Affordable BI

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The current challenging economic situation both decreases the willingness of many companies to invest, while at the same time increases the need to capture and analyse data in order to stay competitive.

According to a recent article on BI and collaborative decision making, Accenture’s Nick Millman stated that "there is a major focus on the value context, thus a need for greater BI and up-to-date performance metrics to help companies do more with less.”

Open Source BI tools can provide a possible solution to the paradox stated above by reducing total cost of ownership.

While Open Source software is already very strong in several fields (e.g. the Eclipse IDE, or the plethora of freely available web content management systems on cmsmatrix) and can match or even surpass traditional vendor products, BI products are catching up slowly but steadily. Open Source BI tools cover a wide spectrum and include ETL (e.g. kettle, Talend) reporting (e.g.  JfreeReport), OLAP (e.g. Mondrian, JPivot) as well as data mining (e.g. Weka).

Although sceptic voices warn of the danger of missing support and maintenance contracts Open Source BI could potentially become a promising alternative to traditional vendor offerings.

An example to counter this support and maintenance argument is the Commercial Open Source Sugar CRM system, a competitor to conventional CRM vendors.

Sugar CRM provides a free community edition which is enhanced and developed further by the developer community and is available to everyone free of charge. Additionally, a professional non-free version is offered that provides additional functionality and support.

Furthermore, future business leaders will have a completely different attitude and be less sceptical towards Open Source and free software. This Millennial generation grew up with software like Linux, Gimp, Open Office, etc., and knows that product price and product quality are two totally independent factors.

Still, for successful BI implementation endeavours substantial (consulting) expertise is required. Eliminating the software costs does not equal eliminating the required brainpower.

Otherwise the money saved on licensing costs will be spent on a time-consuming and inefficient integration with existing systems. Thus enterprises are increasingly looking to open source business intelligence platforms as an alternative to traditional applications.

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