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LESSON - Streamlining Selection and Budgeting for Business Intelligence Success

By Jared Cornelius, Manager of Product Marketing, Pentaho Corporation

Good news for prospective business intelligence buyers: The BI market has evolved significantly over the last few years, providing customers more ways to try before they buy. This streamlines the selection process and reduces the risk of making a bad technology decision. However, technology selection is just one ingredient in BI success. Beyond traditional rules about collaboration between business and IT, executive sponsorship, and other best practices, the structure of project budgets can play a key role in driving short and long-term BI success.

Prove It!

To try out a given vendor’s BI software in your environment, you previously had to work through an arduous series of calls with a sales person, disclose lots of information about your project, and sign confidentiality agreements. Customers are tired of this model, and it’s becoming easier than ever to get your hands on BI software for evaluation with little or no friction from some vendors.

Commercial open source vendors, such as Pentaho, frequently provide direct access to product downloads, documentation, and other technical resources. Some software-as-a-service (SaaS) BI vendors also provide “sandboxes” for product evaluation. Even the BI mega vendors are beginning to recognize the need to provide greater access to potential buyers.

Now, instead of making a critical BI technology decision based on some Power Point slides, a scripted demo, and a long request for proposal (RFP), you can find out yourself whether a given BI tool can meet your needs in your environment.

Speaking of RFPs, their role and importance in the selection process is changing as well. Tight IT budgets over the last 18 months are driving organizations to focus on their most important functional requirements rather than laundry listing features, from the imperative to the inconsequential, and seeing which vendors check the most boxes. It’s critical to understand your users’ functional requirements, and it will save you a lot of time in the selection process if you separate the must haves from the nice-to-haves. Do not allow a BI vendor to try to dictate your requirements based on their feature list.

Pay as You Go, and Budget for BI Success

Another thing that’s changing in BI—also accelerated by recent economic softness—is a shift away from traditional software licensing processes in which you prepay a large licensing fee to cover all foreseeable users and phases of your BI project. Vendors have driven this behavior with inflexible per-user pricing models and steep per-seat fees that force customers to buy BI capacity they won’t need for two years—just to get a good discount and bring the price down.

BI vendors like Pentaho are now offering models that provide more flexibility with options such as per-CPU or per-server pricing, concurrent user licensing, and others. These options are offered on a low-cost subscription basis that includes support and maintenance, so you don’t need to pay huge up-front fees to use the products. You can also expand your deployment to more users as your success grows without having to purchase user licenses every time your usage expands.

Picking the right tool is a hollow victory if you can’t effectively deploy it, drive usage, and achieve the business benefits that drove your BI project in the first place.

The other unfortunate implication of discount-driven overspending on BI software licenses is that it leaves you with a budget that’s not structured for success. Experienced BI practitioners know how important non-technology factors are in BI success. If you’ve spent your entire project budget on software, you won’t have the appropriate funding for technology services, business domain consulting, or end-user training. Picking the right tool is a hollow victory if you can’t effectively deploy it, drive usage, and achieve the business benefits that drove your BI project in the first place.

Learn more about how to drastically change the economics of BI at

For a free white paper on this topic, click here and choose the title “Deploying Business Intelligence on Sun Fire X4275 Servers.”

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