General statistics place business intelligence (BI) use at 15 to 20 percent of potential decision-makers within the organization. Even so, there is still the sense that the enterprise market is saturated, creating a shift toward the development of midmarket offerings. To meet this need, vendors are developing targeted solutions for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to increase market share and revenue. For SMBs evaluating BI solutions this is a positive step because the market will continue to diversify over time. This, coupled with options such as on demand and niche solutions, enables SMBs more flexibility in their solution choice.
What the Changing Market Means for SMBs
Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Microsoft are examples of vendors trying to provide a full breadth of solutions to organizations. End users with Oracle and IBM shops will be able to benefit from add-ons to their current solutions. But many SMBs do not have these solutions or want to implement a large-scale solution or a subset of a mega vendor offering. In addition, perceived vendor instability while acquisitions occur and the inability to know vendor directions, in the interim may leave some organizations wondering where to turn.
Newer Entrants to the Market
With market consolidations taking center stage, newer entrants to the market are taking advantage of the changing landscape to bring their products to market. Certain trends emerging within the world of BI and one includes the addition of new vendors targeting one or two areas within the realm of BI - such as on demand or operational BI. The purpose of more targeted solutions is to be able to embed BI into an organizations business processes without a high-impact on IT infrastructure. By putting applications in the hands of the business and removing the associated heavy IT costs and input required by IT, the world of BI opens up to the business user and can expand towards deployments that may not have been considered in the past.
The link to the midmarket is this. With the increase in flexibility of BI solutions and the expansion of use to support applications backed and supported by business without the control from IT, SMBs that do not have strong IT infrastructures can take advantage. Many smaller organizations do not have large IT departments. This form of expansion enables SMBs to take advantage of BI and implement solutions that are suited to their unique business requirements. With newer entrants that cater to SMBs based on price and functionality, organizations can now take advantage of BI without exorbitant implementation costs.
The benefits of software as a service (SaaS) for BI for midmarket organizations are expansive and the fact of its popularity is proof that its benefits are compelling. Paid by subscription and hosted by the provider, with in-house upkeep minimal, organizations can deploy BI through a portal, grant wider access to more users and be supported by the service provider. For SMB organizations entering into BI for the first time or for solution expansion across business units, on demand solutions offer organizations a way to see benefits quickly. In addition, organizations that want to take advantage of the expertise of leading BI vendors but that dont have the budget can use a Cognos or Business Objects solution without the high implementation costs.
Open source solutions have started to make in-roads into the BI community. Within the last year, open source vendors that marketed themselves within the open source space (i.e., JasperSoft and Pentaho) have had success educating the general public about their offerings and how open source can benefit them. Because organizations have free access to software and because vendors develop software based on the feedback from their community, organizations have automatic access to community and can develop their own applications with access to the source code giving in-house developers the freedom to design customized solutions.
Solutions for the SMB by larger vendors are making headway into the market, with additional offerings to include more functionality. One example is the Business Objects announcement about its Edge Planning product, with planning and budgeting functionality being made available as an add-on to general BI functionality. Options such as these enable SMB customers to add features and functionality as their environment matures and to only implement tools that meet their unique business requirements.
Implications for SMBs
As the market continues to consolidate and the face of BI continues to change, organizations will have more options when considering BI implementations. Organizations can decide whether to develop and to implement in-house solutions or have them hosted. This, in turn, will help shift the market towards more diversity. Even though consolidations have limited the amount of larger pure-play vendors in the space, other vendors offering lower cost solutions will become more popular and organizations will have more opportunity to pick and choose their ideal solutions, either by using full scale BI or by implementing mix and match solutions.
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