In today’s economy, it’s not an overstatement to say that many companies are fighting for survival. Those that aren’t worried about going out of business are fighting to maintain previous levels of revenue and profitability. It’s fitting, that during this challenging time, employees on the front lines should be outfitted with the business intelligence tools they need to pick — and win — the battles that are most likely to quickly increase a company’s chances for success.  But who are these front line employees? They’re the warriors whose decisions and actions can generate revenue or cut costs on a daily basis. They are toiling in the trenches in sales, customer service, operations, and any other area in which employees directly interact with customers or deliver products or services. Because there are so many of them in such a variety of roles, it’s almost easier to define who they are not. They are not midlevel managers, directors, partners or executives. And they are not the people who determine company strategy or manage the work of others. But they are the people in a position to use detailed, tactical information to make better daily decisions and quickly improve company profitability. 

For a long list of reasons, relatively few individuals — mostly partners and executives — who create company strategy have often been the sole users of BI. At the top of the list is the fact that deployment of traditional BI solutions requires significant amounts of time, money and resources.  And once deployed, maintenance and update costs are considerable.  Lower on the list but still important are low adoption rates caused by traditional solutions that are difficult to use and update.  Although executives have often been the exclusive users of BI, an admirable and widespread belief exists that companies should get more information into the hands of everyone across the organization.  This belief was so popular that someone even coined a term — “BI for the masses” — to describe it.  However, the concept unfortunately preceded the ability to achieve it, and BI for the masses became tinged with the disappointment of an idea trumpeted before its time. Fortunately, in recent years, the barriers preventing the spread of BI outside of the executive suite are breaking.  Recently developed software as a service BI solutions are lower cost, faster to deploy and require fewer resources. Because they can be deployed quickly and with limited resources, SaaS solutions are more flexible than traditional solutions, adapting readily to changing business needs.  Not surprisingly, the considerable difference in cost between SaaS and traditional solutions is beginning to strongly influence BI buying decisions.  Companies purchasing traditional BI software solutions pay large upfront licensing fees, as well as yearly maintenance costs. Companies that select SaaS BI pay a monthly or annual subscription fee that includes the cost of the software, maintenance, and support.  Instead of a large upfront cost, the cost is spread out over the period of use.  This dramatically lowers the barriers to initial purchase and makes ongoing costs clear and manageable. Initial purchase costs are not the only way to save with SaaS solutions, which are frequently easier to use and update.  At one company, an employee was spending 30 hours a week creating sales reports using a traditional BI solution.  Now, with a SaaS BI solution, that time has been cut to two hours, for a 28-hour savings.  It’s staggering to think how much more that employee will accomplish in a year with the equivalent of three days per week of extra work time.  

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