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Cost Of Dashboard Deployments

by Lyndsay WiseTuesday, July 28, 2009

Selecting a dashboard solution for your organization can be stressful or overwhelming.  Many considerations have to be taken into account such as the purpose of the dashboard, how widely it will be deployed, what integration criteria is required, and important features and functionality.  In addition to all of this, organizations compare these criteria based on pricing structures.  Whether this means the initial cost of deployment, the implementation times associated with the solution, or what the solution will cost over time, identifying cost and how it affects the overall evaluation process cannot be overlooked. 

This article looks at what cost considerations exist when looking at dashboard solutions and what realistic expectations are regarding dashboard solution costs.  In addition, some dashboard vendors have provided averages of the cost of deployment for their products based on the number of users or various licensing fees/structures.  These numbers (excluding names) will provide additional insight into what organizations should expect when implementing dashboard solutions.

Cost Considerations

Although most organizations do not solely base their software selection on pricing, the fact is that what a solution costs - and how that ties to overall value and perceived return on investment (ROI) - matters when organizations are required to justify their software choices.  When looking at cost and the pricing structure of dashboards, vendors generally develop their fees based on different levels of usage.  These pricing structures can be broken out by user, department, developer or server.  Training, value-added services and ongoing support usually makes up a percentage over and above what the solution costs.  So, what is the implication for organizations when evaluating how much to spend?

General costs and licensing fees

Depending on the way vendors configure their solutions, pricing structures and license options will differ.  For instance, many on-demand or software-as-a-service providers offer their solutions on a subscription base.  This could be on a yearly or monthly basis by individual user or group.  Alternatively, on-premise solutions generally follow a per user or per CPU licensing structure.  In general, license fees broken out by users may be limited to a handful of super users or developers.  Alternatively, user fees can be divided into two categories – the first being super users or developers, and the second being the consumers of the data.  In this case, a small number of people are developing the dashboards, reports, etc. with a larger number of end users accessing this information, sharing it with colleagues, and making decisions based on the information they receive.  When looking at CPU or server license models, the focus turns from end users to data volumes and maintenance.  Organizations can use CPU licenses to distribute information to various users and not have to worry about individual licensing fees.

Added value – training, services and support

In addition to initial software costs and licensing, organizations need to consider whether they require additional vendor services.  In many cases, organizations choose to go it alone when learning the system, but opt for support packages.  When looking at support alone, organizations can expect to pay around 20 percent of the overall software costs yearly for additional support.  Support becomes important when troubleshooting, upgrading, changing platforms, encountering general issues, etc.

Aside from support, though, solution providers generally offer training and/or consulting services to help customers identify the important metrics and design tailored solutions.  Support options may be included within an initial package with some vendors, but generally, other services are offered as above and beyond the product offering. 

Organizations should decide when they start a project whether they need additional training or want help developing the look and feel of the solution, or help with getting the most out of key defined metrics.   Although this might be more costly in the beginning, organizations will be better able to develop solutions themselves as time goes on, lessening potential services and support costs in the future.

Average Deployment Costs

After discussing general dashboard costs, the logical step is to look at solutions overall to identify what reasonable expectations are when looking to deploy dashboards within the organization.  The amounts represented here are general guidelines and provide insight into what the expectations of an organization should be.  It is important to remember that different solutions offer different types of value.  For instance, they may differ based on supported data sources, integration requirements, delivery model, and overall features and functionality.

For individual use, vendor pricing can range from free availability to about $1,000.  When looking at departmental or groups, pricing may increase to between $10,000 and $50,000 for up to 75 users.   Generally, price per user seems to be steady among most vendors at between $600 and $2,000 per user per year.  Although this represents a broad discrepancy, some dashboard vendors offer more analytical capabilities and a wider range of overall business intelligence functionality.

Putting This All Together

What does this mean for organizations?  Even though it is important to identify how much the average company spends on dashboards, the real value comes from assessing the costs and benefits associated with each solution.  Understanding the general pricing parameters enables an organization to compare solutions to what overall market expectations are so that they understand what pricing is realistic and common for dashboard deployments.  This becomes the first step in adequately evaluating solutions against an organization’s overall business requirements.

Conclusion

Pricing and software costs are just one aspect of what organizations should consider when looking at implementing dashboards within their organizations.  However, looking at cost breakdowns and understanding the various components of software costs can help an organization short list solutions based on their allocated budgets.  Depending on how dashboards are being used or deployed, it becomes realistic to expect price points under $1,000 per year per user.  For organizations that are more cautious, the ability to download trial versions and general free versions of solutions before committing themselves to any one offering allows them to identify the added value they will receive and tie that into the cost of the dashboard being used.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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