To Build or Buy? - The Answer is ROI
For Business Intelligence project managers, sponsors and decision makers, things are getting lot more interesting (and complicated) with the advent of packaged BI Applications. Packaged BI is not new but this domain has been getting a big push in recent years from all the major enterprise application vendors.
The logic behind Packaged BI looks sound and bullet-proof. It goes like this – The enterprise applications vendors understand the business aspects very well and have handled complexity of a high order. The collective experience over many years have been distilled into creating specific BI solutions (Financials, Supply Chain, Operations, Sales etc.) and these come packaged with data models, pre-built ETL jobs, standardized reports and high-end predictive analytics. For an example, take a look at this blog describing the packaged BI Applications from Oracle.
So what’s the problem – Why can’t everybody buy packaged BI applications and live happily ever after?
It appears that the choice is not so simple. Packaged BI has certain drawbacks some of which are outlined below:
Packaged BI imposes a certain way of capturing business entities and metrics (euphemistically termed best practices), which might go against an organization’s way of doing things.
The pre-packaged data integration jobs (ETL) stays relevant only for a plain-vanilla implementation of enterprise apps.
Customization done to transaction systems would involve customization to pre-packaged ETL jobs and reports that involves considerable effort and is error-prone.
Packaged BI apps come with embedded ETL and Reporting tools that might be different from the already chosen enterprise standard tools.
From my own experience, I have seen that the packaged BI comes with so many entities and attributes for each domain that it appears “bloated” for companies taking a first step into performing analytics for that particular domain.
Ultimately, the current situation is such that, BI decision makers are grappling with the question of “Build or Buy” – Should I build the BI application from scratch or buy one of those packaged applications? One way to overcome this problem is to build a strong ROI (Return on Investment) framework for BI initiatives in your organization. ROI is computed by dividing the Net Present Value of cash flows over a time horizon by the initial investment. The details of ROI computation and Hexaware’s proprietary tool for financial assessments in BI will be the discussed in subsequent blogs. For now, let’s assume that you have computed the ROI for a Build solution and also for a Packaged BI solution. Once this is done, the choice becomes a little clear – If the ROI for Packaged BI solution is better than expected and the organization can manage the typical pains of implementing a packaged solution, then consider the “Buy” option, else look for a “Build” option.
Now here comes the little twist In my experience, I have seen customers looking at a shorter time-horizon where the ROI of a build solution is typically higher and then move onto a buy solution with a longer time-frame in mind. The extra advantage of this approach is that the organization understands its analytical needs much better before implementing a Packaged BI solution. So it is strictly not a “Build vs Buy” question but can also be a “Build and Buy” scenario.
Thanks for reading. Please do share your thoughts.