The Query: Insights on Breakthrough Government Performance

It Just Works

What Can the Business Intelligence Market Learn From Apple?



As has been well documented, Apple’s monstrously successful approach to design and engineering has delivered a stream of smash hits to consumers.  By transcending technology and focusing exclusively on delivering a great customer experience with its devices, Apple took on the burden and responsibility of assembling integrated systems: Tightly coupled hardware (iPhone, IPad, MacBook) and software (iOS, iTunes, OS X) are designed to function as one, leaving the users to use their devices without having to worry about how to make them work.  One of Apple’s many slogans says it all: “It just Works.”

Apple’s method of streamlining resources to allow greater focus on the end user could and should carry over into Business Intelligence (BI).  In the end, what consumers of information truly care about is getting fast, reliable, affordable reports when and how they want them so they can make more informed and more timely business decisions.  

What if decision-makers could simply purchase the reports they need and not have to invest time and resources to acquire, implement, and manage the complex “plume” of software, hardware, and processes that goes on in the background?

The Challenge: An Over-Emphasis on Technology and Processes

Current BI systems development tends to emphasize the hardware-software logistics stack in addition to client report development.  This focus manifests in both the initial and long-term phases of system development.  For example:

  • On the front end of a project, the acquisition time required for BI physical resources and software leads to a decrease in the time to value for clients.  
  • Down the stretch, the focus shifts towards maintaining the system’s ability to satisfy client demands while managing  increasingly large volumes of incoming data and requested reports.  
  • The typical BI life-cycle includes scaling hardware and updating software—these “utility” functions tend to take a disproportionately high level of resources and time relative to their value in terms of delivering on BI’s mission of enabling more informed and more timely business decisions.

The Good News: The Cloud Will Help Unlock the Business Value of BI

The proliferation of cloud computing platforms offers the potential for a dramatic shift in development, delivery and purchase strategies for BI initiatives.

Cloud computing has the ability to host the data warehouses, ETL (extract, transform, load) engines, and reporting and analytics software that make up the traditional BI stack; however cloud-hosted systems outpace the conventional systems in several important ways:

  • Hardware and software can integrate in the cloud, so that they work together as one—like Apple’s products.
  • Cloud offerings can deploy more rapidly, decreasing BI’s time-to-value.
  • Cloud services reduce the time necessary to acquire project resources and the costs associated with those resources.
  • Cloud-based BI offers dynamic scalability of those resources so users spend less time and money on deciding on, implementing, and maintaining the necessary amount of computing and network capacity and power they need now and in the future.
  • Cloud-based systems, loaded with BI software and an appropriate amount of computing power, can come online in a few hours instead of the minimum few days typical of the current physical systems.  
  • The hardware and software in traditional BI ventures can cost many thousands of dollars, all of which the system developer or client must pay up-front. Conversely, cloud-based systems operate on a subscription basis that can cost as little as a hundred dollars a month.  
  • When the traditional BI initiatives outgrow their resources, they must undergo costly and time-consuming migration to upgraded systems. Cloud-based systems can upgrade resources in a matter of minutes.  
  • Similarly, cloud-based systems can easily scale-down as demand for the BI services they provide diminishes.

Cloud-based BI systems development translates to a decrease in overall costs and a decrease in the time-to-value for clients, bypassing the arduous tasks associated with traditional BI systems development.  Committing to cloud-based BI systems development means that developers can spend more time fulfilling the reporting needs of their clients and those clients can get their reports sooner.  

The bottom line is that Cloud-based BI will enable decision-makers to buy the reports they need without spending unnecessary time and resources on the technology.  

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