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What's Next In Analytics | InformationWeek

With complex statistical models, it can take weeks to produce usable results. Prebuilt, specialized analytic apps promise forward-looking insight that people can act on now. 

We're not talking about transactional applications such as ERP, CRM, and supply chain management. Those apps--whether on-premises or on-demand--invariably have built-in analytic features.

Analytic apps are entirely about insight and decision support. They generally include data links to enterprise apps and line-of-business systems, as well as predefined data models, dashboards, metrics, and reports that make them faster and easier to deploy than apps built from scratch. Vendors create them with input from industry experts, drawing on best practices and industry benchmarks. That's reassuring to customers, who otherwise would face the long, risk-fraught process of gathering requirements, building consensus on functionality, developing custom apps using a general-purpose BI/analytic suite, and then hoping--more likely praying--for user acceptance and adoption. (For more on BI development, see 5 Factors In Agile BI.)

Companies considering prebuilt analytic apps should ask these questions: Will the app fit the company's specific needs? Can it be customized or adapted for a better fit? Some products pitched as applications aren't really apps at all because they're not supported and maintained by the vendor. You'll definitely want to know whether the vendor is on the hook if the product doesn't work. And is there a road map for upgrades?

Finally, does choosing a prebuilt app mean sacrificing differentiation for the sake of fast, easy deployment? The answer depends on how tied the apps are to a company's core strategy, but it's highly unlikely they'll make or break your company. Analytic apps are a shortcut to insight, but as with BI, having data at your fingertips doesn't guarantee success. On that score, make sure your company is ready for the shrewd and swift fact-based decision making required to take advantage of analytic apps.

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