But a nagging majority of companies don't share Cohenford's sentiments, despite loads of hype and the success of SaaS pioneer Salesforce.com. A Forrester Research survey of 1,017 technology decision makers found that adoption of SaaS and on-demand applications in large enterprises is now at just 16 percent. Aberdeen Group research showed that just 10 percent of all-sized companies used some form of BI analytics tools through third-party service provider, says David Hatch, research director of BI at Aberdeen.
The Forrester survey noted the oft-cited barriers to higher adoption rates, including concerns around integration, customization, security, and total cost of ownership.
Of course, those concerns don't go away for on-demand BI applications, but several recent macro trends have pushed companies to take another look.
One is the long-term effects of software industry consolidation and BI vendor upheaval in 2007, which has affected the plans of more than 100,000 customers of the established BI vendors, according to Hatch's research. "This has opened the door to new, innovative BI technology developers and marketers," Hatch writes in a recent BI report, "who see an opportunity to capture the attention of established BI customers with low-risk offerings that address questions resulting from all of the M&A activity."
The need for speed
Even traditional on-premise vendors, like Business Objects and Cognos (now owned by IBM) are starting to offer on-demand solutions, responding to the rise of several pure-play on-demand BI vendors. "The increasing speed, power and availability of on-demand solutions are narrowing the performance gap between on- and off-premise application implementations," Hatch notes.
Business Objects leads the on-demand BI space, with 70,000 subscribers. But smaller vendors, such as Oco, SeaTab, LucidEra, Dimensional Insight and OnDemandIQ, are nipping at its heels -- offering customers both on-demand suites of reporting and analytic tools, as well as highly targeted applications that solve specific customer needs and are delivered in weeks, not months or years.
Hernreich describes Oco's integration work with Casual Male's systems as "unobtrusive," taking roughly six to eight weeks to complete. "And it worked on day one," he says.
BI vendors are also hearing a lot of pain from current and potential customers who need a quick fix: Inside companies of all sizes, the pressure to aggregate, synchronize, and deliver clean and actionable data to business users has never been more intense. A recent Aberdeen survey of 4,300 companies found that the No. 1 technology that could have the greatest impact on the business during the next two to five years was BI and analytics. (SaaS initiatives grabbed the second spot.)