The future of business intelligence isn’t housed within a business intelligence (BI) platform. It’s with your employees. Specifically, the future of BI is embedded business intelligence, where all the benefits of real-time dashboards and data-driven decision-making are seamlessly worked into your employees’ workflow.
Embedded business intelligence is the practice of putting data and dashboards where they’re needed most, usually within other tools or on a website. It’s a simple concept—make a dashboard and plug it wherever you need it—but the implications are broad, from the minutia of day-to-day tasks to the workflow of entire teams.
1. In-the-Moment Data-Driven Decisions
The purpose of business intelligence is to help you use data to make good decisions. But for situations where you need to make an in-the-moment judgment call, you might not have time to track down the data you need to make an informed decision. Instead, you may have to rely on your gut. With embedded BI, you don’t have to rely on your gut.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a VP of sales at a growing startup that uses Salesforce. To keep the growth engine turning, you need to make sure your team is assigned the right leads at the right time. One way you do this is by keeping a close eye on annual recurring revenue (ARR) by industry. Without embedded BI, you’ve got two options:
- Navigate out of Salesforce into a BI platform.
- If you don’t have access to a BI platform, slap together your own solution using spreadsheets and whatever data visualizations Salesforce might provide.
These are extra steps that take your attention away from your immediate task: assigning leads. The first option takes you out of the context in which you’re assigning leads—there’s one platform for data and another for managing your team. The second option has the same issue but makes it worse by requiring more time and effort on your part to make sense of the data you have on hand. The result is that the data-driven decision you want to make takes more time and effort than you have to spare.
So, you make a gut decision, cross your fingers, and move on with your day.
But with embedded BI, you can plug the data you need right into Salesforce so you don’t have to switch to another platform or put your own solution together. The ARR data you’re after appears in a sales-focused dashboard alongside other important metrics within the context of your decision.
This proximity between data and decision allows you to make the immediate call on who gets which leads, when, and why. Most importantly, you can not only make this decision in a snap but also base it on real-time data.
2. Seamless Workflows
Recently, one company we work with described a situation where their sales team has to navigate between eight tools a day to do their jobs. Even if this company goes all-in on a BI platform, the prospect of adding a ninth tool to this already bloated workflow may not be a popular one. In the end, the salespeople have a choice: reinvent their workflow to suit nine tools, or ignore the new tool entirely. Embedded BI eliminates the choice between using or not using the BI platform.
This company isn’t alone when it comes to the number of tools they use. According to MarTech Today and Blissfully, “Companies with 50 or under employees have about 40 applications in total.” The bottom line is that workflows for the modern worker are complex and split among many tools. BI platforms aren’t a panacea for this problem. Embedded BI, though, can help.
Giving this tool-laden sales team a login to Chartio won’t necessarily empower them to make data-driven decisions. What it will give them, for sure, is one more tab to keep open in their web browser. But, what if you embed Chartio into the tool they already use, like Salesforce? The salespeople will get all the data they need without having to introduce another tool to their workflow.
Embedded BI removes the choice and simplifies your salespeople’s workflow. It slots the data right into this team’s existing eight-tool workflow with no significant interruption. From then on out, in-the-moment, data-driven decisions spread to every team member. Just like our example above with the VP of sales, they can all make snap decisions based on data without having to rework their workflow.
3. Agility and Iteration Become Commonplace
Any way you slice it, dealing with analytics requires technical know-how. And companies that rely solely on their busy developers to implement an analytics solution inevitably create a bottleneck in the flow of data. Embedded BI eliminates this bottleneck and fosters agility and constant iteration among everyone that uses embedded data.
Embedded BI falls under the umbrella of embedded analytics, and when implementing embedded analytics, you have three choices:
- Build your own custom solution.
- Buy a specialized embedded analytics product.
- Use a BI platform’s embedding capabilities.
In the past, many developers and data teams opted to build or buy a specialized solution because they offered more control, and all three options were difficult to implement and maintain. As one redditor on r/BusinessIntelligence put it, “Most BI tools weren’t meant for [embedded analytics] from the start, so it feels a little bolted on.”
But in recent years, embedded BI has made leaps and bounds. In Chartio’s case, embedding a dashboard can take only a couple of minutes to embed a dashboard, and this has grown into a core offering. When confronted with this growth, the amount of work it takes to build your own solution or buy a specialized one doesn’t make as much sense as it used to. Having your developers or data team manage your embedded analytics solution not only increases their workload but, perhaps more importantly, it can also slow everything down and silo off control.
Relying on developers to build a solution or maintain a specialized tool means any changes that need to be made have to be made by them. The data-driven decisions and workflows we’ve discussed so far all grind to a halt if anything breaks.
In contrast, an embedded BI solution like Chartio is easy to implement, and anyone that has access to the dashboard in Chartio can create, maintain, and change it—no SQL required. What’s more, these changes happen in nearly real time. Once you make a change, it appears in your embedded analytics.
It’s a simple process:
- Make a dashboard in Chartio.
- Embed that dashboard wherever it’s needed.
- Make any changes you need in Chartio, and the changes appear wherever the dashboard is embedded.
One example of this in action is how Snowrise uses Chartio’s embedded BI to create what they describe as “analytics as a service” for their clients. Snowrise CEO James Haid says that in the early days, they would regularly create and send individual Excel files to their clients. These spreadsheets were meant to inform action items for in-the-field retail sales reps, which meant they had to be specific yet comprehensive. It was a lot of work and, as James says bluntly, it was “not ideal.”
Now, with embedded BI from Chartio, Snowrise can give their clients interactive dashboards right within the Snowrise product. And it takes only a fraction of the effort compared with the cumbersome Excel process. Now, the Snowrise team creates a dashboard on behalf of their clients and embeds it within their in-product client view. James says that now their clients “can grab the information they need, in the format they need, when they need it.”
Giving everyone who needs it access to this process removes the bottleneck of relying on overworked dev teams. And the agility that removal provides makes it easier to make data-driven decisions and consolidate workflows.
Getting Started with Embedded BI
With the right BI tool (i.e., Chartio 😉), embedded BI takes just a matter of minutes. Once implemented, it can make your business more focused, streamlined, and agile. But that’s just the tip of the embedding iceberg.
Embedded analytics as a whole is a huge opportunity for small businesses and enterprise behemoths alike because everyone wants embedded analytics—your customers included. Everything we described in this article as a way of empowering your employees can be implemented to empower your clients. And we’re not talking hypotheticals here.
In 2013, Harvard academic Thomas H. Davenport argued, “Today it’s not just information firms and online companies that can create products and services from analyses of data. It’s every firm in every industry.”
Embedded BI and embedded analytics as a whole are table stakes for competing in the modern economy. And it’s never been easier to get them implemented. Schedule a demo today to see how.