Business Objects Ups the Ante on On-Demand BI

Whether they're familiar with the term or not, most organizations have a hybrid business model, with some applications residing on the company premises and a handful of processes relying on software-as-a-service (SaaS). The challenge remains in uniting the worlds of on-premises and on-demand, especially when it comes down to data. Business Objects, a division of SAP, with its newest version of Business Intelligence (BI) OnDemand, is trying to remedy that problem.

"This is the first time that I have seen an end-to-end BI platform that is delivered in a mature, SaaS, multitenant environment," says Aberdeen Group research director David Hatch. The announcement includes a focus on content creation and development, making it easy for users to access data within the data warehouse for inclusion in reports. Using keyword searches, users can search and quickly access both on-demand and on-premise data sources. BI OnDemand then allows users to share reports and dashboards, enhancing the visibility for the organization.

Hatch points out that the enhanced features and narrow focus on the on-demand market is representative of a much larger interest in SaaS both for business intelligence and for other software applications. He says that his research from about a year and a half ago showed that only about eight percent of organizations were using BI via a third party -- whether through software-as-a-service (SaaS) or a dedicated hosted provider, or an application service provider. However, his research in April points to a 16 percent usage of on-demand BI. "The interest and adoption has doubled in the space in almost a year," says Hatch. "I expect that when I look at it again, I will see that it's increased even more."

Business Objects, although an SAP company, also announced an accelerator for Salesforce.com CRM. With the tight integration, users can create Business Objects data warehouses for their Salesforce data and also combine it with data from other sources, whether on-premise or on-demand. "It basically simplifies so it's a one button push approach. It's quick configuration," says Holly Simmons, senior director of marketing for Business Objects BI OnDemand. Simmons points out that a significant percentage of BI OnDemand customers are also Salesforce.com users. In addition to appeasing those joint customers with easy configuration, she expects that the tool will be attractive for Salesforce.com customers who might be looking to optimize their CRM solutions with more reporting and visibility.

"Business Objects is looking to automate some of the processes in terms of gathering and integrating data with Salesforce.com and integrating with other enterprise data in order to develop deeper reporting capabilities," Hatch says. "The cautionary note, of course, is how much capability do you need, how much are you going to use, and how much is already delivered ... from Salesforce.com." He adds that before implementing anything, companies should self-asses and consider how suited the organization is for depositing its data into a third-party source in the cloud. He does note, however, that issues of security don't seem to be as prevalent anymore - especially with a trusted company such as Business Objects. Hatch puts the release of BI OnDemand into perspective: "This is another stake in the ground toward what I see as the inevitable future of not just BI but all software applications."

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