Why the BI market is ripe for change

Things in the business intelligence market are changing and the channel needs to know its options says Peter Baxter, Managing Director EMEA at Yellowfin

It is estimated that the Business Intelligence (BI) platform market will grow from $8,953m in 2014 to $14,218.60m by 2019. In particular, deployment of mainstream BI tools, that leverage analytics on big data, looks set to accelerate going forward. There are numerous factors that are already beginning to accelerate adoption of these tools, and therefore provide more opportunities for resellers to work with vendors who are ahead of the curve in this new market.

Up until now, BI has largely been portrayed as a ‘dark art’, inaccessible for the large majority. In the old world, BI tools were associated with complexity in every regard: from difficulty of deployment, integration and usage, to lengthy and complex pricing documents with hidden billing elements and add-on modules. From a channel point of view, this made BI tools difficult to sell, putting BI vendors in the advantageous position of being able to pick and choose when they wanted to work with channel partners – or not. 

However, the BI market is changing. This change presents significant opportunities for the channel. Younger, more nimble companies are disrupting the stranglehold of traditional vendors. For these new players, ease and transparency are key – from their business ethos to their products. New BI platforms can be integrated with data sources in a matter of days or hours; they allow for rapid data visualisation and for decisions to be made quickly. That’s a world-away from the legacy environments where using analytics to answer business questions could take even highly skilled data analysts many weeks.  

For the channel, this change allows value added resellers to develop far quicker sales cycles and to sell BI to new audiences.  In the enterprise, this means deploying reporting and analytics capabilities to a far broader audience of non-technical business users simply because it’s technologically and financially possible to do so.  In terms of organisation type, it means small and medium businesses are able to reap the benefits of data analysis, whereas many simply wouldn’t have had the skills, resources or time to implement more traditional BI products. The market is becoming truly democratised.

Changing audiences

BI was once the preserve of the IT department, or a subset of the IT department, containing a small group of extremely bright (but often overworked) people. This same group of people was also often isolated from the day-to-day business need for data access and analysis. As a result, the sales process was heavily biased towards the needs of this user group, making this a heavily technical sell for VARs. This too is changing. Whilst the needs of IT and technical users will always be critical to the success of a BI deal, the role and needs of business stakeholders have been brought to the fore. The benefits of analysing data to aid decision-making are no longer the preserve of the boardroom. Line of business heads are well aware that if they can empower their middle managers with better BI then they will sell more, operate more efficiently and ultimately prosper. 

This means that BI engagements can be fostered via the chief marketing officer, a head of operations or other business stakeholders. Gartner has suggested that ease-of-use is the number one purchase criteria for BI platforms, and deals can now be won or lost based on a BI platform’s ability to be easily consumed by, and shared with, business users.

Democratisation means new opportunities

Simultaneously, the BI market is seeing a shift away from traditional BI to advanced analysis and agile visualisation. Gartner recently estimated that by 2017, most data discovery tools would have incorporated smart data discovery capabilities to expand the reach of interactive analysis. Streamlined applications with rich visualisations and self-service dashboards allow business users to do quick data mashups, and query and visualise this data, rather than waiting for IT to deliver static reports and tables that are already outdated by the time they reach business users

As visual analytics and integrated data discovery tools become more end user friendly, this will act as a tipping point to eventually push the BI and analytics practice out of silos and across the enterprise. While traditional companies continue to sell to IT departments, forward-thinking resellers are beginning to capitalise on this shift of power, and are selling directly to the business. As a result, resellers are finding success with a "land and expand" approach, selling a few seats to the business and growing by word-of-mouth.

Collaboration brings mutual reward

The commercial terms VARs can expect in the BI market, and the pace with which they can access those returns, have also changed. As we see increased cooperation between vendors and VARs, it is important that both sides establish a mutually beneficial relationship. It is now possible for VARs to access a generous 30% share of licenses revenue. For new age BI vendors such as Yellowfin, over 80% of our total revenue comes from reseller partners. We realised long ago that VARs will almost always know the needs of their market niche best and so can deliver a strong outcome for end-users. On top of that, it makes little sense for us, as a software development organization, to attempt to deliver BI services. All that does is draw resource away from delivering on marketplace demand for product features and functionality.

As businesses look to gain a competitive advantage from their data, and new tools continue to be made available to enterprises, it will be resellers that capitalize on this change that will succeed. Customers have struggled on with legacy BI technology for close to 20 years, yet Gartner still claims that BI is top of the CIO agenda. Something has to change.


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