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Cloud-based BI helped one company rely less on IT

Cloud-based BI helped ServiceChannel rely less on IT for data management and reporting, which freed up analysts to make stronger use of the company's data.

What's the best way for a business that's already generally data-driven to remake itself into a business that uses data analysis more as a core part of its product offerings? For one company, step one was reducing reliance on internal IT services.

"[Business intelligence] is a pretty complex space," said Sid Shetty, vice president of global services at New York-based facilities management software platform company ServiceChannel. "Traditionally, everyone who is part of the business community has been intimidated by business intelligence and has had to jump through hoops to access data on their own. The business user has always relied on IT."

ServiceChannel changed that dynamic in 2013 when it implemented a cloud-based BI system from GoodData. Shetty said this enabled the company to spend more time working with customers and less time worrying about managing servers and structuring data.

Cloud-based BI removes data barriers

ServiceChannel runs an online marketplace connecting businesses that have building maintenance needs with commercial contractors. For example, an office park that needs heating and ventilation repairs can find HVAC contractors. Facilities managers can procure and pay for contractors right in ServiceChannel's online platform.

With the amount of information we capture, we realized that cloud technology was the way to go.
Sid Shettyvice president of global services, ServiceChannel

Because the platform is entirely online and it processes work request tickets and payments, the company always had a lot of data at its fingertips. But accessing and making sense of that data was a challenge. ServiceChannel previously worked with a traditional BI vendor, which required that the company's IT team manage the servers running the application and meticulously structure the data before analysts could work with it. This put a barrier between frontline business workers and the data, according to Shetty.

"We realized that we spent more time worrying about our BI infrastructure and how our data was structured, and we spent less time helping our clients gain insights from their data," he said.

No to managing servers, structuring data

That realization led Shetty to consider other options. He eventually found GoodData, which he said he likes because it's cloud-based. Using the cloud means no more managing servers or structuring data. It's also made it easier, Shetty said, to scale products internationally.

Currently, ServiceChannel offers clients reporting capabilities built on the GoodData platform. ServiceChannel either builds reporting dashboards for its customers or allows them to use the data to build their own. Clients can report on things like how much they're spending on maintenance, how long service tickets take to clear, and whether there's a correlation at their facility between local weather and HVAC repair needs. Now ServiceChannel has turned its data into a core part of its business.  

"With the amount of information we capture, we realized that cloud technology was the way to go," Shetty said.

Although the company has not calculated a specific return on its investment in the cloud-based BI system, Shetty said the benefits are obvious. Offering customers the ability to create their own reports is a new area of the business that wasn't previously supported. This has helped lead to higher customer engagement. Before implementing the system, about 30% of customers logged onto the platform weekly. That number is now 80%.

Shetty said the benefit of using the cloud to reduce reliance on IT was clear from the beginning and continues to pay off. "It was kind of a no-brainer for us."

Next Steps

Don't be intimidated by BI in the cloud

Cloud lowers barriers to BI, analytics success

Despite advantages, BI users have been slow to migrate to the cloud

This was first published in February 2016

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