• United States



by No Analyst or Consultant

Standardizing On A Single BI Reporting And Analysis Platform

Nov 16, 20057 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

by Keith Gile

with Connie Moore and Lucy Fossner

Executive Summary

Standardizing on a single business intelligence (BI) reporting and analysis solution is a good idea in theory, as the results would be lower costs for developing and maintaining reports, greater consistency in the data surfaced by the reports, and lower risk of having multiple reports with contradictory information. In practice, however, this is not easy, as many large enterprise organizations have between five and 15 different BI reporting and analysis solutions in use today, and some have more than 20. Companies can save money by standardizing but must plan for a long, slow migration that may not be practical.


Many large companies are now pushing to standardize on a single reporting tool. The reason this idea seems approachable is the emergence of platforms from the leading BI vendors like BusinessObjects XI, Hyperion Performance Suite, and now Cognos 8 Business Intelligence (BI) that can support both analytic and enterprise reporting. Additionally, large enterprises today have between five and 15 BI solutions with some having in excess of 20 different reporting and analysis solutions. So, why the push to standardize on a single reporting tool? The answer is simple: To cut costs.

But just how much can be saved by adopting a single reporting solution? Companies can expect to cut costs in the following areas:

  • Software. Paying the license and maintenance fees for three solutions is better than paying for seven solutions and similarly paying for one is significantly less than three. Forrester estimates that companies can expect to save 40% to 75% on the overall license fees associated with each solution by eliminating redundant software. The difference will be additional license and maintenance costs for the chosen reporting standard solution.
  • Hardware. Most, if not all, reporting solutions run on a separate server. By reducing the number of separate solutions, companies can expect to save 15% to 35% on the overall hardware costs by reallocating servers and CPUs.
  • Administration. Each reporting solution is administered separately, and all have specific tasks that need to be performed, such as scheduling reports, configuring servers and related hardware, monitoring repository capacity and usage, and performing backup and restore procedures. Forrester estimates that companies can expect to save 20% to 35% on the overall cost of maintaining and administering each reporting solution.
  • Developers. Each reporting solution has its own set of programmatic language and scripting features that the developers learn and exploit. Companies can reduce the overall number of developers on separate solutions while increasing the number of developers capable of developing reports using the adopted standard. The numbers will vary from company to company, but Forrester estimates that you can expect to reallocate full-time equivalents (FTEs) between one to five people per solution.
  • Vendor management. Senior IT executives also find it frustrating to deal with so many vendors across the full spectrum of IT and are always looking for realistic, non-risky ways to minimize the number of vendors they manage. Companies can lower overhead and reduce the headache of managing multiple vendors by standardizing on a single platform; this trend not only applies to BI but other platform decisions like enterprise content management and business process management.


The vendors understand and recognize the strong momentum within enterprises to cut IT costs and reduce the number of vendors IT has to deal with. As a result, the BI market is entering into a consolidation period that becomes yet another reason to standardize on a platform from a larger BI vendor.

  • Here today and gone tomorrow. Many of the tier-two and tier-three BI vendors that offer reporting, such as Actuate, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Panorama Software, and ProClarity , risk being acquired or going out of business. This risk is offset somewhat by the possibility that although the vendor may not continue, the technology may be absorbed into another vendor’s offerings.
  • Odd man out. The tier-one BI vendors Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion Solutions and SAS want to own the reporting technology, and have the money to spend on acquiring or enhancing existing solutions. As a result, these vendors are more attractive to customers making a long-term investment and commitment when compared against the riskier tier-two and three vendors.

Saving money is great and market consolidation is inevitable, but that’s only one part of the equation. Adopting a single vendor to supply all of the reporting and analysis solutions is a risk in itself, as innovation oftentimes comes from smaller, more nimble vendors. Look to standardize on fewer solutions but be flexible in looking for new and creative ways to increase the internal utilization of corporate data assets with emerging visualization and mobile reporting technologies. This is particularly true for emerging technologies such as data visualization in which vendors such as FYI and Tableau Software are delivering solutions to a new audience of information consumers, or text mining with technologies from small vendors like ClearForest. The standardization process should not get in the way of introducing new and possibly useful technologies that extend your current BI portfolio.


Once you consider the cost implications and how to mitigate risks, keep in mind:

  • Crawl before you walk. There are two distinct categories of reporting: analytic and enterprise. Companies should first standardize on one of these, but avoid doing both at the same time. Vendors with products such as BusinessObjects XI, Cognos 8 BI, and others may claim to offer both, but that doesn’t mean you are prepared to make that gigantic leap. Recognize this is a multi-phased project that will take two to three years to complete, so get started but take it slowly.
  • Time is a factor. Reducing the number of reporting solutions from five down to one is daunting. Spread out the disruption by breaking this into two separate phases in which you manage expectations, and budget for the inevitable switching costs and political unrest.
  • Not a free ride. Switching costs are inevitable. For each solution being replaced, you will have to rewrite existing reports in the new standard, and each report developer must be trained on the new reporting tool.



Standardizing on fewer or a single reporting solution will take time, and should be done in phases, such as targeting the complete removal of a tool and its reports. Keep in mind:

  • Switching costs. You will have to spend some money to save money. For example, you must budget for training and new software licenses.
  • Political battles. Entrenched reporting solutions are hard to displace and may require executive mandates to replace them. The argument for standardizing should focus on ROI, market consolidation, and managing vendors more effectively.
  • Differences in reporting solutions. Analytic and enterprise reporting solutions differ greatly, so attack the enterprise reporting side first before attacking the analytic reporting aspect.


Realistically, companies should approach standardization of BI reporting and analysis solutions in two phases, taking up to three years for each of these phases. Set realistic goals for attaining a shortlist of possible candidate standards, followed by selecting as many as three standard platforms to fulfill all of your reporting and analysis needs.

Business Objects delivered on its promise to integrate both its analytic reporting solution (Web Intelligence) and its enterprise reporting solution (Crystal Enterprise) on a single platform. See the January 11, 2005, Quick Take “Business Objects Delivers XI Under Extreme Conditions.” Cognos integrated all of its BI products onto a single SOA platform in Cognos 8 BI. See the September 28, 2005, Tech Choices “Cognos 8 BI Redefines Cognos” BI Approach And Raises The Bar For Integrated BI Platforms.’

Most Global 2000 companies have between five and 15 separate reporting and analysis solutions in use, placing a strain on IT resources and calling into question the integrity of the data in any one report. See the April 5, 2005, Market Overview “Business Intelligence Driven By Compliance, Standardization, And Performance Initiatives.”