BI as a Services (BIaaS) – Will Google Move In On This Opportunity?

Most of you by now have probably found it difficult to avoid the hype around Software as a Service (SaaS). For many of us today this is already a reality in our business. You only have to look at the huge uptake of Saleforce.com by small and medium size businesses (SMBs) to realize that there is certainly a place for this in many companies. With respect to the BI market there is no doubt that there is also considerable growth in BI as a Service (BIaaS)and it would appear that many BI vendors are eagerly setting out the stall on the net to jump into this market of hosted BI Services. Given that many BI products are already service enabled and also that many BI vendors have BI portal products there is no doubt that they are technically ready. They are however missing one thing – data, your data. Either they point their tools at you databases and access them over the net or they will need a ready supply of data from any BIaaS subscriber. If you already use SalesForce.com you can bet that all BI vendors entering this market will do so with an ETL adapter for SalesForce to get at your data on your behalf.

Of course SalesForce.com itself is no doubt keen on the BIaaS market and is already active in offering added value in terms of BI to existing clients.

Nevertheless, while simplicity, ‘point your browser and go’ and cool pre-built reports and graphs are the obvious attraction, there are implications when adopting BI as a Service in any business. The most important of these is that companies may need to supply their data to BI SaaS providers for upload to BIaaS sites so that ‘instant BI’ can be made available back to them via hosted web enabled BI tools and pre-built reports. There are also privacy regulations that have to be adhered to in this kind of situation not least the UK Data Protection Act. Companies need assurances on data protection as well as data security and should consider the implications of this in terms of giving BIaaS providers their precius operational data to be managed off-site. This is after all, the crown jewels of any business and there is no doubt that BIaaS providers would jump at the chance to know much more about their clients and would be sitting on a potential old mine with all that data. Reliability of such a service is also paramount so that BI is available when you need it. Companies considering this option should also think about what happens if they need their data back in-house and how easy is it to get it back from a BI SaaS provider. It would be madness to subscribe to such as service and overlook this requirement.

I have wondered about the potential size of the BIaaS market but it was not until I was looking at iGoogle a while back that I realised the real potential of BIaaS. Google have been steadily adding more and more services to their portfolio and are now making these services available over the internet for you to personalise with your own portal via iGoogle. All you have to do is click “Add Stuff” on iGoogle to see the huge number of instant services you can add to your portal. So what am I driving at here? My question is this. How long before Google enters the enterprise SaaS market with a vengence? Both SaleForce itself and a BI vendor could easily be a target to this Internet search giant. If you could get at hosted enterprise services in a SaaS offering just by using iGoogle “Add Stuff” to add it to your portal then how many SMBs would do it? That is a huge question. My guess however is that if it is as easy as Google are making it to add stuff on iGoogle today then the uptake by SMBs could be enormous. All Google have to do is solve the data upload problem and deliver vertical data marts for the industry of your choosing and they would no doubt get the attention of SMBs. So for those watching the BI market for mergers and acquisitions, I would not exclude Google from the mix. We may well see a very big splash if Google decides to move on the BI market to open up its stall as a BIaaS provider to SMBs. An iGoogle for Business offering would certainly do it. Who knows – I’m certainly watching with interest.

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