Tuesday, May 29

Featured on ebizQ!

Featured Blogger at BI in Action
The blogosphere is expanding and the BI-related content is improving. BI blogs are growing past strictly vendor marketing and traditional data warehousing techniques. I guess the industry is realizing that business users really don't care whether it's Kimball versus Inmon or OLAP versus MOLAP.

There is an increased focus towards consumers and users of BI -- the business side of business intelligence -- solving business problems and improving efficiencies.

Case in point, ebizQ.net with over 100,000 members and a 37,000-subscriber newsletter has initiated a website called BI in Action. They sponsor Featured Bloggers, most recently yours truly (see the Blog Buzz section), and podcast roundtables.

They have setup a BI Virtual Conference (June 20-21) with keynotes from Gartner (Driving Business Performance) and Forrester (Current State of BI Market).

Saturday, May 26

90 Partners with MS

When you partner with a company, it should be a win-win for both sides. In the dotcom era, many organizations made partnerships. Though both parties wanted 2 + 2 to equal 5, they ended up with 3 instead. When you partner, you want improved cash flow, increased revenues and lowered costs.

Michael Matrick, CEO of 90 Degree Software, talks about their Microsoft partnership. On the surface, the obvious objective is to offer new BI products and reach out to more customers.

Download here the conversation Michael has with Microsoft's Director of Product Marketing, Francois Ajenstat.

However, reading this Q&A, you'll come away with two additional points:
  • Improved training and end-user adoption as a way to lower the costs for organizations,
  • Envisioning BI to all employees by lowering the cost of BI licenses.
As Francois says, "we've dramatically changed the economics of BI so that it is within reach of the end-users and within the reach of organizations, large or small."

One of the significant influences I see Microsoft having on the BI landscape is by changing the way vendors offer licensing. The traditional cost of $1500 per user is seen as a major roadblock by organizations.

Cognos, BO, Hyperion, MicroStrategy, (and others) take note.

One may think Microsoft is making BI a commodity by selling their tools relatively cheaply. Before you rush to judgement, it's true Microsoft may be using this to gain market share; however, real benefits will be seen by organizations and not just in reduced costs but in the ability to deliver BI to more employees.

And isn't that a top tier goal for BI. BI needs to get out of its niche market of analysts and technology-saavy managers. Because information should be available to everyone.

Monday, May 14

MS BI conference update

Day 3 of the Microsoft BI conference. This inaugural BI conference provided superb keynote speeches from Jeff Raikes, Michael Treacy, Ted Kummert, Dr. Robert Kaplan, and with CEO Steve Ballmer wrapping up Day 3.

With hands-on labs, client war stories, and demonstrations, we were kept busy. The various types of tracks focused attendess on technical, business, client ROI, and partner. And the after hours parties were entertaining showing off Seattle's best.

However to summarize 3 days into one post, here are my top 3.5 take-away messages from the conference:

1. The Microsoft message was obvious; they are here to compete.

They have the tools to match or beat other vendors (ie. Business Objects, Cognos, MicroStrategy, etc). And they have an unmatched Total Cost of Ownership. The pack leaders don't have to look far to feel the Microsoft Juggernaut on their backs.

Sure the conference itself could have been better in a few areas but in typical Microsoft fashion: next time will be much better and the time after that will be really impressive.

Their BI play is much the same. They are about a year away from "really impressive" however today's Microsoft BI tools made me take serious notice. ProClarity provides analysis in easy-to-visualize formats (huge improvements for presenting information compared with typical vendor "cube" views). Business Scorecard Manager and PerformancePoint are clean and concise tools for dashboards, scorecards, and KPI analysis.

2. But the sum of the parts is less than the parts combined as a whole.

(I'm trying not to use 'synergy' here because it is over-used)

Now you can take the BI tools and seamlessly wrap them with SharePoint for your enterprise-wide, information sharing, collaboration tool. The best part about SharePoint is it's ability to fit outside of BI using document mgmt, search, and collaboration features. This is one major advantage Microsoft has over almost every competitor.

If you don't see it, Microsoft is amassing a total package that hits almost every point in your business.

3. Who's going to support the vendors with similar tools to Microsoft?

There were several, and I mean many, vendors that built products very, very similar to Microsoft's existing offering. Many started prior to the ProClarity acquisition when there were gaps in the BI offering. Now it begs the question,

How many analysis tools and report graphing tools that "integrate seamlessly with SQL Server" can the market support?

I'm sure many of their business plans used to say, "Microsoft to buy us out at year 3". Many of those are changing to say, "If Microsoft is a competitor and has no need to buy us out, can we compete?"

3.5 Seriously considering Microsoft BI?

It is not only the SQL Server product anymore. A full suite tools with a price point that allows you to spend more money on customizations. This makes business people (the end users) very happy indeed.

Have you ever heard from other BI vendors the pitch that licensing costs and implementation costs are about 50/50. That is, 50% of your BI implementation is spent on licenses. That doesn't leave much room for building BI to fit your business needs.

Wednesday, May 2

"BO no longer a BI company"

This is a quote from CEO John Schwarz himself in this webcast.

Business Objects is rebranding itself. You mean they do more than Crystal reports? Okay, maybe that was a cheap shot but it is about time BO did something significant about their image. John's quote refers to BO no longer being a BI toolset company but a company that helps other companies gain insight into their information.

It is subtle but significant.

Their product offerings have expanded to include mobile/Blackberry, Xcelcius and On-Demand BI connectors. As well the Cartesis acquision for performance management and financial consolidation.

The downside is this.

This may be a reaction by management to the recent Oracle-Hyperion deal (that doesn't mean this isn't the right step for BO). Then consider the time/effort to consolidate acquired products and companies. In fact, Cartesis acquired several firms in 2005 and is probably still trying to integrate their acquired tools. Then BO just got through integrating their Crystal and BO to the new XI platform. And now BO will have to integrate Cartesis with XI.

That is a lot of change. But definitely a leap forwards and a shot over the bow of the competition. Makes you wonder who has the next big thing.