The most dramatic trend affecting small businesses is software as a service (SaaS), with the cloud giving small businesses access to applications previously affordable only by large enterprises with deep pockets and specialized IT staffs.
BI in particular has been among the most expensive, complex, and specialized areas, which only the largest and richest enterprises could afford. Now SaaS is bringing affordable business intelligence (BI) to SMBs.
BI, when performed successfully, can give a company a competitive edge. By analyzing reams of sales and economic data, for example, businesses can see patterns that allow them to adjust and optimize their sales strategies, manage their inventory better, and bring new ideas to market. BI can yield useful results via historic and predictive analyses.
All the major analysts—including IDC, Garnter, and Forrester—see SaaS BI posed for major growth. IDC predicts that the SaaS BI market will experience triple the growth of the market overall, soaring at a compound annual growth rate of 22.4 percent through 2013.
Aberdeen Group, which has been following the BI SaaS market consistently, sees SaaS BI growing fast, with its studies showing the number of BI SaaS deployments across all organizations increasing from 7% in 2008 to 13% in 2010 to about 20% in 2011.
Similarly, a study by AMI-Partners projects that the opportunity for SaaS BI analytics software will increase by 25% through 2015 to reach the $500 million mark.
Steve Bogdon of Dashboard Insight, in his collection of major Business Intelligence Predictions for 2011, showed that SaaS BI is the most significant trend cited by industry players. As Richard Daley of Pentaho remarked, “The barriers to 'BI accessibility' are being shattered with lower cost and faster on-ramp alternatives like cloud BI, mobile BI and commercial open source BI."
Among the new breed of vendors offering SaaS BI solutions are Bime, Birst, BirtOnDemand, GoodData, Indicee, Kognito, MicrosStrategy, PivotLink, RoamBI, and Yellowfin. Established vendors offering SaaS BI include Tibco and SAP, as well as IBM business partner Sky IT Group. Microsoft and SAS Institute also are bringing SaaS BI offerings to market.
Pricing of some SaaS BI services may still be prohibitively high for many small businesses. GoodData, for example, charges $2,000 to $5,000 per month, but argues that this is a significant saving vs. traditional fees ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 per month. Pricing of PivotLink starts around $3,000 per month.
Indeed, a look at SaaS BI provider websites shows that few of them publish their pricing. The lowest published pricing I saw was on Bime’s site, with prices ranging from $60 to $240 per month per analyst.
However, through competition and market demand we can expect general SaaS BI pricing to continue to shrink.
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