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A Software Company’s Journey with Analytics
The road to application analytics competence for many software companies can be a long and sometimes arduous one. Finding a solution that is flexible enough to meet your users needs, while maintainable enough to keep your developers focused on core competency, all the while staying on-time and on-budget is no easy feat. As an application evolves, we frequently see development teams go through the same cycle:
PHASE I: Component Library + Code (6-18 Months)
“We have developers and development expertise to boot…let’s develop!” Typically this starts with a “low-to-no” cost component library and then “…let the coding begin!” Super-flexible, and low barriers to get started, but also super-time consuming (let’s start counting those fte hours!) and often, in-the-end, unmaintainable. Many times, development teams find themselves mired in support tickets (we call it “running in wet concrete”) trying to meet customer needs with custom code sometimes having multiple full-time developers working on creating custom or one-off reports.
Institutional expertise can also be much fickler when dealing with specialized custom development. What if an important report/analytics developer (or 5, since developers sometimes stick together) leaves the team? What about keeping up with data analysis and visualization trends that data analytics solutions are releasing on a regular basis? And then there are things like security permissions, web authoring and Self-Service BI & Analytics to implement…Do you really want to develop (and maintain!) all that? I don’t think so!
Eventually, most dev teams end up looking for alternative solutions. Sound familiar?
PHASE II: BI-Tool (12-24 Months)
For most software companies there comes a breaking point when the “libraries + code” component becomes unsustainable and is taking too much development time away from building out the features you and your customers are really passionate about.
It could be a huge new client with analytic expectations beyond what you can deliver in a realistic timeframe. It could be a client survey where you realize your analytics are the reason you have new client prospects going to competition or existing clients heading out the door. It could be the realization that there are new revenue opportunities which will secure renewals, develop expansion plays at existing accounts, and attract new clients who can be on-boarded faster and at a higher average deal value.
This is the critical moment, when executives, product owners, and development teams decide they need to do something. The first obvious toolset to look at is BI tools. Easy to configure and maintain compared to a chart library and custom code, they have limited technical and commercial flexibility and it may be an inconsistent user experience with your own, sometimes having to go into a seperate tool to run reports and dashboards that don’t really match the look and feel of your application…But it’s supportable at the very least!
Choosing to either use a finished BI product or give a truly embedded analytics experience in a software is a strategic company decision. There are 2 primary reasons why product and development teams look-up and wonder whether an embedded solution might be of higher value than a finished BI product:
- They seek a user experience that is more custom and consistent with their solution’s user experience. Rather than using a BI vendor’s finished product user paradigm, they’d rather stay true to their own. In other words, a more custom embedded analytics user experience that matches the solution’s UI and is transparent for the user.
- If you have 10 users or 100, a BI tool is relatively affordable, but what if you have 500, 1,000, 10,000 or more, most software companies quickly conclude that a BI-tool model of counting users (or cores) is uneconomic.
PHASE III: Embedded (12+ Months)
For those of you who skipped the last step, congratulations! You’re ahead of the competition. For those of you who didn’t, that’s okay too! We’re glad you realized you need something more AND that there’s money, effort, risk mitigation and time savings to be made doing it. If you found us, hopefully, you’ve already realized the benefits embedded analytics presents. By leveraging an analytics engine built to integrate with other softwares while continuing to give users the analytics they expect, development teams can balance flexibility with maintainability creating an on-going experience that allows your team to focus on what matters to your users, while providing them a branded analytics experience they need to make full use of your application.
What is Embedded Analytics?
So what is embedded analytics really? Well, Embedded analytics at its core, combines the feature set of a traditional analytics tool along with the capacity to easily embed, white-label and integrate that feature set into an application. In other words, adding to a software powerful analytics and data visualization in a way the end user doesn’t see the difference between the host application features and the analytics and dashboards module.
Fresh Web Content vs. Finished BI Product
With embeddable analytics, you’re starting with a fresh webpage or piece of web content. It’s white as snow, fresh, blank and empty. You, the developer, decide what you’re going to put there, whether it’s one of or a combination of tables, charts or maps (as you would expect, there’s a pretty extensive library). After that, you, the developer, decide how you would like to purpose that analytic content in the context of your application.
Many people think of an overview dashboard on login for instance something that immediately gives the user insight on important KPIs at a quick glance.Then, the user can browse through other dashboards showing historical analysis, current statuses, and other detailed reports.
In summary, you decide, not the BI-tool vendor, what analytic content you are going to display, in which context and not only how it looks, but also how it behaves. icCube has inherent BI-like functionality you can take advantage of, however, you can also have icCube respond, for example to variable parameters sent by the host application, or indeed you could have icCube redirect the user to a new page or piece of web content in the host application. It’s not just about applying a CSS with your logo on it.
Embedding and Reporting – what end users are demanding NOW
If you’re going to ask users to use a finished product, like a BI-tool, then you’re going to need to train them how to use it. One of the ideas behind embedded analytics is that it’s simply analytic web content embedded inside your application. In other words, the user should have no requirement to “learn” anything, the content and its context should be so intuitive for the user to benefit from it straight away – no “training” required.
Furthermore, an embedded analytics solution should provide the capability to let the end-users not only to view but also edit or even create dashboards, reports, and eventually new widgets.
Modern end-users aren’t satisfied with static dashboards and not only want, but demand the ability not only for dynamic and modern BI but most importantly, the ability to create their own reports, navigate through their data and share their findings among their colleagues. When icCube is integrated with a host application, it allows end-users – according to their given credentials – to build and completely customize their own dashboards as well as post comments on the dashboard or on specific data. To share reports, a simple URL is sufficient as icCube is 100% browser-based. Reports can be in real-time, automatically refreshed in a given interval or every time there was a change in the database.
Data security when integrating a third-party software
Where embedded analytics differentiates itself from regular business intelligence is that it allows software or an application to fully and seamlessly integrate an Advanced Analytics and Reporting tool within it, taking into account the given security authentication system. The embedded analytics solution should be able to provide fine-grained security in order to fully adopt and understand the security system of the application it’s being integrated into. This means the access to the analytics and data visualizations will be given by the host application’s security already in place.
Indeed, security is in fact preserved with icCube as it will fit the software’s specific security system thanks to the on-the-fly authentication and authorization that can achieve up to cell level detailed data. End users will only see and edit what they are allowed to, so the software company won’t need to worry about data security and access rights as it will continue to rely on its own system.
Data Analysis & Reporting
Data can come in many formats and can be analyzed in many ways depending on the need of the user. Sums, percentages, vector calculations, statistical modelling, the possibilities are huge. Once the data is put together and choice of how to analyze it is defined, you can show results in real-time enterprise dashboards. Data analysis and reporting is, therefore, the way of getting valuable business insights taking full advantage of icCube’s built-in functions extensible through scripting languages such as MDX, Java, and R. On top of that, analytics in icCube is FAST! icCube can load several hundreds of thousands of records per second and the data accessible through the icCube web-based interface loads at near lightning speed!
Business analytics to embed
Embedded analytics is more than just regular BI integrated into existing SaaS and software systems. It is a development platform that specializes in deep code base integration to deliver analytics to users seamlessly with new features and capabilities added frequently allowing you to not only maintain your application’s analytics but to improve them over time without having to do the specialized development required to do so. CRMs, ERPs, customer service or customer experience, education & learning, energy, financial, healthcare, hospitality, human resources, ITSM, marketing & online advertising, real estate, retail & wholesale, supply chain, transportation & logistics, or any industry-specific software are more and more looking to enable their end-users to visualize their data, contained in the software itself as well as from other data sources. Processing and representing this data themselves comes with a high cost while they need to focus on their core business. Therefore, integrating a robust embedded analytics solution within the application itself takes away high costs of developing a reporting tool in-house while tapping into modern BI capabilities, right from the start.
To allow businesses to promote their own application as one package, embedded analytics solutions are integrated in a transparent way the end-users can’t tell where the host application begins or ends. Themes that correspond to the branding of the software can be applied to dashboards or industry-specific representations can be created by building dedicated widgets, graphs, scoreboards and reports. The software integrating analytics can leave the choice to its users, to view, interact or even create their own dashboards.
Why Embedded Analytics with icCube?
Rapidly Deploy Embedded Analytics for Your Application
Balancing performance and maintainability starts with deployment, and icCube prides itself on becoming a true development partner through this process. Making your application’s analytics look modern and secure has never been easier.
Embedded Self-Service Analytics That Empowers Users
icCube’s embedded analytics platform allows you to create a seamless and intuitive experience your customers will love. Easily match interactive reporting and dashboarding your users can use easily with the look and feel of the rest of your application and add reliable and easy-to-use self-service reporting and dashboarding your users want and improve upon existing analytic capabilities in your software.
SaaS and software companies today look for custom licence methodologies, as opposed to the traditional “per/user”, “per core” or “per customer” typically offered from BI-tool vendors, for several reasons:
- The value of analytics can be different for different applications. Different licensing models work better when scaled up or down to match. For some applications, the core application value is taking data and delivering it in a usable way to end-users, for others the value of analytics as part of the host application is less predominant. Matching licensing structures to value is as important to us as it is to you.
- Some SaaS and software companies have a few high-value customers who seek additional capabilities, while many lower-value customers may be comfortable with what already exists and most are somewhere in between. Economically delivering the value your high-value customers expect can sometimes be a make or break for profitability on those accounts. Finding the right solution and licensing model to do so is something we work hand-in-hand on.
- Most SaaS and software companies are moving or have moved away from per-user pricing because they recognize the number of users is not necessarily correlated to the value of their software and furthermore it allows them to break unhelpful (sometimes unreasonable) like-with-like comparisons as well as differentiate by aligning more clearly with their customers’ objectives. Examples might include licensing: per account for wealth management software, per contract for bond management software, per rented hotel room for hotel management software, per MegaWatt for energy management software, per shipping vessel for shipping management software…the dimensions of value are infinite! Common themes relate to transactions handled by the host system (such as number of calls handled in a call center CSR application for example) or the number or characteristics of assets managed by the host system (such as the number or area of warehouses in a warehouse management solution for example)
- Per-user pricing is typically economic with tens or even a couple of hundred users, however, once a SaaS or software company has 500 or more users (as you would expect across all customers) the costs become unsustainable and/or the margin spread opportunity dwindles to nothing.
- Price guarantees are something that differentiates icCube from other providers. We lock in pricing 3 YEARS – Software companies are continually updating prices to reflect new features, functions and capabilities developed and added. The icCube no-nonsense 3-year flat-price guarantee means you don’t have to worry about price hikes and can spend less development time year-over-year on developing and maintaining homegrown solutions.
Precise, reliable, human and geeky…We’re not only embedded analytics software for application software developers…we’re also software developers who like to talk to software developers. We distinguish ourselves by being real people, with real names, faces, email addresses and telephone numbers. You won’t get lost in a “virtual” system, we value our customer relationships and bend over backwards to be accessible and committed to your success.