Cloud BI: The Time Is Now

Carsten Bange

Data and applications are now being used as platform and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offers. Now is the time to start thinking about business intelligence and analytics in the cloud.

According to the BARC (Business Application Research Center), 43% of the 370 participants who took part in the “Cloud BI and Data Management” user survey at the end of 2016 are already operating a component of their data management and BI architecture in the cloud. This shows almost 50% growth against the 29% recorded in 2013. Although this figure is not entirely representative, as it only includes experimental usage of individual components, it nevertheless shows a clear trend. And note that adoption is radically higher in North America (48%) than it is in Europe (32%).

Why using cloud BI solutions is increasingly attractive

  • Generally speaking, cloud adoption has increased significantly, not least because the infrastructure of cloud providers can now also meet the requirements fulfilled by a guaranteed data storage in a data center.
  • With the growing number of cloud-based systems, the amount of original data in the cloud is also on the increase, which is ideally analyzed using BI software-as-a-service.
  • The maturity of many BI solutions, software-as-a-service, means that they can now be deployed in even larger scenarios. In developing the strategic BI SaaS analytics cloud tool, SAP has also tackled the integration of BI, planning, and predictive analytics.
  • Users now have the flexibility to implement “hybrid” scenarios, in which BI tools, BI servers, and databases can either be used in the cloud, or combined with on-premise. A good example here is an analytics cloud, whereby data does not need to be copied into the cloud, but can only be shown as metadata in the browser.

The diversity of drivers in the cloud

For most companies, flexibility is paramount. In this day and age, who can reliably predict user figures, data volumes, or load profiles at the start of a project? The leasing model for the software, the technical scalability and the elasticity of data storage, and computing power are attractive prospects, just like the speed of implementation.

Currently, data warehouses and classic BI tools such as dashboards and reporting are being implemented in the cloud. However, the study also reveals increased interest in ad hoc analysis and exploration. It also shows that small and midsize enterprises currently use more components in the cloud than large enterprises do (see figure below). The usage of public cloud offers has also grown dramatically, as well as the deployment of hybrid solutions from the public and private cloud.


Figure 1: Deployment of BI and data management components in the cloud according to size of the company (BARC study “Cloud BI and Data Management” 2017, n=170)

Migration challenges

Of course, businesses are also confronted with a multitude of challenges when preparing to migrate to the cloud. Adjusting to new and unfamiliar systems, as well as evaluating and implementing security and data protection requirements is often difficult. The legal aspects, such as drafting contracts, also pose a challenge. The biggest technical problem is often down to the performance of the systems which can be inadequate for the transfer of data and when requesting information.

Priorities: lower costs, scalability

Yet the usage achieved through cloud BI and data management tools stands in comparison to these challenges, as confirmed by 166 system users (see figure below). The top priority is reducing the company’s own hardware and infrastructure costs, followed by scalability with regard to users and data volumes. A third of our study participants named low administration costs as one of the greatest user aspects of cloud BI, followed by reduced implementation time.


Figure 2: Benefits achieved through implementation of cloud BI and data management components (BARC Study “Cloud BI and Data Management” 2017, n=166)


The potential of cloud-based BI solutions

Offers for BI and data management in the cloud have made sufficiently good progress, and companies are now considering them for implementation. New tools such as SAP Analytics Cloud are not yet as functionally advanced as longstanding on-premise solutions, but they are already transforming good approaches such as BI integration, planning and predictive analytics, and supporting “hybrid” scenarios, in which data must be copied into the cloud. In contrast to the organizational, functional, and technical challenges, the cloud-based BI solutions nevertheless offer strong usability, flexibility, cost-saving potential, and scalability. It is therefore worthwhile for companies to properly inform themselves about the offers.

For more on this topic, see Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital Transformation.

This article originally appeared on SAP News Center. 

Carsten Bange

About Carsten Bange

Dr. Carsten Bange is founder and managing director of the Business Application Research Center (BARC), an IT market analysis and consulting group he founded in 1999 and later merged with Le CXP and PAC to form CXP Group, the largest European IT analyst group. Carsten holds a PhD in management information systems, is a frequent speaker at IT conferences and seminars and has served as an analyst and management consultant on business intelligence, data management and digitalization strategy, organization, architecture and technology selection for over 20 years. He can be reached at