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Build vs.

Buy: Dashboard, Reporting, and Analysis Capabilities in Your Software Applications
INTRODUCTION Most software applications deal with data and can therefore benefit tremendously from systems for analyzing and presenting it. Users at all levels need to view, analyze, and take action on data and components such as dashboards and reporting provide added value. When faced with the need to include such modules in their software, most ISVs arrive at the crossroads of “build vs. buy.” Building can often seem at first to be the ideal solution. You are a software development firm with software development expertise. No other organization could know your application and meet your needs better. With a skilled development staff already in house, it may seem illogical to pay a third party for a component to embed into your application. However, as we will outline in the following white paper, there are numerous objective parameters to consider regarding building any type of reporting, dashboard, or business intelligence (BI) component. QUALITY AND COMPLEXITY Simple, static data reports that resemble a basic spreadsheet may be quick and easy to incorporate into your system; however, it is likely your users will have higher expectations. There are numerous capabilities that transcend basic reporting that may be demanded by your users, if you haven’t already received such requests. In addition to actual development work, you will need to come up with a vision for how everything will work together. You must determine how interactive to make your reports, how easily users can drill down, etc. Best practices in dashboards and reporting are well established and therefore ISVs not already possessing such expertise would have a difficult time building competitive components. A BI module that is truly useful and competitive has the following varied characteristics.

Executive Summary
Since most software applications process data of some kind, the vast majority of ISVs and SaaS companies eventually evaluate embedded dashboards and reports to present that data in meaningful ways to their end users. If they chose to proceed, the next decision is whether to buy an OEM solution or build it themselves. This paper highlights what criteria you should consider when deciding to build vs. buy, and in which situations one solution is preferable to the other.

Visualization and Analysis
The true added value of a BI solution is in the visualization and analysis components. These components have become too specialized and sophisticated for most non-BI manufacturers to build from scratch in a timely and cost-effective manner. Visualization tools include heat maps and complex geographical maps, interactive charts and graphs with drill-down capability, AJAX-based dashboards and Flash-based key-performance indicators. Sophisticated and useful analysis tools include analysis grids, interactive data viewers, and OLAP cube viewers with advanced filtering options.

Ad hoc and Self-Service Reporting
Ad hoc reporting capabilities enable nontechnical users to build, modify, and distribute reports. This empowers individuals to use the solution to answer their business questions as the occasion requires without having to request queries from IT, therefore reducing the IT burden. Demands for ad hoc, or self-serve capabilities continue to grow as this ability to interact with data reports is considered crucial. Such capability that both empowers users while lightening the IT workload is bound to make your application favored among many in your customer base. Users evolve from mere consumers of data to authors of reports and content. Such users must have enough resources to allow them to do this in a robust way. Unfortunately, ad hoc capability is more complex and time consuming to build from scratch since it must contain elements that, in a managed reporting environment, would be set up by a developer.

When considering building or buying a BI module. and Google Web services. as third party products evolve. Conversely.logixml. There are cost-effective BI modules on the market that are data source neutral. With each upgrade of your product. RSS and ATOM feeds. and impairs the usefulness of your application. enabling your application to extract data from any valid OLEDB. Incorporating various browsers into your development and QA cycles of your reporting capabilities only adds yet another layer to your release schedule and another potential item that may delay the launch of your product. Automatic report scheduling is a useful feature in this regard. it needs to be used and shared by as many employees in as many functions as possible. If you are unsure as to whether certain dashboards and reports are right for your application. Forcing your customers to use. Flexibility also includes the ability to run on different Web browsers. but that can be accessed without any substantial modification to the application. including all types of mobile devices. With it. Such flexibility begins with the ability to tap into different data sources. costly. ODBC or OLAP-based source as well as any number of non-database sources. Suite T-107 | McLean. a third party solution can allow you to explore options first. To accomplish this. However. Third party BI solutions include extensive dashboard. The data sources from which your solution extracts data now are unlikely to remain static in perpetuity. A third party solution also provides you with the advantage of easy experimentation. reporting. the current uses of your application will likely change. and analysis capabilities. modify. if needed. depending on your licensing models. or stay with. act on the information without leaving the report. a particular database. Web-Based BI is most useful when it becomes part of the fabric of an organization’s operations. increasing customer retention as well as potentially increasing revenue streams. these solutions have enough flexibility to admit new data sources that may not exist at the moment. You can pilot various reports and even consider charging additional fees for premium BI capabilities rather than spending valuable resources building in house without prior knowledge of how your market will respond. and. accommodating users’ vast array of choices. There is a whole workflow that should be built into a BI solution that makes it easy for the user to get the report when it matters: save. the reporting module will require further updating and QA cycles. of both the database and non-database variety. which are automatically made available. Actionable Reporting Reporting and analysis does not and should not stop at presenting accurate information in a timely fashion. New data sources continue to evolve and grow in use. Instead of trying to integrate a third party solution. your roadmap also benefits from enhancements to embedded dashboards and reporting.com | info@logixml. ensuring that users have broad access to their BI additionally requires seamless integration across the widest variety of platforms possible. More importantly. you can create something from the ground up that is built to work with your existing application. By providing wide access via web-based reporting. share the information at a click of the mouse. Data Source Neutrality A valuable BI module must be flexible enough to adapt to today’s ever-changing technological landscape.FLEXIBILITY An in house solution can be built to meet your exact business needs and customized for maximum advantage. every day at 8:00 7900 Westpark Drive. Finally.com . Mostly likely your team knows how your customers are reporting on data from your application and your needs currently focus on providing a few specific types of reports and dashboards. your application can become pervasive throughout your customers’ organizations and built into the everyday workflow of numerous users as opposed to just an elite group of technical or management personnel. it is important to look beyond current architecture. This increases reliance on your application. VA 22102 | Toll Free: 1-888-LOGIXML | www. enabling you to provide your customers with powerful options without repeatedly undergoing extensive development cycles. those sources are likely to change and updating your application accordingly can be costly and time-consuming. such as SOAP/Rest Web services. is limiting. the report developer or the user himself can schedule a report to run on a regular basis—for instance. While it may not be particularly challenging to create a reporting module that works with all of your applications’ current data sources. for instance. Web-based applications have the added value of being easy to install and upgrade. or archive it for easy future access.

The workflow and problems involved may create another hurdle for both operations and human resources. and launching. You may be able to staff your team so that the dedication of resources to reporting has no detrimental effect on the progress of other projects. Without detailed time tracking.g. which inform key personnel when a critical situation has reached a pre-established threshold. perhaps additional third party products. The ability to export reports to a variety of formats (e. and controls. by clicking on the “reorder” button when a bestselling item is near out of stock. the usefulness of this feature is compounded. so the cost of building and maintain an in house solution is often underestimated. testing.logixml. Additionally. An embeddable third party solution can help you immediately add value to your products without delaying your launch. Creating a multidimensional BI component with numerous attributes such as basic reporting. Ongoing Maintenance Costs The addition of any components to your development efforts inevitably adds to your maintenance burden. component-based third party module can dramatically reduce time to market as opposed to building from scratch. Building BI in house can also pose a human resources challenge.) also makes the BI functionality both more pervasive and actionable. In this case. with the order getting written back automatically to the database. Comparatively. etc. The opportunity cost of such distraction is worth considering in the “build vs. This feature is particularly valuable when accompanied by automatic business alerts. The more sophisticated and useful BI modules also enable users to act on the information received without leaving the report— for instance. or worse yet.AM. COST Development Costs As outlined above. VA 22102 | Toll Free: 1-888-LOGIXML | www. TIME TO MARKET Fast time to market is essential in order to capture and maintain competitive advantage in the market place. since the same report can be emailed automatically or manually to as many users as needed. Suite T-107 | McLean. detailed and consistent documentation and knowledge transfer is required to ensure future ability to update your reporting module as the original developers may leave the company. resulting in a more difficult and time-consuming process. Building such workflow adds another layer of complexity because it involves incorporating numerous moving parts. it is impossible to know the total developers’ time required to create a new application. XML. scheduling. ad hoc capability. Buying allows you to leverage a vendor’s expertise without investing the time to learn the intricacies of a new business. leaving you overstaffed. Excel. Relying on a third party to manage maintenance for you can result in being able to upgrade your BI component through a one-click process. most third party vendors are constantly improving their products in a backwards and forwards compatible manner to ensure seamless upgrades so your component is also well maintained. When in house experts are no longer with the organization you may find yourself stuck with a proprietary system that no one knows how to use. reporting and dashboard solutions can be very sophisticated and the development efforts required to meet user demands are therefore extensive. fix when inevitable problems arise. Delaying the launch of a product can result in market share being stolen by competitors who are faster to supply a solution that meets endusers’ needs. EXPERTISE & FOCUS Third party vendors have BI expertise resulting from their stringent focus that an ISV or SaaS company would not be able to acquire in any reasonable timeframe.com . workflow problems may arise when the majority of the reporting work is completed.com | info@logixml. buying enables you to maintain your focus on your core business and those competences driving your competitive advantage. whether for internal use or for sale. scheduling capabilities. Integrating an embeddable. Developer time is often viewed as a sunk cost. Taking development staff off core features that add value to your application removes focus from the source of your competitive advantage. PDF. buy” decision. This adds complexity to the processes of developing. When coupled with email capability. and alerts further contributes to your maintenance efforts. 7900 Westpark Drive. to start the day with a full command of the critical numbers. Additionally. Actionable reporting involves not just outputs but back-end processes. as well as interacting with other services.

” 7900 Westpark Drive. inconsistent. For details on the benefits of embeddability and how to select products that meet your embedding needs. refer to LogiXML’s white paper. A consistent look and feel is crucial to a positive user experience and this requires a high degree of embeddability so all components appear to be one single product. True Embeddability and Why You Should Care. and confusing user experience. the embeddability of available components is an important issue to consider.com . “Embeddability: Slapping On Your Logo vs. An inability to seamlessly integrate a third party component can result in a fractured. highly embeddable third party BI apps are available. Fortunately.logixml. Suite T-107 | McLean. VA 22102 | Toll Free: 1-888-LOGIXML | www.EMBEDDABILITY In deciding between building and buying a reporting component.com | info@logixml.