In February, this column asked, "Does on-demand business intelligence make sense?" and answered a tentative yes. The gist of the argument was that the major obstacle to BI success is the amount of skilled labor needed to build the systems, and that on-demand vendors can manage this through strategies including automation, end-user-driven interfaces, advanced database engines and prebuilt solutions to specialized problems. 

True as this may be, it approaches the issue in backward fashion. On-demand BI should not be a solution in search of a problem. The real goal is to identify situations where on-demand BI is a better choice than conventional solutions. In other words, the right question is not whether on-demand BI makes sense, but when. The general answer is that on-demand BI is the right choice when it can meet two conditions. First, it must solve problems that conventional solutions cannot. Second, it must not create new insurmountable problems caused by the on-demand model itself.

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