Hosted BI makes its mark with ‘unlimited’ offerings

On-demand offerings of business intelligence applications are coming on to the market, mirroring the trend towards hosted CRM. Heather Havenstein reports

On-demand business intelligence offerings are becoming an attractive option for potential users who want to boost access to data, without having to make additional infrastructure investments.

Such interest is prompting Business Objects, SAS and some smaller BI vendors to bump up their hosted offerings in areas such as reporting and analytics.

Business Objects has released CrystalReports.com, an on-demand version of its Crystal Reports software. The new service will offer external users access to Crystal Reports documents via the web and can also notify users when new or updated reports are available.

The basic version of CrystalReport.com supports up to ten external users. A premium edition, which will be available by June, will offer unlimited storage for unlimited users.

AbeTech, a barcode and labelling company, uses Crystal Reports to provide status reports to about 15 key clients. Business Objects forecasts that the new premium service will let it provide reports initially to 64 and eventually to 200 clients, says Tim Anderson, the company’s chief operating officer.

The software AbeTech currently uses requires half of one employee’s time to distribute reports to the 15 clients, and “one of the biggest complaints we get from our clients is not getting status updates as often as they would like,” Anderson says.

Anderson, who plans to begin using a beta version of the hosted service as soon as it becomes available, expects it to be able to provide hourly status reports to clients, without requiring more work from AbeTech employees.

CJ Land, e-marketing director at Applied Voice and Speech Technologies, says he plans to begin using a beta version of the Business Objects premium service shortly.

The company currently emails Crystal Reports documents to external partners and other users, trusting that the data will remain secure. The on-demand service offers password protection that will ensure that only authorised users can view the reports, he says.

“The ability to now send those reports up to some common workspace and have others access that is extremely powerful,” he says. “It will redefine the way people use Crystal Reports.”

Business Objects is the first enterprise BI vendor to begin offering query and reporting on demand, says Dan Vesset, an analyst at IDC. Although Business Objects is initially targeting the mid-market, it “will likely get uptake from larger enterprises who may have prior experience with other hosted solutions,” Vesset says.

SAS, meanwhile, plans to enhance its on-demand marketing automation package, and may offer its marketing optimisation and risk optimisation analytics software as an on-demand service, says Richard Roach, director of SAS Solutions OnDemand.

The company is also looking to come out with specialised vertical services, including analytics for banks, he says.

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