Tuesday, March 20

The first SaaS BI company acquired

Thank you Stan Pugsley for passing on news of a new BI acquisition. Sharp Analytics, the forward thinking SaaS BI company, was acquired by iCrossing, a digital marketing agency. Seems my 10 Q&A with Chuck Sharp was timely (the acquisition was unknown to me at the time).

So why would a marketing agency acquire a subscription-based BI company?

Sure. There is the marketing alignment between the two companies. The synergy between sharing the same clients. But for a marketing agency to get into ETL, data integration, statistical analysis, and cleansing of data seems to be a detour from it's core competency.

What were they thinking.

iCrossing provides pay-per-click, search optimization, and landing page services that improve the success of a company's marketing campaign. Target specific demographics. Media placement. And once a campaign is run, the result produces boat loads of data.

But it's only data.

How well did the campaign perform? What demographics bought what products? Did the campaign make money? There are no actionable insights. Where's the BI? Actually Sharp Analytics offers this analysis. Search keyword analysis. Track search rankings. Click fraud reports. Paid search analysis.

Marketing BI.

Now iCrossing with Sharp Analytics can offer a full range of services to their clients.

I guess that was their thinking.

Monday, March 19

The end of BI

The end, at least as we know it, touts Information Week. Thanks Janaki Gopalan for these articles.

Oracle's purchase of Hyperion leaves just two big BI vendors, Business Objects and Cognos. Many think they will be acquired but are they good acquisitions?

Here's what their CEOs have to say, Business Objects, Cognos CEOs Speak Out On Hyperion Acquisition.

Oracle's deal to buy Hyperion Solutions is changing the market landscape for customers, vendors and partners. To further explain, Information Week writes, It's The End Of The Business Intelligence World As We Know It.

So what does all this mean? The market is consolidating. Okay. The big players are serioulsy interested in BI. Excellent. And will this increase value to the business and give timely information to employees and mgmt?

Oh that.

Yes, while the vendors & acquirers are calculating the best combination of stock options & cash, who's delivering for customers? The IDC chart above puts the top 3 analysis vendors as Business Objects, Cognos, and Microsoft. But in the same article said SAS has the largest revenues of $1.9B. While Hyperion seems to focus on financial departments.

The question for those thinking about BI or those already using BI is this,

"What vendor has the toolset functionality, capability to improve their product line, and the implementation partners to give me the ROI, on-going business value and monthly performance answers our company deserves?"

Unfortunately for customers, consolidation means less choice, especially if major companies continue to acquire the major BI players. On the bright side, there will be more room for new entrants into the vendor market -- you know, those that offer innovative ways to bring BI to business people.

Thursday, March 15

10 Questions for Michael Matrick

When you bring together former senior leaders from some of the leading BI vendors, you'll probably find them creating innovative, Web 2.0 products with a fresh new approach to a common problem. When customers need, almost demand, that they gain immediate value from their existing BI system, 90 Degree Software has a unique collaborative approach for building reports and dashboards that I haven't seen in any other product.

When I was given a demonstration of what their tools could do, I had to share this with you. So I spoke with Michael Matrick, co-founder and President, about what they are doing over at 90 Degree Software up in Vancouver, BC Canada (which is the host city of the next Winter Olympics 2010).
  1. Question: So what made you think the industry needed another reporting product?

    Answer: The industry was in need of change. We believed that reporting products have had little innovation in the past number of years. It seems that the vendors are more interested in selling servers and BI platforms versus focusing on the actual users. Reporting is the most critical element of a BI solution. If the users can’t adapt to the reporting solution, the solution will end up failing. I will add that it was our customers and partners who we’ve worked with over the past decade that helped us to realize that change was mandatory, someone needed to step up and introduce innovation.

  2. Question: You and others left some of the biggest BI vendors to be entrepreneurs competing in the same field. Where did you come from and what's your edge?

    Answer: I think we all feel fortunate having had the opportunity to work for such large BI organizations (Crystal - BOBJ, Cognos and Microsoft) and gain the experience we did. Collectively as a company, we have over 100 years of BI experience. This includes - product development, sales & marketing and executive leadership. It was this experience that’s given us the opportunity to bring to market a much better way of reporting. I myself started my career with the early Crystal and ended it with Microsoft. In between there was a stint in where I ran a BI services company, focused on developing BI solutions. Lots of good times!

  3. Question: What does your product solve for customers?

    Answer: Simply put - We developed Radius90 for people who create reports. Creators and users of reports are driven to use tools that are either too complex or too simple in nature (meaning not enough). In between there is a large opportunity to bring to market a reporting solution that works to benefit both users, using a single, clean and consistent interface. Radius90, I’m happy to note is doing just this. We have brought to market the first Officetm based reporting solution.

  4. Question: Typical BI software puts report builders in the IT department. What is different with Radius90? Who can, or should, be using Radius90?

    Answer: Yes…and this is the problem. Radius90 provides a consistent designer that looks and feels just like Office. We all spend our days creating documents, spreadsheets or PowerPoint’s…why do we need to learn a new user interface to create a report. Creating a report should maintain the same work flows and behave just as any other Office product. People who create or consume reports are Office users. With this, organizations can lower their costs by reducing training costs and time to create reports.

  5. Question: When you mentioned that management uses Radius90 like "lego blocks", what did you mean by that?

    Answer: Ahh…yes. Radius90 has a very unique feature called “Radius90 Library.” Radius90 provides users with this ability to decompose their reports or reports of others so that these report components (fragments) can then be used to construct new reports. This feature is a real blockbuster, as it enables people to assemble reporting using existing content (data connections, queries, parameters, charts, tables, matrices, etc…). to some they may say – so…think about it. Do you like recreating the same report more than once, just to tweak it or customize it for someone…I would guess the answer would be no. This is where we can realize that too much time is spent copying reports only to recreate the same report a different way. Now think about it – doing it that way means…managing 2, 3, 4, 5, 100 different reports. What happens when a change needs to occur? Using the library, users can reuse report content and leverage our semantic engine to offer version controls and centralized management. This means, IT can own the data and take the risk out of the equation for their users. Business or power users can simply leverage these existing report components and feel confident knowing that the data is accurate. For those who understand “RAD” (rapid application development) this will make a lot of sense.

  6. Question: So a management team could collaborate to come up with their monthly management reports?

    Answer: Yes. The library is a key collaborative feature of Radius90. Management can search their library or the library of others and pull together a business view/perspective without ever having to know anything about SQL or anything of that nature. They know they want a sales pipeline chart by sales person. This fragment of information already exists so why not repurpose this information. Users like managers or others always think of what they want then try to build it. Usually they hand the request off, only to be disappointed by the results as it didn’t meet their requirement. Interpretation is usually what breaks down during this process.

  7. Question: For those technology-minded, what sets Radius90 apart from all the other proprietary products?

    Answer: It’s a Rapid Application Development environment for building reports. Radius90 provides a rich semantic layer that allows for report content to be tagged and reused, making report creation faster. I don’t know any technically minded report designers who don’t love this feature. Radius90 also provides an extensibility model that allows developers to build report templates / theme’s, which we call report “add-ins.” This allows developers to integrate their LOB application right into the report designer. Not a runtime version of a report viewer. We are talking about a fully functioning reporting solution, leveraging your application logic giving the users the ability to customize or personalize reports.

  8. Question: Microsoft's published RDL (Report Definition Language) is good for customers, why?

    Answer: I believe so. The days of managed report formats or vendor controlled binaries are over. We’ve seemed to make such changes in all other software manors – for example, XML – why not with report formats? Users are looking for more open standard approaches to data storage, specifically file formats. Microsoft RDL provides an open report format that empowers organizations like us to roll out feature rich solutions without having to manage the format. Microsoft makes this format available as part of their SQL Server offering meaning customers get a scalable BI reporting platform that they can make available to enterprise customers. We feel fortunate to have the relationships with Microsoft that we do, allowing us to participate in early adopter panels, forums allowing us to prepare for any changes.

  9. Question: What does the future have in store for 90 Degree Software?

    Answer: To become the new report designer of choice for all report developers, users and consumers. It’s bold but definitely possible.

  10. Question: Where can others find out about 90 Degree Software?

    Answer: You can find more information from our website 90 Degree Software. As well, we had a booth at Convergence 2007 – San Diego – we were the hit of the show. We’ll be at the Microsoft BI conference in May and the WW Partner Conference in July, please come check us out!

Thursday, March 8

3.5 reasons why Hyperion is great

The recent news about Hyperion lead me to ask,

What makes them so good?

Oracle saw something in the company and its people but is there anything there for business people looking for a BI vendor? From your organizations perspective, are they any good? Not having worked with them, I have no direct experience but you can tell much from a company that shares information and how they share it.

Frank Buytendijk, VP of Corporate Strategy, and Richard Cox from Hyperion kindly sent me what I think are 3.5 reasons why Hyperion is a great company.

Reason 1
Expert Insights from Leaders
At this link, Hyperion executives and other thought leaders offer their insights about best practices, BPM strategy and the industry as a whole. You will find a new series of Expert Insights, called the CIO Dilemmas, providing an interesting perspective on using dilemma-based thinking to fuel new approaches to problems.

Reason 2
Educational Partnerships
At this link, they’re working on bringing BPM to the classroom. At Educational Partnerships you can see new developments and partnerships that Hyperion has with business schools worldwide.

Reason 3
Frank Buytendijk’s Blog
This blog from Frank, Hyperion’s VP of Corporate Strategy and well known player in BI and performance management circles from his previous role as a Gartner analyst, covers a spectrum of topics in BI, BPM, CPM and data warehousing. Frank’s also known to throw a few light-hearted posts in there from time to time about anything from Star Trek’s Kobayashi Maru to how BI could help him in his weight loss efforts.

Reason 3.5
Where Hyperion is taking BI
This great little piece of interactive media is entertaining and informative for anyone. The best viral media I've seen from a BI company to date.

Tuesday, March 6

BO denied; Hyperion now Oracle

In a previous post, it was rumoured that Oracle would purchase Business Objects to improve it's BI offering through M&A.

That intel was inaccurate.

Hyperion was the object of Oracle's desires as The Data Doghouse explains. And with hindsight, I see how Oracle/Hyperion makes more sense. Acquiring Hyperion gives Oracle deeper customer relationships with financial departments where they can expand their ERP. And Hyperion will sit Oracle next to SAP clients (supposedly because many SAP clients use Hyperion for their BI) for further the competition between SAP and Oracle.

The Data Doghouse shares 5 Q&As about Oracle, Hyperion, and the competition with SAP.

This acquisition will almost for sure heat up the M&A fever for other BI vendors. Although I'm not sure it will be Business Objects or Cognos. The question I keep asking myself is, "What do they have to offer a large ERP vendor?" There are some big ERP players that want to enhance their BI offerings but what BI vendor has the track record for large, complex businesses with large volumes of data?

To further substantiate the fever of M&A, the Wall Street Journal published an article "Update: Oracle Buy Could Spur New M&A In Business Intel Mkt".