What to REALLY look for in Business Intelligence case studies

  • Richard Thelwell
  • October 17, 2014

If you’re in the market for a Business Intelligence solution, you’re likely to be looking at a number of Business Intelligence case studies. Most Business Intelligence vendors publish Business Intelligence case studies, because they’re a good way of demonstrating the success that customers have enjoyed with their products. Heck, here at Matillion we also publish Business Intelligence case studies, and for a similar reason.

But as with any software company’s case studies, there’s a darker side to Business Intelligence case studies. Published by the software vendors, and subject to approval and sign-off by the customer in question, there’s a double interest in painting a picture that’s as glossy as possible.

The result? Business Intelligence case studies that—in our view, anyway—miss out or skate over some very important aspects of a Business Intelligence implementation.

Such as? Well, technology complexity, timescale, and risk, for a start.

Business Intelligence case studies: How complex is the technology?

Engage with one of the traditional on-premise Business Intelligence vendors, and the technology stack is a lot more complex than most readers will appreciate. And it’s a complexity that doesn’t always come through in their Business Intelligence case studies.

Take IBM-owned Cognos, for instance. Cognos is actually better described as a brand, not a specific product, with the latest release, Cognos 8, being actually made up of at least eight different tools (Report Studio, Query Studio, Analysis Studio, Metric Studio, Metric Designer, Event Studio, Framework Manager and PowerPlay Studio).

To choose another example, try using the Microsoft ‘as supplied’ technology stack that comes with its Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system, and the story is similar again: six different technologies required, each calling for in depth expertise to deploy and support—SQL Server, SSIS, SSAS, SSRS, SharePoint and Active Directory.

And the story is similar with SAP’s Business Objects/Business Warehouse and also with Oracle’s Hyperion.

Which isn’t to say that a complex technology stack is a bad thing, but simply to point out that it takes time and ongoing effort to support and maintain, and that not every business will want to make that investment.

The alternative? Cloud-based Business Intelligence, where the responsibility for managing any technology complexity lies not with an organisation that finds itself wrestling with it for the first time, but instead with the people who built it, and know it best—the vendor supplying the service.

Pay the monthly subscription, in short, and kiss goodbye to the headaches of technology complexity.

Business Intelligence case studies: What were the real timescales?

As might be imagined, dealing with all this complexity has an impact on implementation timescales—and impact that’s not always readily discernible when reading vendors’ self-published Business Intelligence case studies.

One sign to look for: a vague starting point for a given implementation. Another sign: equal vagueness about the completion date. And yet another tip: if one date is cited—eg, the start date—is the matching completion date cited at all?

Another common failing: mention of start dates and end dates, but no mention of whether the end ‘go live’ date stated was actually the originally-planned date, or one that had been revised—perhaps several times over.

Theoretically, of course, Cloud-based Business Intelligence case studies might be prone to the same gloss.

Except that there’s little point. In the case of our own Matillion solution, for instance, a typical implementation takes from four to eight weeks elapsed, from signed order to users being trained.

And, just to be clear, this would be to deliver comprehensive Business Intelligence solution across a significant function of the business.

Business Intelligence case studies: What about the failures?

When did you last read a vendor’s Business Intelligence case study of an implementation failure? Chances are, you haven’t. And chances are, you probably won’t.

Because why would a Business Intelligence vendor tell you about the customers who spent a lot of money and achieved little of value?
Yet according to analyst firm Gartner, up to 70 80% of traditional Business Intelligence projects involve some degree of failure.

So when perusing Business Intelligence case studies, be aware that there’s an element of self-selection going on: you’re only reading about the success stories.

Now, you could say the same about Cloud-based Business Intelligence in general, and about Matillion Cloud-based Business Intelligence in particular.

To which we’d say this: selling a Cloud-based Business Intelligence ‘software as a service’ solution, our interests are aligned with yours. We both very much need our work for you to be a success. Whereas in contrast, the traditional Business Intelligence vendor defines success as selling software licences.

Moreover, we add this: that we’ve never yet lost a customer who has gone live on our solution.

Enough said?

To view our Matillion success stories visit the Case Studies section on our website.

Or if you’d like to know more about implementing successful business intelligence solutions, download our Free E-Book below.