One of the fundamental problems with business intelligence, argues Cloud9 Analytics CEO Swayne Hill, is that we give end users BI tools rather than actual applications they can readily use.
That's the major difference in Cloud9 Analytics' approach to delivering business intelligence as a service. Instead of giving customers a tool that they have to customize and load data into, Cloud9 Analytics first built a layer of abstraction above an array of data sources in the enterprise, and then built a series of business intelligence applications that allow users to analyze that data immediately.
Today, Cloud9 Analytics announced a plan to expand its application portfolio over the next 24 months and add some new features to its Pipeline Accelerator service, which helps organizations manage their sales pipelines more efficiently. The company also announced that it has acquired $8 million in additional financing.
The major reason that BI tools don't get adopted as much as they should, said Hill, is because users want applications that work with their existing data sources, rather having to re-enter data that already exists in other applications. Cloud9Analytics' services pull data from existing applications into a meta layer managed by Cloud9 Analytics, which eliminates most of the integration challenges associated with BI. It then makes a series of BI applications available on top of that service.
The goal, said Hill, is to give customers an accessible set of BI applications that allows them to manage the business better without having to make huge investments in terms of time and money to build BI applications. By taking this approach, Hill says BI use in the enterprise will grow because the SaaS model removes barriers to adoption.
To the degree that the applications that Cloud9 Analytics delivers fit a customer's business needs, Hill is probably right. But in case where it doesn't meet those needs, Cloud9 Analytics is making available an API that will allows customers to build their own applications on top of the Cloud9 Analytics service.
There's a compelling need for business intelligence applications; the problem is that most internal IT organizations don't have the expertise to build them. That tends to result in cumbersome applications that give BI a bad rap with users still clinging to their spreadsheets. As more off-the-shelf applications are delivered as a service, maybe the time to take a giant step back from our collective BI morass is finally at hand.