ business needs.

Question 4: What operational SLAs does your Cloud BI vendor oblige you to?

Your operational SLAs can depend on cloud infrastructure providers, obliging you to service quality levels different from what you need. Pure cloud BI vendors provide their BI software over the public Internet through a utility pricing and delivery scheme. As much as this model provides an attractive alternative when resources are limited, it’s not for everyone. In most cases, the SaaS BI vendor depends on IaaS vendors (such as Amazon, Savvis, OpSource, etc.) for storage, hardware, and networks. As a result, the SaaS BI vendors’ operational processes have to align with the infrastructure vendors’ for housing, running, and backup/recovery of the BI software. Depending on your BI strategy, these nested and complex SLAs may or may not be the right choice.

Large enterprises, or even mid-market companies inspired by growth, typically develop an IT strategy that is provider-agnostic and has the flexibility to be hosted on-premise or in the in the cloud.   This strategy helps companies avoid lock-in and inflexibility down the road.

As cloud technology remains one of the hottest trends in IT today, it is important to assess whether cloud is the right choice for BI. The reality is that it depends. The center of gravity for BI is still on premise; however, it will move to the cloud over time mostly through the embedded BI capabilities of enterprise SaaS applications. Successful organizations will be the ones that can navigate the boundary between the two strategies and provide greater flexibility and choice by offering a product that can be deployed on-premise, in the cloud, or a hybrid of both.

What is your Business Intelligence Cloud strategy?

— Farnaz Erfan, Product Marketing, Pentaho

This blog was originally posted on Smart Data Collective.

The Diary of a Construction Manger in Love with His BI Tool

Hi, my name is Bob and I am a construction manager. I oversee all aspects of managing the operations of a construction project, including budgets, staffing, and the compliance of the entire construction project.

In 10+ years of my experience, I have never had a Business Intelligence (BI) tool. I had to create spreadsheets to track daily activities, calculate risks and build formulas to measure impact. Given the size of the projects I worked on, this was extremely complex.  As a result, I would spend a lot of my time putting out fires to problems that I knew could have been prevented if I had the right information.

Recently my company introduced BI to our team. Since I’m using BI for the first time, I decided to create an activity log similar to a diary of my project.

Let me share some highlights with you:

October 28, 2011

We are 4 weeks into the project. We have the crew working on the ground. The foundation is done. The structural engineer has finished his design. We are ready to roll.

January 11, 2012

This morning I received an alert about my Preventative vs. Corrective Maintenance. My monthly work mix by type looks like this: preventative 36%; repair 24%; rebuild 5%; and modify 35%. My preventative costs have gone down from an optimal 40% to 36% and my repair costs have increased correspondingly.

When I drilled down into the repairs, I see that we are responding to higher than normal number of heating and insulation work items. I am going to talk to Edward – my HVAC contractor – about it.

February 29, 2012

I have been monitoring our electrical work. Our average Cost per SQ Foot is 13% less than industry average. This is a breakthrough thanks to the changes I have made monitoring the project with BI and making data-driven decisions. It lets me monitor these costs on an ongoing basis, so I can take preventative actions to stay below industry average to protect our funding and even justify additional headcount.

March 16, 2012

Productivity Rate is one of my favorite indicators – because it truly provides me with real-time info about the performance of my team. On average, our productivity rate stays on optimal levels. However, the plumbing trade group’s actual cost is exceeding the estimated costs. This will affect my cost-to-complete and margins, as I have to pay overtime for this contractor.

But I don’t have to worry… my BI tool lets me drill into this indicator to see whether the reason is ‘labor’ or ‘supply’ related. Drill-thru was something a spreadsheet could never let me do.

March 30, 2012

Two weeks have passed since I shifted resources for plumbing. Our productivity rates have improved since then and the project is looking on time and on budget.

With 40 more days to go, I want to make sure we deliver on time and meet our SLA with the building owners. I see no bottlenecks. Cycle Times – the average time to complete an activity – shows me that we are actually 4 days ahead of the schedule.

May 21, 2012

I’m very happy to report that we are done with the construction. The ROI on this project was greater than we expected and my client is very happy. Next weekend is the Memorial Day weekend. I have the time and money I need to take a nice vacation with my wife and son.

-As told by Bob, a fictional construction manager.

Even though the story is fictional, it’s based on reality. Business users and project managers – such as facility managers, supply chain logistic specialists, even dairy farmers – use Pentaho business intelligence to make their jobs easier and to make smarter, data driven decisions – just like our fictional friend, Bob.

Who knew BI could be so handy for construction managers?

What is your secret BI story? Drop me a line.

– Farnaz Erfan, Product Marketing, Pentaho

This blog was originally posted Smart Data Collective.