Data and analytics are fundamentally redefining applications today. In our daily lives, we use technology to help us make virtually every decision. And when you look at consumer applications—the Amazons, Netflixes, and Facebooks of the world—they’re all centred on data. You might not think of them as analytics applications that serve up a wealth of data to inform decisions, because the information is wrapped up in really slick user experiences. But in fact, they provide analytics information to you where you need it most.
Now, people are craving this type of user experience within their business applications. If we bring these expectations into the realm of embedded analytics, it’s easy to understand what business users want from their applications today. They want to be served up information where and when they need it, at the moment they need it, in order to inform the decisions they make every day. And they want it all to be easy to use, so they don’t have to think about being trained up on analytics.
According to the 2016 State of Embedded Analytics report, ninety-four per cent of commercial ISVs and SaaS providers said embedded analytics is important to their users. The report also found that analytics makes up a relative value of 45 per cent of the overall business application. This is a substantial value that simply cannot be replaced with any other functionality today.
It’s clear that users expect business intelligence inside the applications they use every day, and application providers need to embed these capabilities. The next question that arises is, how? Do you build this functionality from scratch or outsource to a third-party solution, which can then be embedded into your application?
Build vs. Outsource
The first instinct for many software companies is to build the necessary reporting functionality into their application. When the requirements are not complex, this option can work for many organisations and allows them to maintain complete control over the application.
However, what invariably happens over time is that customers ask for more functionality, more flexibility in their analysis, and more methods to gain insight without having to ask you to build custom dashboards. For some of these customers, their thirst for data will be satiated by exporting data to a spreadsheet or extracting data programmatically through an API. Unfortunately, these outlets satisfy only the customers who are interested in doing the extra legwork; they do not build value into your product for the benefit of all customers.
Software companies who stay on the “build” track must also be committed to staffing significant resources in development, support, and keeping up with advances in data visualisations and business intelligence over the long term.
The Case for Outsourcing Analytics
Most software companies are under pressure from customers or from competitors to rapidly introduce or improve analytics capabilities and do not have the time or resources to build on their own. In fact, the 2016 State of Embedded Analytics survey found the top reasons software developers embedded a third-party analytics product are:
- Desire to have internal resources focused on core product functionality – delivering functionality with a third party makes the development team more efficient and frees up resources for your core product.
- Need to get to market faster – there is usually a small window of time available to satisfy customers, differentiate a product offering, and stand out in the marketplace.
- Internal resources lack the required skills – building analytics functionality often requires highly skilled coders, which can add to the cost of building.
Those planning to outsource their analytics capabilities should understand that there will always be some amount of integration required for embedding a third-party product. But the relief felt by internal resources and the shorter time-to-market for delivering a wealth of capabilities justifies this investment.
As more users demand analytics access within their business apps, the user experience will move front and centre to empower these users. Regardless of whether you choose to build or outsource your analytics solution, application developers must embrace the challenge of delivering a range of analytic capabilities —and the sooner you get started, the better.