Rob ROI: Open Source and Cost of Technology

By Arnold, Stephen E. | Online, July/August 2011 | Go to article overview

Rob ROI: Open Source and Cost of Technology

Arnold, Stephen E., Online

Rob Roy was the fourth in Walter Scott's Waverly novels series. Maybe you remember the 1995 film starring Liam Neeson rather than the novel. If you prefer the book, you can access Rob Roy as an etext on various websites identified by Edinburgh University Library's Walter Scott Digital Archive (www, or, hopefully, you can borrow it from a local library.

I recall this statement from Chapter 24: "A coward calls himself cautious, a miser thrifty." It seems an appropriate commentary for today's views on open source. Open source software seems to be a way to bring "thrift" to the enterprise. "Roi" today means return on investment, not kingalthough some chief financial officers would beg to differ.


Is open source software more economical than proprietary software? The answer to this question, like so many in today's fractious world, is, "It depends." A misstep in information technology produces a financial challenge. Stakeholders are often quick to point fingers at managers who rob ROI from the organization's balance sheet.

Most information professionals know that business intelligence is one of the buzzwords competing for their attention. The idea is that software can process structured and unstructured information and generate answers needed to make decisions.

Few software systems are as complex as those that perform business intelligence. The difficulty of handling database or structured content and the torrents of unstructured information in the form of email, Word documents, and Adobe PDF files is high. Content transformation in some organizations consumes as much as 30% of their information technology budgets.


In the past year, open source business intelligence software gained momentum in a number of government agencies and commercial enterprises. One of the higher profile vendors is Pentaho Corp. (, a privately held company based on open source technology. The company offers a business intelligence suite without a punishing annual licensing fee. The Pentaho system operates on-site or from the cloud. Pentaho puts reporting, analysis, data integration, dashboards, and data mining within reach. The company asserts, "if you want to speed your BI development, deploy on-premise or in the cloud or cut BI licensing costs by up to 90 percent," Pentaho is a solution for many organizations.

If you have looked at products from such proprietary business intelligence vendors as Cognos SPSS (IBM) or Business Objects (SAP), you know that these systems are complex. The same can be said for enterprise search, accounts payable, or enterprise resource planning systems. The next generation of business intelligence products and services offer an enticing plum-to wit, you no longer need specialized knowledge of statistics, mathematics, or data integrity to get the benefits of business intelligence systems. The idea is mouthwatering, but it flies in the face of such information technology realities as "nothing worthwhile comes easy."


What still distinguishes enterprise business intelligence from an application such as word processing is the need to understand the underlying plumbing, such as specific characteristics of a data set or the particular statistical method's implications. Outputs without understanding the upside and downside of an approach can lead to off-base or out-of-kilter decisions. When faced with a choice among statistical methods and complex numerical recipes for performing regression analysis to understand a market trend, most professionals understand that there may be piranhas and snakes in the data pond. A college-level Introduction to Statistics course is essentially useless when business intelligence systems become available. Expertise, therefore, adds to the cost of even an open source business intelligence system as capable as Pentaho's. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Rob ROI: Open Source and Cost of Technology


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.