There is a saying in the software development industry, ‘If you don’t know what to do with a piece of software, offer it as a SaaS.’ Business intelligence isn’t an exception and BI as a Service is growing in prominence over traditional methods of gathering business intelligence. The term ‘business Intelligence’ has been around for a while although it lacked a proper definition. It’s defined as the means of gathering intelligence on your business using technology. In practice, a BI system needs software-based modules – from gathering and analyzing data to running queries and presenting visualizations.
In order to make informed decisions, businesspeople need more than intuition and experience. They need insight and evidence to support the decision and for that they need data, lots of it. In addition, the insights must be accessible, preferably in the same place as the UI. BI dashboards are central to all your interactions with the BI system.
Read on: What Is Business Intelligence And How Can It Help Your Company?
In a nutshell, a BI system can get too complicated to manage and costs can substantially rise as you license more modules and functionalities from the vendor. Moreover, vendors have a short support span and may refuse support after a couple of years unless you upgrade which is another hefty price. Therefore, many organizations are taking their BI concerns to the cloud, and most are shifting towards managed BI, such as those provided by leading cloud vendors using BI as a Service.
BI as a Service
BI as a Service brings all the inherited benefits of Software as a Service including affordability, performance, manageability, accessibility, and upgradeability. That does not mean that there are no native benefits to BI as a Service. The biggest benefit over a BI solution running in the cloud is the coherence of modules. In a BI solution running as a SaaS, you still have to pay for storing, managing, and maintaining the data. In pure marketing terms, a BI as a Service based solution integrates directly into your data pipelines to offer an end-to-end solution. The only thing you need to pay for is the subscription fees as described in your SLA. The BI as a Service will take care of gathering, warehousing, and maintaining the data in addition to analyzing, querying, and presenting the data.
Another major benefit of opting for BI as a Service is the BI dashboard. Since BI as a Service vendors like Microsoft tend to target thousands of businesses with their BI as a Service, the dashboard not only shows a multitude of insights but also boasts unparalleled customization options. Moreover, vendors employ machine learning models to learn what the customer seeks in the dashboard over time and to show precise insights whenever they open the dashboard. This sort of intelligent dashboard is unheard of in conventional BI solutions that are on the market.
Is BI as a Service for you?
The short answer is if your business is gathering intelligence with a hosted BI solution that is more than a couple of years old, it makes more sense to switch than upgrade. If you’re in the midst of a cloud migration, then add your BI solution in the roadmap. Enterprises paying thousands of dollars to storage companies and cloud vendors to store their data will start to see immediate benefits. BI as a Service vendors bill for the cost inclusive of securing, storing, and processing your data. Organizations dealing with sensitive, personal, or healthcare data can also entrust BI as a Service since the service providers encrypt the data at rest and transit and tend to be compliant with HIPAA and GDPR regulations.
How to choose the right BI solution
The market is filled with all sorts of BI as a Service solutions. Therefore, picking one that suits your business needs isn’t exactly an easy task. There are too many factors to consider and most BIaaS vendors compete head-on for the same set of features. Both tech startups and enterprises compete in the space including SAP, IBM, Google, AWS, Salesforce, and Microsoft.
Some of the leading BI as a Service solutions are AWS QuickSight, Salesforce Einstein Analytics (erstwhile Tableau), IBM Cognos Analytics, Zoho Analytics, Google Data Studio, and Microsoft Power BI.
Choosing the right BI solution starts with defining what exactly you’re looking for in a BI solution and what your price range is. It’s natural to choose a BI solution from a vendor that you’re already used to. However, that’s not always the smartest choice.
You must shortlist the BI solutions that fulfil your expectations from a BI as a Service. Then you can run a price to features evaluation. For example, enterprises may need a solution that has out-of-the-box compatibility with all sorts of databases. A startup may require a solution that integrates with 3rd party services for data aggregation such as GitHub and Microsoft Excel. If you’re looking for a BI solution that goes with any organization, startup, SMB, or enterprise, Microsoft Power BI is the perfect choice.
What your BI solution needs to cover
A BI solution acquires data from disparate sources and presents it in a visual format such as charts and graphs on the BI dashboard. The dashboard must be customizable, presentable, and approachable. A data source could be an offline excel file, a remote MS SQL database, a bitbucket repository, customer information on Microsoft Dynamic 365, or employee details on your custom HRMS solution. If a BI as a Service vendor doesn’t offer rich integration with the 3rd party services you rely upon, then you may give it a pass.
In addition to acquiring data from various sources, the BI backend must combine the data into a single database. Most BI as a Service vendors cache the incoming data to form a temporary database to feed the visualization engine and run queries on. Some vendors may force you to feed data in a persistent proprietary database, which can cause privacy and data security issues if you carry sensitive information. In addition, a proprietary database may not take-in typical SQL queries and may have its own manual of queries. This ambiguity will make your database admins and analysts go crazy.
Another important feature a BI solution needs to cover is ‘reporting’. Dashboards are perfect to get a quick idea of what’s going on with your business – which business processes are bringing returns and which ones aren’t. But to gather the ‘why’, you need to download those reports and analyze them. Larger organizations have dedicated teams of analysts whose primary job is to analyze the reports to extract business value and discover fresh avenues of opportunities.
An area where a BI as a Service offering shines is collaboration. Whether it’s giving BI users access to ad hoc report and dashboard authoring tools, allowing them to consume and modify existing assets, applying conditional formatting to columns, or redefining a data model, collaboration is key. Nobody does collaboration better than a managed BI solution on the cloud, and Microsoft Power BI is the leader.
Microsoft Power BI Tool and service
Microsoft Power BI is a collection of business intelligence, reporting, and data visualization products and services for individuals and teams. Power BI features streamlined publishing and distribution capabilities and integration with other Microsoft products and services.
What is Microsoft Power BI?
Microsoft Power BI tool comes in two versions, Power BI Desktop and Power BI Pro. The latter is Microsoft’s BI as a Service offering. Power BI Desktop is a hosted tool, like Microsoft Office, that must be installed on the host’s computer and may connect to Microsoft services over the internet. Power BI Pro has all the features that Power BI Desktop has:
- Link to data
- Transform and model the data
- Produce charts and graphs
- Generate reports and dashboards that are collections of visuals
- Share reports with others using the Power BI service
Being a cloud-based managed BI solution, Power BI Pro excels in its ability to collaborate with other Power BI users and distribute reports and visualizations to other Power BI subscribers across the organization.
Microsoft Power BI is one of the most popular BI tools in the market and the go to BI tool for enterprises. Organizations love Power BI for its unmatched performance, vast integration, sublime interface, and authoritative collaboration. Here are the top features of Power BI:
- Easy to setup – Bring your data from Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce with direct integration.
- Perpetual dissemination – No more emails and Dropbox. Reports and visualizations uploaded to Power BI are auto refreshed.
- Real time information – Dashboard shows real-time insight into your business.
- Unparalleled customization – Personalized customizations according to the audience. A simpler view for end-users, an advanced view for developers, and a detailed view for analysts.
- Cortana – Ask questions as you would to your friends and get answers in the lingo you’re used to.
- Artificial Intelligence – Reads text in an image and can even recognize what the image is about. Create machine learning models and integrate with Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.
Why to choose Rare Crew for BI as a Service
With over 5 years of hands-on experience in BI consulting and data analytics, Rare Crew has a dedicated team of BI professionals that make us the perfect solution provider to take your BI solution to the cloud. As a Microsoft Gold partner, Rare Crew has assisted many international clients to embrace the full potential of Microsoft’s Power BI.
Read on: Business Intelligence Assessment