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Embedded Analytics in the SelfService BI Enterprise

A Data Report by George Anadiotis

This report underwitten by: Izenda

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI


Table of Contents
1. Executive Summary
2. Why Organizations Need Visual Data Discovery
3. Accessing Data: Where It Lives and Who Sees It
4. Reporting in a Self-service BI World
5. Key Takeaways
6. About George Anadiotis
7. About Izenda
8. About Gigaom Research
9. Copyright

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

1 Executive Summary
Production reporting has been around for a long time, but its requirements change as much as
the tech industry itself does. Delivery expectations have shifted from quarterly to hourly, so the
entire business intelligence stack must now be user-driven and flexible. Licensing by number of
users is obsolete, since there is no way to predict who will need the reports or who will create
them. And in the mobile era, sending users to IT for their reports is doomed to failure, and
desktop apps are legacy technology.
If the learning curve for reporting isnt low, adoption will be. Reporting and analytics must be
embedded inside applications and end-users must be able to use their interfaces not just for
running reports but also for designing them. Highly complex reports shouldnt take two
expensive developers to build if one single client services person can do it instead.
This report is for executives, product managers and developers at independent software
vendors (ISVs), SaaS vendors, solutions providers, or anyone building business applications. It
will investigate how reporting needs, capabilities, and implementation requirements have
changed, and present a new set of dos and donts for successful embedded analytics.
Key findings in this report include:
It is imperative to embed modern BI (reporting, dashboards, and visualizations) in the
application users daily work. A generation of users that has been brought up on mobile and
browser-based applications that are self-contained is unlikely to accept switching to a
separate application to access BI features.
Democratizing access to data is key, and can be achieved by enabling access to
transactional databases (or read-only copies) instead of creating separate analytical
databases. In doing so, the burden on IT or the data science team is minimized, and users
are empowered to access data on their own.
Democratized access to data should not equal a lack of control. There must be a mechanism
for user authorization and access rights, as access to the reports and data should be
restricted to only the appropriate users for any given scenario.
Reporting functionality should have a professional look and feel that is natural for users.
Reports should be easy to create, embedded in applications, and have production-level

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

ISVs and solution providers now face a build-versus-buy strategy for BI implementation.
Arguments tend to favor buy because these organizations lack core BI expertise and often
spend too much time and too many resources building and maintaining it in-house.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Sergey Nivens/iStock.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

2 Why Organizations Need Visual Data Discovery

We live amid a constant deluge of applications, and more and more are finding their way into
the enterprise, whether they are delivered on-premises (the traditional method) or via the cloud
as SaaS.
As a byproduct, the data these applications generate is accumulating in an environment that
provides increasingly vital information for an organizations operations. Organizations must
decide how to examine and interpret an array of datasets to gain insights. Not only does the
amount of accumulated data increase over time, but the sources of data keep expanding, too.
Change in both of these dimensions is happening fast and involves a growing number of
organizations. Data analysis functionality is becoming critical and organizations cannot afford to
fall behind the competition. Having an accessible way to explore datasets and discover patterns
and outliers is now imperative.
This is precisely the need that visual data discovery and exploration tools aim to address. The
question is, What visual data discovery and exploration technology should organizations use?
The current generation of users has grown up on mobile and browser-based applications that
are self-contained and has less tolerance for separate applications for specific functions such as
reporting and analytics.
The market also has a proliferation of visual data discovery and exploration tools, though most
of them fail to meet the self-containment aspect: They may be good at what they do, but they
require their own installation, setup, and operation processes and add to the overall complexity
of the visual data discovery and exploration experience. This fact highlights the divide between
what users want from data analysis tools and what most tools offer. The emergence of the cloud
and the SaaS paradigm further amplifies expectations around self-contained applications.
Application self-reliance is becoming the new normal, with visual data discovery and exploration
features included.
Analysts should focus on the datasets, not on the tools, and remember that data analysis is a
demanding yet necessary task. Adding layers of software complexity on top of it only increases
the difficulty. Data analysis should be an integral part of the applications where datasets are
generated, not something for a different application to perform. Only then will organizations be
able to empower all user types to perform data analysis effectively and make better decisions in
real-time without having to rely on data analysts or technical staff who may lack the business
context to perform or prepare data for analysis.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

Users are coming to expect that they can access information when and how they want.
Applications failing to meet their expectations will ultimately fail to increase adoption.
Dashboards should enable users to go deeper by accessing broader data sets requiring
visualizations. ISVs and solution providers will not retain customers without addressing these
new realities.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

3 Accessing Data: Where It Lives and Who Sees It

Traditionally, organizations wanting to analyze their data have utilized an extracted replica of
their database to run the analyses. This is considered good practice, as mixing transactional and
analytical workloads means that the two may conflict with one another. Furthermore,
transactional and analytical databases are structured differently because each has a different
focus and modus operandi.
On the other hand, this process means building and maintaining additional infrastructure, which
incurs additional cost. There is also the associated complexity and delay involved in the process
of extracting, transforming, and loading (ETL) the data from the transactional to the analytical
database. So many organizations are now performing analytics directly on their transactional
databases or read-only copies of them.
Reporting off normalized/transactional database schemas instead of star schemas found in data
warehouses and OLAP cubes means eliminating the specialized data stores required to support
DWs. It also shortens the process of accessing data considerably and makes it leaner, as there
is no more ETL to be done and no more reliance on a specialized team to perform it. All users
can access data in real time or near-real-time on replicated instances.
An issue of great importance when using a BI reporting framework is user authorization and
security. This becomes even more important when reporting off transactional databases, as the
intermediate step of preparing data and granting access is now missing and users could
potentially access data they are not entitled to use. A mechanism, then, must be in place for
user authorization and access rights.
This security and access mechanism must be granular; an all-or-nothing model will not work.
Different types of users may have access to the same reports, but with different underlying data
exposed. To avoid the cumbersome solution of employing different security mechanisms,
reporting frameworks should be able to inherit or adopt existing security frameworks. This can
be achieved by means of a security API, enabling reporting frameworks to integrate with
applications and have direct access to their access tokens and security roles. The ability to
operate in the cloud can also facilitate security considerations, as potentially broad user groups
no longer have to download data to their desktops. Instead, data remains stored in the cloud
and users can access it remotely via reports and dashboards, thus eliminating the risk that
comes with storing local copies. Users can get an overview of the information they need without
the overhead and risk associated with local data storage.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

4 Reporting in a Self-service BI World

The notion of self-service is transforming the way businesses run. These changes also apply
to BI reporting frameworks, too. Modern solutions are based on user empowerment, providing
to business users the tools to design their own reports, configure dashboards, and explore
visualizations in real time rather than going through a lengthy process involving the IT
Production cycles are now shorter, and reporting on those cycles needs to follow suit. In the
past, it was acceptable to have quarterly reports that were implemented by IT and remained
largely unchanged throughout their lifetime. Today, agile production cycles may go from
inception to release within a few months, so static reporting frameworks are no longer
acceptable. The pace of business and modern decision making/value creation dictates real-time
end-user empowerment and a broader set of end users having access to data.
Data scientists and consultants should not be the sole control for consuming and accessing
data. The traditional data team has its strengthsand enables deep and sophisticated
analysisbut it has its limitations, particularly when it becomes a bottleneck for data access.
Data access should be democratized and real-time, without the intervention of a time
consuming process or a specialized team.
The above needs along with the self-service BI approach involves the IT and the data science
teams only in the initial database-setup phase. After that, users perform everyday taskssuch
as field addition, dashboard creation, and data visualizationon their own.
For the self-service BI approach to work, BI reporting frameworks should be intuitive and easy
to learn, so training time can be minimized.
Users should not have to learn how to use a different environment for their reporting needs.
Reporting should be embedded in the application, and offer its functionality in a look and feel
that is natural to the users. This can only be fully realized when visualization elements are truly
embedded in the application environment. The use of IFrames is an old technique that some
solutions use, but it does not offer a seamless graphical environment and should be avoided.
Truly embedded reports are the ones that offer a look and feel that is inseparable from the
application that hosts them.
Embedded reports also allow application providers to leverage the cloud. By embedding
reports into their application environment, providers can distribute their applications through the
cloud, leveraging the SaaS model, and can offer their users an integrated experience. This is in
Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

stark contrast to the fragmented experience that comes from using a separate BI tool (either on
the desktop or on a different cloud environment) for data exploration and visualization.
Using embedded BI does pose an issue: the need for ad-hoc reporting with production-level
polish. Traditionally, reporting has come in two variations: One is aimed at quick-and-dirty
reporting, giving users tools to mix and match various datasets to produce ad-hoc reports
according to their needs. Typically this kind of reporting is aimed at on-screen consumption and
is lacking in terms of pixel-perfect alignment and production-level polish. The other is aimed at
producing reports following internal guidelines or regulatory frameworks. Typically this kind of
reporting is aimed at printed-medium consumption and is focused on looking professional.
These two worlds must converge. Organizations need reports that are easy to create,
embedded in applications, and have production-level polish. One way to achieve this is by
implementing a multilevel editing mechanism. New reports can be based on master report
templates that enable on-the-fly creation, but they should also be individually editable to enable
high quality.
In the end, to be successful, self-service BI must combine all of the features mentioned so far:
direct access to data for reporting and analysis, easy-to-use BI tools, and simpler and
customizable end-user interfaces.
This is not an easy goal to achieve for any ISV, so it calls for an important decision: to develop
this functionality internally or to bring it onboard by means of purchasing an existing customer
Just like end users, most ISVs see BI functionality as something that brings additional value but
falls beyond their core expertise. The level of sophistication required to develop and maintain a
BI solution dictates that a specialized BI team be created within ISVs wishing to implement BI on
their own. This has cost and time-to-market implications. Putting together a team can be
challenging. Developers with knowledge of BI, particularly emerging capabilities like
visualizations, are in short supply, so non-BI software organizations needing to staff will have
The alternativeutilizing existing personnel to deal with the needs of embedding BI
functionality into productswill lead to sub-par results and cause disruption in the ISVs core
business. Allowing scarce and expensive technical resources to focus on core product and
operations is better than continually trying to maintain and enhance BI functionality.
Even if a specialized BI team can be assembled, the cost and the time required to develop a BI
solution will be substantial. Embedding an off-the-shelf BI platform solution can be integrated
faster than developing BI functionality (reports, dashboards, visualizations) or trying to integrate
disparate BI tools that lack a common architecture, and it should also end up costing less. In
Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise

addition, embedded solutions have become more modular and more easily customized,
reducing the need for building a custom BI solution.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise


5 Key Takeaways
Applications are ubiquitous, and the need to access the data they generate for analytical
purposes grows more and more pronounced. An alternative to traditional BI solutions is
embedded BI, as it gives users the opportunity to access data directly from the application
Examining the features of user-driven, embedded BI solutions, here are some takeaway points:
Reporting, dashboard, and analytical solutions should be embedded in applications to
achieve maximum usability by a generation of users that is accustomed to self-reliant
BI solutions should aim to democratize access to data and lift the burden from IT and the
data science team. Reporting off transactional databases rather than creating specialized
analytical ones facilitates this goal. Both end users and IT stand to benefit from this
Democratized access to data requires a solid security framework to ensure that the right
people have access to the right data. A security framework must not overlay itself on
existing application security, but rather integrate seamlessly so it becomes an organic part of
the application.
The two separate strands of visual reports, quick-and-dirty reporting and production-level
reports, formatted according to guidelines, must converge. Reports should be easy to
create, embedded in applications, and have production-level polish.
For most ISVs and solution providers, developing an in-house BI solution for applications is
prohibitive and costly in terms of time-to-market and required resources. In most cases
adopting a third-party solution for BI is most sensibleas long as it offers the required
functionality and integration.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise


6 About George Anadiotis

George Anadiotis is an Analyst for Gigaom Research. He has been in ICT since 1992, having
worn many hats and juggled many balls. He has moved up the ladder of software engineering
all the way from junior hacker to lead architect, provided consulting services to the likes of KLM
and Vodafone, built and managed projects and teams of all sizes and shapes and got himself
involved in some award-winning research along the way.

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise


7 About Izenda
Izenda is a leading business-intelligence platform purpose-built for ISVs, solutions providers and
enterprise users. Its integrated business-intelligence platform allows end users to easily access,
visualize, and share valuable business intelligence in real time. Embedded seamlessly into
applications, Izenda delivers BI directly to the people who need it most. Learn more at

Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise


8 About Gigaom Research

Gigaom Research gives you insider access to expert industry insights on emerging markets.
Focused on delivering highly relevant and timely research to the people who need it most, our
analysis, reports, and original research come from the most respected voices in the industry.
Whether youre beginning to learn about a new market or are an industry insider, Gigaom
Research addresses the need for relevant, illuminating insights into the industrys most dynamic
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Embedded Analytics in the Self-Service BI Enterprise