When I wrote about the possibilities and possible pitfalls of cloud-based business intelligence, I focused largely on the technical (data transfer speeds, integration capabilities, etc.), thanks to the tech-savvy sources I cited, including Forrester Research's Boris Evelson and Datasource Consulting's Steve Dine.
But as with almost any software deployment, people and processes will present far greater challenges than technology. I think it's a particular concern with SaaS, because SaaS vendors typically pitch their products as a no-muss, no-fuss implementation.
I've covered this ground before, writing about SaaS CRM. In that post, I mentioned the importance of defining processes and obtaining employee buy-in. But I left out a biggie: training. Again, SaaS vendors like to tout their user-friendly interfaces and similarities to consumer technologies. (You access through a browser! Like Google!) But no matter how seemingly simple, some training will likely still be required. If you don't provide it, employees won't use it.
That lesson comes through clearly in a post on the datadoodle blog, which relates the experiences of former LucidEra executives Ken Rudin and Darren Cunningham. (LucidEra is the SaaS BI provider that went out of business in June.) The company offered a 90-day free trial of its products, but provided no training. They found companies ran only the simplest reports. LucidEra then switched to a short training session, which offered basic information, nothing specific to companies that decided to try it. Again, no luck. From the post:
When LucidEra called to ask why, customers explained, "When you came out here and told us all that stuff, that was great. But we can't remember what you did. We just aren't as good a this as you are, so we can't use it."
I like how Simon Mortimore, a reader who commented on one of my posts, put it. He wrote:
... The reality is that BI just mechanizes the information delivery to support decision making, if the decision models do not exist then you just have an efficient information hole. One of the key tasks when I implement BI solutions is an end user business skills assessment and the appropriate training when required. ...
Don't neglect training, whether BI software is of the on-premise or the SaaS variety. A great suggestion from this post detailing publisher Meredith Corp.'s BI experiences: Get super-users to work with their less savvy colleagues.