Apparently, SaaS BI player LucidEra is shutting down as of the end of this month.
He [marketing VP, friend, and former Business Objects colleague Darren Cunningham] would not go into details regarding LucidEra’s financial problems other than to say, “It was a matter of funding or being acquired. And neither of those things happened.”
- The dependency on external data. Operational apps (e.g., NetSuite, Salesforce) inherently have data associated with them, data that gets loaded initially when you configure the app, and data that gets supplemented every day when you use it. BI is a blank slate that requires data to be useful.
- The variability of user requirements. There are only so many ways to call a lead, pay an invoice, or promote an employee (i.e., implement use-cases in transactional apps). In BI, just about any question you can imagine is fair game and different people think about things in different ways. This is one reason why BI has seemed to defy “applicationization,” despite repeated attempts from multiple vendors. While you certainly can package some common reports and dashboards, my guess is you’re grabbing only 20% of the requirements, not the 80% you grab when package up transactions.
- The variability of data. While software industry consolidation is slowly reducing the number of different sources from which BI needs to pull data, BI still needs to pull data from a wide variety of sources. This is a complex problem, made more complex by the need to pull from both SaaS and traditional sources, and serves to undermine both applicationization and multi-tenancy. My hunch is you either (1) need to be highly vertically focused and “force” (e.g.,) all retailers into your retail data warehouse or (2) end up doing custom implementations for each of your customers at both a data integration and data warehousing level, and you become a hosting vendor of custom applications instead of a true SaaS vendor.
Simply put, I think BI’s hard to bottle and you probably need to be very big, very focused (in either a vertical market or application-centricity sense), or both, if you want to succeed.
Interestingly, LucidEra doesn’t blame the category for its own demise:
LucidEra’s decision to shut down was brought about by a lack of funding, not a lack of interest in its products or in SaaS BI as a whole, Cunningham said.
Another friend and former Business Objects coworker, Timo Elliott (who stayed on with SAP post-acquisition), covers the winding-down in his BI Questions blog in this thoughtful post, The End of a LucidEra.
My position has always been that on-demand business intelligence is an essential part of the market, but that some of the claimed benefits have been over-hyped.
In particular, I don’t think the debate should be about choosing between on-demand and on-premise: customers should be able to seamlessly and easily move between one and the other according to their needs, using the same technology platform.