Survey Reveals What’s Driving SaaS BI

A new report explores which BI professionals are drawn to the technology and the self-service benefits it can provide.

by David White

Recent research by the Aberdeen Group found that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business intelligence is alive and kicking. Taking data from two separate surveys on dashboards and operational BI, Aberdeen’s research found that 64 out of a total of 475 organizations using BI had used a SaaS deployment approach. However, most of these enterprises were also using conventional BI approaches -- such as on-site installed software. Only 11 of the 64 SaaS BI users were solely using SaaS BI.

The Software-as-a-Service approach is finding favor in two distinctly different market segments. The first segment is small companies looking for something more sophisticated than their over-taxed spreadsheets. For these organizations, the cost structure and the need for no or few IT staff to support the solution are big draws. Over half (52 percent) of those organizations using SaaS BI are small organizations, with annual revenues of $50 million or less.

The second market segment is departmental use at larger organizations. Although tight budgets and the burden imposed on IT staff by conventional approaches to BI are often driving factors for enterprises that adopt on-demand business intelligence, the single biggest factor is that conventional BI tools are simply too complex and hard to use for some people. The simplicity of SaaS BI tools presented via a browser can be a compelling driver of adoption. As a consequence, Aberdeen's research found that organizations that use SaaS for the delivery of business intelligence have 50 percent more self-service business intelligence users than companies that do not.

There are some strong reasons why the SaaS approach promotes self-service:

  • SaaS BI tools are generally intuitive, easy to use, and easy to understand. After all, most SaaS BI vendors enjoyed the luxury of starting with a clean sheet of paper when they created their products.
  • Some SaaS deployments are based on smaller, simpler data models compared to more conventional implementations. For instance, small businesses tend to be less complex and have less data than larger enterprises. Further, deployments in larger organizations are often departmental in scope, and not enterprise wide solutions. This smaller scale can make data inherently easier to navigate and easier to slice and dice.
  • Organizations using the SaaS approach for business intelligence are more likely to have an information-driven culture than their counterparts that do not pursue SaaS BI (76 percent vs. 59 percent). Likewise, SaaS users have a much higher level of business user involvement in the purchasing decision. Enterprises that adopt SaaS BI have business users who hunger for information and ensure that the procurement process works in a way that lets them get the information they need the way they want it.

The agility provided by SaaS BI solutions was also very apparent. Overall, 6 attributes were identified that provide a particularly agile BI solution. These included the ability to drill-down to detail, update dashboards in real time (or close to real time), and the ability to create dashboards without programming. To download the full report for free (short registration required) before October 29, 2010, go to

David White is a senior research analyst for AberdeenGroup. You can contact the author at

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