Wednesday, September 24

10 Questions with Glen Rabie

Being in the finance industry may seem boring to many but in Glen Rabie's case it gave him a unique perspective on the challenges a large financial company was having with their information.

Then a life changing event inspired him to become an innovative entrepreneur. Glen founded a company called Yellowfin where they are all about making it easy for people to get access to information.

Question 1: Hi Glen. So what motivated you to do something about improving the BI industry?

Answer: The light went on whilst working on a large data warehouse project for a global financial institution. The project, budgeted at $30M, only rolled out 300 licenses of the BI tool to an organization of 50,000 employees. This is where we saw the opportunity. Reduce the complexity and cost of deploying BI so that every person that needs access to data and analysis, to do their job effectively, can do so.

Question 2: Let's talk about the market. You had an interesting take on the recent acquisitions of Cognos, BO, and Hyperion. What should we expect to see from them with innovations?

Answer: The acquisitions and the high multipliers paid for them put the new owners in a delicate situation. Their primary concern will be to generate a return on their investment, which to do so will mean that additional investment in those products is likely to be stymied. What we have seen since the acquisitions is a greater focus on rationalization of product set rather than news of product improvements. I think this is what we can continue to expect in the short to medium term.

Question 3: Has Cognos, BO, and Hyperion already won the BI tools market? Is there room for new products?

Answer: The top 5 players only own 70% of the market. This compared with most IT markets, such as the database market, can be considered to be highly disaggregated. As for the remaining 30% this is the growing segment. The BI landscape is changing from the traditional high cost but smaller power user deployments to mass deployments. I do not believe that BO, Cognos or Hyperion have the business model to support this change, both in terms of pricing and deployment complexity. It is this which is creating the new opportunity for vendors of easy to deploy, price scalable and browser based solutions.

Question 4: Interesting that BI doesn't have a gorilla in the market. How does that affect our customers?

Answer: In reality BI tools are a critical piece of IT infrastructure. Making a strategic choice is crucial since not all BI tools are a fit for all business scenarios. Without a Gorilla in the market I think it forces customers to evaluate solutions and make business / technical decisions based on their needs. If a gorilla exists then there is a tendency towards ‘me to’ buying behavior. So the current state of play is actually good for customers.

Question 5: You think that BI is complicated but is making the tools easier to use the solution?

Answer: It is part of the solution. There are aspects that will continue to be challenging – not matter the size of deployment you still have to invest in the design of and build the back end processes to support front end analysis. So in terms of ROI the more users of your BI solution the better. Having easy to use tools that can be rolled out with little to no training to many, who then in turn utilize the BI infrastructure to drive business benefit is key. This is where Yellowfin focuses its efforts – it is not just about being easier to use per se, but also easier to deploy (via a browser), easier to administer and manage security etc.

Question 6: The BI industry promotes methodology for an enterprise view and consolidating across the enterprise (e.g. customers across marketing, sales, finance). Does this make sense for the management team?

Answer: Yes and No. The reality is that even in Global organizations Senior Management and the executive team are primarily responsible for and remunerated on their performance within their area of the business. Consolidating data, such as a single view of the customer may have little to no actionable impact for these Managers (Great for analytical Marketing and Customer relationship Managers).

However, for management having a single consolidated view of business performance is critical. The data may exist in data silos but the delivery and presentation may well be consolidated to provide a global view of the organization. This is a large distinction – consolidation of data versus consolidation of presentation.

Question 7: Where are you positioning Yellowfin in the market?

Answer: Yellowfin is positioned as a viable alternative to the traditional vendors – Cognos, Business Objects, Hyperion etc. Our focus though is purely on the presentation layer. We are not building a BI stack. There are plenty of great specialized BI components for ETL, Budgeting and Forecasting which is not our area of specialization. So for we are driven by developing very easy to use presentation layer which can be deployed for 100s and 1000’s of users. It is in this space that we excel.

Question 8: Should learning to use a BI system be as quick and simple as, say, CRM or even Google?

Answer: Yes – for too long there has been this aura surrounding BI that it is a hugely complex undertaking, but let’s be honest with ourselves – when it boils down to it BI is just charts and tables. Well Ok maybe a bit more complex but the mind set has to change, from being a hugely difficult task to making it easy. End users are becoming more analytical and demanding greater access to data - going forward embedded BI applications are going to be seamless to the end user. They will use these tools almost without being aware of them. For companies are not going to have the time or the capability to train the vast majority of day-to-day users in how to use their BI tools – they will have to be easy and intuitive to use.

Question 9: Where do you envision the BI market going over the next 5 or even 10 years?

Answer: he biggest change in the BI market will be the emergence and dominance of Embedded BI. BI as a standalone application is going to be a very small segment of the market.

Embedded BI is needed to support the 1000’s of organizational information stakeholders. Process oriented workers and customers want access to BI at the point when they need it to complete their tasks within the application that they are using for transactional purposes – they do not want to access an alternate application for their reports and data. It is this area of embedded BI that is really going to make BI pervasive, bite size, tailored to the business process and rich in collaborative functionality.

Question 10: Excellent talking with you Glen. Do you have any additional links or information about Yellowfin you want to share?

Answer: Thanks Tom, it’s been a pleasure. If you want to find out more then go to

No comments: