business intelligence

What is embedded business intelligence (BI)? Why you should use it?

To make business decisions at scale, you need to ask the right questions. To ask the right questions, you need to be plugged in to the right insights. Therein lies a problem for today’s business leader. 

Consider the traditional business intelligence process. If you want to gather valuable analytics, you have to jog through a swamp of people, processes, and technologies. You’re over here, but you need to get over there. App logins, access management systems, and backlogged data teams stand in your way.

But what if business intelligence wasn’t a workflow at all? What if searching for data was so intuitive you hardly noticed you were doing it? This is what’s possible with embedded business intelligence. 

What is embedded business intelligence (BI)?

Embedded business intelligence (BI), also known as embedded analytics, integrates rich data analytics into the user’s existing business applications, workflows, and software—helping non-technical users unlock relevant insights connected to the context. 

By embedding analytics into familiar applications, anyone in your organization can easily search an enormous body of data. Each arm of the modern tech stack is unified and integrated, creating a two-way flow of data from tools like customer relationship management systems (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, and external-facing products. 

Build or buy—Which one to choose?

As data explodes, organizations need an embedded BI solution to help their team and customers utilize data for faster decision-making. Although most product development teams can build such a solution, it is a huge undertaking. And if data analysis and BI are not your competency, you may need to invest extra time and resources in establishing an entirely new team. Consequently, deployment also takes considerable time, especially if you want to design and implement complex reporting and analysis features.

Another key factor to consider is scalability and flexibility. When you build an embedded BI solution in-house, you are responsible for its maintenance, updates, and support. As your analytics needs grow, it will become difficult to scale and manage the infrastructure.

A pre-built embedded BI solution offers connectivity with multiple databases, allowing you to deploy the solution within days, not weeks. This reduces the time-to-insights when compared to building a solution from scratch. Best of all, a pre-built embedded business intelligence solution offers a customizable user interface, empowering everyone to glean actionable insights from complex datasets without extensive training.

Not convinced? Take it from Harri, a SaaS company that helps businesses in the hospitality sector manage their workforce. To meet the growing demands of the hospitality community, they decided to relaunch their product with the intention of offering users a real-time, self-service analytics experience. And for this, they choose ThoughtSpot Embedded. 

Watch this video to see how Hari leveraged ThoughtSpot’s easy-to-integrate, embedded analytics solution to drive customer engagement:

Benefits of using embedded business intelligence with real-world examples

Self-service BI empowers users, giving them the data-backed confidence to make critical business decisions. When you embed data directly into the platforms you already use, users can access relevant, nuanced insights to tell stories with data.

So how are companies actually benefiting from embedded BI? Here are four ways businesses are turning embedded analytics into value. 

1. Boosts decision intelligence

When you’re armed with quality data, you become a data-driven business. Instead of going into an outdated dashboard or relying on insights from a data analyst, your non-technical users can leverage self-service BI. This empowers employees to analyze data right in applications they’re already using throughout the workday—no IT or technical expertise required.

This could look like embedding analytics into your customer relationship management (CRM) tool, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, or website. Your internal teams can efficiently and comprehensively extract valuable data insights, leading to reached KPIs and increased revenue targets. 

Embedded BI also helps businesses scale, freeing up time for data teams to focus on more strategic initiatives. Cindi Howson echoed this sentiment on The Data Chief, citing an example of a company that experienced limitations with dashboard data reporting:

“Insights are powerful, but on their own they have limited value. Instead of hoping that people will act from an insight on a dashboard, it’s better to bring that insight into an operational workflow to drive actions at scale…For example, if you have insights about a customer whose orders have shipped late, a dashboard may tell you there’s a problem. But you want to go further. You want to proactively message these customers, or, maybe you’ll look at it and say all these orders? We’re going to switch it from ground transportation to air to ensure you keep that customer loyalty.” 

- Cindi Howson, Chief Strategy Officer at ThoughtSpot

ThoughtSpot helps you operationalize your data, bringing key information to and from the apps that you and your team already know and love—like Google Sheets and Slack. As Cindi said, this process closes the loop from data to insight to action. This is what sets leaders apart from the rest of their competitive landscape. 

2. Creates a data-driven culture

Embedded BI nurtures a culture of data fluency by bringing data into the day-to-day workflows. You no longer have to be a data analyst or analytics engineer to interact with data. In fact, you don’t even have to know how to interpret a data visualization. You just receive the data in context at the right time so you can make a more informed decision.

Citigroup’s Senior Vice President and Global Product Manager of Business Data Analytics & Digital Innovations Chris Powers understands the value of going from insights to impact with embedded data. 

“You start with having the data, looking at it, making decisions, and those decisions bring up more questions. So what you want to do is figure out: what questions are you not asking that you should be? …then you can start looking at things that you may not have thought about and start drilling down into that data.” 

- Chris Powers, Senior Vice President and Global Product Manager of Business Data Analytics & Digital Innovations at Citigroup

3. Saves time and increases productivity

Embedded reporting saves time for leaders across your company—decreasing frustration and increasing productivity. Here’s a sneak peak at the value prop for your org chart:

  • Data leaders can efficiently harness insights to create rich data storytelling.

  • Sales teams no longer have to pore over individual dashboards and make connections between complex data sets. Instead, data is integrated into commonly used systems like Salesforce.

  • Product leaders can access key business metrics contextualized within familiar workflows and software. 

  • Data teams can focus on higher-value tasks when business leaders are empowered to become data analysts.

  • Developers can use their time developing the product instead of building an embedded analytics experience.

Your customers save time, too. When they can access valuable data about the company and product, they get their questions answered without going through the loop of asking for support. A recent Product Led Alliances (PLA) survey found that 57% of respondents experienced a direct impact on their revenue from embedded analytics.

On the flip side, when analytics live in a separate solution or dashboard, it can negatively impact the product. Chad Hawkinson, the Chief Product and Data Officer at Vertafore, calls for a more integrated analytics experience:

“Where I think a lot of analytics software vendors fail is that we provide analytics in this kind of separate solution over here. Keeping those separate is one of the reasons these projects fail from adoption because nobody wants to use them… The more of these analytics that you can embed into the workflows, the more successful the data and analytics project is going to be.” 

- Chad Hawkinson, Chief Product and Data Officer at Vertafore

4. Delivers an engaging, interactive user experience

Today’s modern data stack has made embedding business intelligence possible for non-technical users. Product teams using tools such as ThoughtSpot Embedded can embed analytics into applications and product features that benefit both internal teams and customers. 

For example, when product managers leverage embedded business intelligence, they can incorporate analytics into consumer-facing software or products. The user experience (UX) suddenly becomes far more interactive, helping the customer get value from your product faster. That same PLA report found that 60% of product professionals who build products and apps with embedded analytics experienced increased engagement.

“It’s time to rethink all those business applications you’re building. They should no longer just act as a systems-of-record to capture data. They should be apps that include data insights as part of the app.” 

- Cindi Howson, Chief Strategy Officer at ThoughtSpot

Restaurant-industry disruptor OpenTable provides an ideal use-case of embedded BI in action. 

OpenTable’s app gives restaurateurs benchmarking data, competitive intel, and even in-the-weeds insights like how many shifts should occur in any given time frame. This helps restaurants run more efficiently, and it provides customers a better user experience. 

“Restaurateurs use our tool to manage their floor plans, manage their seats, reservations, and potentially all their business.”

-Grant Parsamyan, Senior Vice President of Data and Analytics at OpenTable

Things to consider while choosing an embedded BI solution

Choosing the right embedded BI solution is essential to help your customers navigate the complexities of a data-rich environment. To help you make the correct decision, here are five features to look at in your evaluation process:

1. Handles large data volumes efficiently: Scalability is critical for businesses as their data grows in size and complexity. Choose a tool that has multiple connectors and can analyze large datasets, without compromising on speed and performance. 

2. Has interactive visualization capabilities: It’s a universal truth that visualizations can help everyone comprehend insights and build contextual data stories. Ensure that the embedded BI solution you choose offers interactive visualizations, including charts, graphs, and tables that allow users to dig deeper into data. 

embedded BI liveboard

3. Offers customizable dashboards: Live dashboards track critical KPIs and also offer context for faster decision-making. Make sure that your embedded tool allows users to build customizable dashboards, allowing them to keep a pulse on important business activities. 

4. Makes accessing data simple: If your embedded solution is limited to only technically skilled users, it won’t allow other teams to explore the potential of data. Choose a self-service analytics tool with an intuitive interface that allows everyone to gain access to insights without extensive training.  

5. Supports mobile compatibility: As the workforce becomes global, having a solution that allows users to access reports and dashboards on various devices is beneficial.

The research is in: Accessible data is a competitive edge

By embedding BI throughout your organization, you make data accessible to your internal teams and customers—this is a competitive advantage in a saturated marketplace. Embedded business intelligence empowers business leaders to make smart decisions and decipher complex data stacks. 

As the analytics layer of the modern data stack, ThoughtSpot’s AI-Powered Analytics is the antidote to the antiquated business intelligence market. Now, everyone in your organization can search and interact with live data. And with our embedded BI solutions, business users can experience this data without ever leaving the workflows and processes they’re already used to. 

Start a free 14-day free trial to see how embedded BI can revolutionize your company’s relationship with data.