At a minimum, the SaaS provider should be compliant with Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 70, which, among other things, establishes processes and procedures for proper security when using third-party service organizations, Kaplan says.
Users are also concerned about whether BI services will meet promised performance and availability levels, since they run in multitenant environments. Most vendors say they will provide service-level assurances, but the key is to have a detailed, measurable service-level agreement. "If your SLA is not well defined, you're probably heading into trouble," says Bill Hostmann, an analyst at Gartner.
At Allstate Insurance Co., Anthony Abbattista, vice president of technology solutions, oversaw the build-out of a sophisticated data warehouse and self-service BI infrastructure. Hosted solutions are "pretty cool," he says, referring to them as "good-enough BI." But he cautions that the key to good BI lies in how you pull the data together, linking schemas, tools and access strategies. "Just because you load the data into someone's BI environment doesn't mean you get value from it," he says.
At DMA, Szatkowski has no regrets. "We're getting tremendous results," he says. "It's a workhorse for us."