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Business intelligence takes to cloud for small businesses

John Moore | June 5, 2014
Long the purview of deep-pocketed enterprises, business intelligence software is increasingly making its way into small-and medium-sized businesses. These firms credit cloud technology, which tends to be both cheaper and easier to manage than on-premises BI systems.

The second time was the charm for DeRoyal Industries.

The healthcare products manufacturer decided it needed better information to navigate a rapidly changing industry. After an attempt to create an on-premises business intelligence solution failed to take off, DeRoyal tried a different approach: Running business intelligence in the cloud.

DeRoyal rolled out MicroStrategy's cloud offering 18 months ago. Now, the company aims to use that technology to sharpen its sales focus, make better decisions with respect to its product portfolio and improve its understanding of industry variables such as Medicare reimbursement rates.

Angie Sewell, vice president of IT for DeRoyal, says the company "dabbled" in BI technology several years ago, with an older technology, "and did not find it to be very successful." With its subsequent BI venture, DeRoyal was determined to find an approach that was less expensive, faster to deploy and a better fit for the company's needs.

The cloud-based service, Sewell says, proved "the most cost-effective method to accommodate what we needed to accomplish and accomplish it quickly. That's really why we chose the cloud."

Business intelligence was once the province of the largest enterprises, which had the deep pockets and requisite technical resources to implement what's often a fairly complex technology. Today, though, the cloud brings BI within the grasp of medium-sized businesses such as DeRoyal, which employs 2,000 people, and smaller organizations as well.

"The cloud does level the playing field," says Howard Dresner, founder and chief research officer for Dresner Advisory Services, a Nashua, N.H. company that focuses on business intelligence and related areas. "[Smaller companies] get the benefits of enterprise software without having to have the on-premises footprint and the staff that typically would be required."

Dresner recently published its third annual study of business intelligence users and implementers. The percentage of organizations using public cloud BI in Dresner's 2014 study increased more than 17 percent compared with 2013 and expanded more than 53 percent since 2012. Dresner's Wisdom of Crowds Cloud Business Intelligence Market Study also notes that more than 75 percent of respondents surveyed say they consider cloud BI models at least somewhat important.

Appeal of Cloud BI: Speed, Staff and Savings
Sewell says adopting MicroStrategy Cloud saved DeRoyal $50,000 off the bat. That's because the company avoided the cost of acquiring servers and licenses for operating system and application software. In addition, the cloud freed the company from thinking about scalability and the need to accommodate future workload requirements.

The cloud impacted DeRoyal's soft costs as well as its hard IT asset costs. Sewell says the company didn't have to concern itself over how much staff it would need to maintain, configure and monitor the BI system. DeRoyal had no additional bandwidth within its IT staff to manage an onsite solution; it would have had to hire personnel to keep the system going. Given DeRoyal's location in the Knoxville, Tenn. metropolitan area, Sewell says hiring additional staff would have been difficult. "Our recruiting cycle is quite lengthy," she says. "Probably 120 days, minimum.


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