Selling BI: what most people fail to see

  • Richard Thelwell
  • May 24, 2016

selling-bi-fail-to-seeAnother week, another article bemoaning the difficulties of getting business buy-in to Business Intelligence projects.

“In many organizations, IT and BI managers are still struggling to sell corporate executives and other end users on the benefits of business intelligence tools,” writes Craig Stedman, executive editor at TechTarget’s SearchBusinessAnalytics on-line publication.

Well, yes—we’re not surprised. Because generally, those ‘benefits’ are all too often intangible, remote, far out in the future, and difficult for corporate executives and end-users to see practical applications for, and to visualise a route to effective monetisation.

Or put another way, when what businesses want are solid insights and answers that add value, they’re all too often being sold vague promises about possibilities.

So it’s no wonder, in business after business, that spreadsheets continue to rule the roost.

Think differently

What, then, is the way out of this impasse—an impasse that has prompted even analyst firm Gartner to complain about “lacklustre BI adoption”?

We think that one answer is to think about BI in a totally different way.

Forget grandiose BI projects with vaulted ambitions, lengthy implementations, and eye-watering budgets.

And instead, take a tip from—yes!—the humble spreadsheet.

Immediacy is a virtue

Now, we’re not advocating adopting spreadsheets instead of Business Intelligence applications. Spreadsheets—with their propensity for errors, multiple versions of the truth, and clunky formulae—are certainly not the way to go.

But for all spreadsheets’ faults, they do have one critical advantage over traditional BI: immediacy.

Spreadsheet-based reporting may be quick to implement, but is often prone to manual error
Spreadsheet-based reporting may be quick to implement, but is often prone to manual error

Simply put, businesses already possess licenses for spreadsheet software, and already have on their books plenty of people skilled in working with them, and capable of integrating them with enterprise data, even though that integration might be no more sophisticated than a CSV file.

Which means that the internal barriers to a spreadsheet-based analytics project are minimal. Put another way, spreadsheets are a costless option, requiring only time as a resource.

Instant answers

So it’s no wonder, then, that when it’s not clear what the value of a piece of analytics work might be, spreadsheets remain the go-to tool of choice for many businesses.

Immediate? Tick. Low-cost? Tick. Low-risk? Tick. Self-serve? Tick. And so on.

So are BI applications forever doomed to play second fiddle to spreadsheets, when faced with such hurdles?

In the case of traditional BI applications, with their lengthy implementations and expensive price-tags, that may be so.

But in the case of cloud-based BI, definitely not. Especially when considering BI projects involving large-scale datasets, and even more so when those datasets are drawn from multiple sources.

Lowering the hurdle

That’s because the Cloud re-writes the rulebook of BI applications, giving those applications an immediacy and cost profile that’s akin to spreadsheet-based projects.

Cost? Pennies per hour. Project timescale? Depending on size and complexity, days or weeks—not months or years. Capital commitment? Effectively zero. Self-serve? Yep. And so on, and so on.

Cloud BI is lowering the hurdle, making it easier for companies of all sizes to exploit the benefits of effective Business Intelligence

Meaning that the ROI hurdles entailed in a BI project are very much lower. There’s no need to convince layers of management to take a chance on the benefits of analytics in order to justify the investment—the investment hurdle is effectively the same as a spreadsheet-based project.

No barriers

Gradually, the message is getting across. Amazon AWS’s Redshift, EC2, and S3 cloud offerings mean that it has never been easier to build high-performance databases on a scalable ‘pay as you go’ cloud platform.

Better still, the combination of AWS Redshift, EC2, and S3 creates an analytics platform that is ideal for speculative and exploratory Big Data analytics—the very kind of project that struggles to pass the investment hurdles imposed on traditional Business Intelligence projects.

And now, there’s no need to. What’s holding you back?

To find out more about the range of Business Intelligence solutions on offer, and how to choose the right one for you, download our free eBook below.