Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beyond the Checkbox - Part II

Chris Tyler from Cognos will be joining us for a series of Blogs focused on driving performance for ISVs and OEMs.  We will be publishing his Blogs on Thursdays for the next four weeks.  Chris is a subject matter expert on getting his clients to elevate value to their customers.  

In part I of this series, we discussed the relationship between vendor and customer and how there comes a point where the customer determines the need to have reports from the system.  In this part, we will look at the typical ways a vendor approaches the solution for those reporting needs.

Now what

One of two things will happen to address the reporting need. 

  1. The customer is forced to build their own reports with 3rd party tools
  2. The vendor builds and delivers some reports as part of the application 
    1. Building a home-grown reporting solution
    2. Embed a 3rd party reporting / BI / Performance Management solution

In the first case, the vendor has no control over what the customer is doing.  Because the customer has little understanding of the underlying data structures and relationships, there is a high likelihood that the customer could pull the information incorrectly or misinterpret the data.  This can lead to making bad decisions or incorrect assumptions.  As mentioned earlier, according to Gartner, this is the primary reason that enterprise reporting and data warehousing projects fail.

In the second case vendors will often rush to deliver a reporting solution and simply dump out easily accessible data into lists and charts.  I have seen too many reports such as Call Logs, Current Sales Orders, and Customers by Demographics delivered as the basis of a reporting and analytic solution. 

Building a home-grown, custom reporting solution can be very costly and will limit flexibility, scalability and capability.  Additionally, BI and Performance Management is outside the core competencies of the development staff and becomes a resource drain on development resources limiting core application innovation. 

To avoid the resource and cost problems, vendors can choose to embed a 3rd party reporting tool. These 3rd party applications generally provide additional capabilities to the vendor and allows development resources to focus on innovation within the core application.  However, vendors will limit the use of these 3rd party products to delivering basic reporting through interactive reports, fancy charts or even some ad hoc capabilities. 

About the author

Chris Tyler has been working for the past 4+ years with Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) and Business Process Outsourcers (BPO’s) to help them address the specific needs of embedding BI into their platforms.  He has seen some great successes and some dismal failures.  Some commonalities with the successes are that the vendor delivering the application actually put some thought and intellectual property into their content.  The failures typically did not.

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