Theres a bit of a debate on one of the others posts about this so I thought I would pull it out into a main post.
Heres what I remember of the recent history of BI.
In the 90′s all the BI vendors were tripping over themselves to get us off Excel and onto their proprietary client software. (*note)
In the 00′s they finally realised we had no plans to dump Excel and get tied into their client. They then tripped over themselves to deliver us Excel add-ins. Suddenly BI uptake improved.
In the last couple of years the BI vendors have started trying to move us onto their browser based proprietary clients. Are they succeeding where they failed in the 90′s? I have no idea, do you?
* note : Arbor swam against this tide with their Extended SpreadSheet dataBASE, in my view this is a key factor in the success of Essbase over the competition.
Personally I think the march to browser based clients may be misguided. To get the power of Excel to the users, these browser apps will need a fair bit of calculation grunt. I accept that deployment may be slightly easier, although I think most enterprises have got MS office deployment and maintenance pretty much nailed by now.
I struggle to see how providing a browser client with the same power as Excel, is any better than Excel? If its trying to save the licence cost, and the maintenance cost, I’d say the reduced productivity of multiple unusual interface will more than outweigh any savings. The big benefit of spreadsheets (you can get Essbase add-ins for OpenOffice Calc) is they can be used for many many things. One investment in learning the interface and functionality pays back many times.
Maybe there is a market for a BI provider that only has a spreadsheet add-in as a client, and then passes on the savings in development costs to clients?
Business intelligence is only useful to people who have the influence to affect corporate activity. I’d say these people are analyst and management types, not a massive number in any one organisation. Browser based apps seem better suited to wide scale deployment, lower functionality apps target towards administration activities (the classic example seems to be submitting expenses). Maybe its a fashion thing?
I’m not saying the browser thing won’t happen, what I’m saying is that I’m not clear on what the benefits will be for the users, the admins, and even the BI companies. If you can see the benefits then post a comment.