Conventional wisdom says business intelligence software is designed for large enterprises. But recent moves from a range of software companies — including SAS Institute and Zoho, respectively — suggest BI is going broader and attracting SMB (small and midsize business) customers. Here’s some perspective.
The latest news involves Zoho — which makes a range of browser-based SaaS applications and competes in some ways with Google Apps. Zoho says Zoho Reports, their business intelligence tool, has left beta.
Previously known as Zoho DB, the rebranded Zoho Reports stays true to Zoho’s dedication to integration. In a blog entry, Zoho boasts a laundry list of features in Reports – most notably full SQL integration, with the ability to import data from any database. They also tout the mandatory collaboration and security features, as well as the vaguely patronizing promise that “users can visually analyze and build insightful reports and dashboards using a drag-and-drop interface, all by themselves.”
Zoho is known for simple software with consumer-like user interfaces, so we expect Zoho to attract SMB attention.
Meanwhile, SAS Institute — one of the largest privately held software companies in the world — is talking up its SMB momentum. A case in point: More than 80 percent of new SAS 2009 commercial accounts are SMB customers. In the U.S., SAS adds, more than 300 new customers in 2009 are midsized businesses.
The SAS press release states:
Already representing more than 20 percent of SAS customers, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are turning to SAS Business Analytics to become more competitive. And with years of experience serving the needs of SMBs, SAS and its partners fully understand their unique needs.
Will SAS Institute and Zoho wind up competing in the SMB market? We don’t think so — at least not in the near term. Definitions of BI software vary greatly from one company to the next. Still, SAS Institute and Zoho have one thing in common: Both companies are taking BI to a broader audience base.