Update on Top 6 BI Trends for 2012

Analyst Reports, Big Data, Big Data Analytics, Cloud BI No Comments

Late in 2011, Gartner came out with their top 6 predictions for business intelligence: BI in the Cloud, Mobile BI, Analytics, Agile BI, In-memory analytics, and Big Data. As we enter the final quarter, let’s take a look at how things are panning out.

BI in the Cloud

As Cloud computing continues to dominate the IT landscape, Gartner is predicting that cloud offerings will make up just 3 per cent of BI revenue by 2013. However, it is gaining ground and chipping away at on-premises BI, particularly in the Big Data Analytics space.
Decision makers are still questioning the Cloud as an operational tool. The initial move of data to the Cloud is a challenge, as is bandwidth and security. Many are favoring using Cloud of back up storage and archiving, and disaster recovery, but are still unsure of how well Cloud will support operational data activities.

Mobile BI

Forrester’s believe Mobile BI will go mainstream in 2012. Whilst I agree that mobile BI will continue to grow, the small device platform is suited only to a limited subset of business intelligence activities. There is still an issue around data security on caching data on mobile devices, which are readily lost or stolen. There are also processing power constraints, limiting any real value with analytics.
As a quick, on the go monitoring tool – great – but I am unconvinced that mobile devices will suit the escalating swell in analytics needs.

Analytics

The MIT Sloan Management report found that organizations using analytics are more than twice as likely to substantially outperform their competitive peers. Analytics is certainly the one to watch. As many companies are still struggling to publish dashboards on historical data – the technical needs around advanced analytics are still well beyond many organisations. This is certainly one for the Cloud – and watch out for a rapid explosion of Analytics as a Service offerings. Moving analytics closer to the data is a key strategy, and with Big Data better suited to the Cloud – it makes sense that analytics will follow.

Analytics has already taken off, it is now a matter of maturity towards optimization and prediction becoming integrated into business processes so that it is consumable as a decision management tool.

Agile BI

Agile is good with anything today. Methodologies are not getting a lot of focus as BI teams are getting swamped with requests for reports and dashboards that are better off being done locally, but business users. However, sadly too little attention has been given to training in using BI tools and in effective dashboard design. Before agile BI can really take hold, BI teams need to get more aligned with their real function – and pass publishing back to the business.

In-Memory Analytics

Memory continues to get cheaper by the day – and in-memory analytics tools such as Qlikview, Spofire and Tableau are helping users gain more insight into the power of simple data exploration. The real benefit, is that local data sets can be used, rather than relying on waiting for IT to import data into centralized data warehouses. This does cut out the data quality look – but for exploration purposes it’s a good start to helping businesses to expand their business intelligence portfolio.

Big Data

Forrester’s prediction that Big Data will move out of the silos and into enterprise IT may be right, but its not the best decision for many companies. With the rapid growth in the volume and variety of data it makes much more sense for Big Data to be in the Cloud. Corporates have enough to do without continually adding more servers and memory.

Big Data is certainly changing the business landscape – however, its maturity has yet to cross ‘The Chasm’ and corporate IT is better to wait until it has, and for their business users to get more savvy about how to use Big Data.

Tableau Leads the Field in Overall Success Magic Quadrant

Analyst Reports, BI Solutions No Comments

Gartners Magic Quadrant for BI reports have become the default quarterly benchmark for BI vendors to assess their products against their rivals. Following 3-4 years of consolidation in the BI market, 2010 was more noted for the ability of BI solutions to combine an ease of use and flexibility with meeting IT standards. This was an attempt to overcome the greatest objection to BI applications – their complexity and difficulty in use. Its not always an easy compromise to provide a ‘simple, easy to use’ solution that still has all the required functionality. This is where User Interface design really becomes the driver – and sadly, an area that many solutions, not just BI fall down. Read the rest…

BI Solution Leaders Getting A Push From Below

BI Market, BI Solutions, Cognos, Microsoft, Microstrategy, SAS No Comments

Since the BI Vendor shakedown a few years back where a raft of mergers saw the Big 3 [IBM, Oracle and SAP] take hold of the majority of the market, the BI Vendor assessment grid has been somewhat predictable. Things actually got a little bit boring there for a while, as these mega vendors worked through how to apply their in-house talent to make the best of breed third tier BI solutions even better. Fast forward to 2010 and we started to see things get stirred up a little more. Whilst the Big 3 were busy trying to out-do each other with maintaining BI Solution independence, yet merge it more successfully with their respective ERP solutions, a few other major contenders have pushed through the market from below.

Without doubt SAS Institute was always a close contender, and of more recent time Information Builders held a respectable position, MicroStrategy was building solid support for its elegant BI user interface and Microsoft managed to maintain a reasonable market position based more on its partner and vendor channel strength, rather than anything stunning about its applications.

In the recent (Q4, 2010) Forrester Wave vendor assessment, all of these four vendors are now seen as BI Solution leaders.
IBI, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy have solid implementation success with BI platforms.

IBI’s WebFOCUS reporting platform [predictive analytic, data quality, master data management, and light data visualization capabilities] together with its iWay data integration connectors provide a near full stack solution.

Microsoft has improved its solution recently with the launch of SQL Server 2008 R2, with a much improved version 3 ReportBuilder tool support for Excel and improved event processing. Whilst I continue to maintain that Excel is not a suitable BI tool – the solution does offer a midground option for those not yet financially committed to a full BI investment. The other obvious benefit of using a Microsoft solution is the integration and interoperability with the popular SharePoint portal. However it is not that difficult to integrate a third part BI solution into a portal. The other element of Microsoft is in Master Data Management [MDM] with its simple to implement Master Data Services platform working well in a BizTalk environment to offer a full Service-Oriented model for improvement in data quality management, orchestration and data governance.

I don’t quite share Forresters overall seeming ‘equality’ between this group of BI vendor solutions. Whilst each are still struggling to differentiate their products at a technical level, business users still struggle to get to grips with the user interfaces, and dashboard design is still very lacking in supporting good design principles and the more effective graphical elements. However, progress is refreshingly swift overall, considering the complexity of the overall solution. I just wish there would be one application level solution that had all the components I wanted.

I am looking forward to the IBM event in a couple of weeks to see the new Cognos 10 release. I have always been a supporter of Cognos, so enjoy catching up with the latest demos – I’ll post my findings following.

What Drives the Best BI TCO?

Analyst Reports, BI Program, BI Strategy No Comments
I always look forward to the reports on BI from the Aberdeen Group to get a global perspective of how BI projects are being deployed and how well users are engaging with BI tools. The latest April 2010 report focused on TCO, in particular the cost per BI user. According to the report, during the previous 12 months, the average total expenditure per BI User*:
  • Best in Class – $357
  • Industry Average – $968
  • Laggard $ 3,321
So just what is behind this significant variance in expenditure, what is it that best in class are doing at a lesser cost than other BI initiatives. According to other findings in the report Best in class BI teams:
  • Had a clearly defined BI strategy – including a strategy for BI data management
  • Had standard processes for gathering end user BI requirements
  • Were 2.9 times more likely to formally develop BI knowledge and skills amongst users
  • Were 1.8 times more likely to track BI project costs to budget
  • Were 1.7 times more likely to automate the creation of reports.
The overall message is that BI TCO is not only about the technology. It is largely impacted by the transformational efforts made to define a BI strategy, manage BI project roadmap iterations, and to educate users on how to extract more value from their BI tools.
* The TCO View of Business Intelligence – How to Get the Most Bang for Your Analytical Buck. Michael Lock. April 2010.
You can find copies of this report on the aberdeen.com website.

BI Vendors Partnering for BI in the Cloud

BI Market, BI Solutions, Cloud BI No Comments
Four open-source and proprietary vendors have forged a new partnership resulting in a cloud-based BI stack.
  1. Jaspersoft – open-source BI
  2. Talend –  data-integration
  3. Vertica – analytics database
  4. RightScale – management software for cloud-based application deployments
Whilst the contractual relationship between the vendors may be tight, unfortunately the same cannot be said for customers. Customers need to form contractual agreements with each vendor. Each vendor will also be responsible for supporting their own technology. To ease the pain, the group has created a seamless sales that supports a ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing model inherent in cloud computing.
Such an offering will not only attract smaller enterprises; departments in larger enterprises frustrated at the lengthy delay of BI deployment and the complex Capex business case sign off will find value in such a one-stop infrastructure to advance their use of data from spreadsheets and canned reports into an operational BI application. The stack will also provide an ideal ‘sandbox’ for enterprise IT teams wishing to experiment with BI analytics.
Click here to gain real insight into How Cloud Computing will open up opportunities in BI for both enterprises and IT vendors and consultant.

Open Source – Will It Transform the Software Industry?

Analyst Reports, Cloud Computing, Pentaho No Comments

Support for open source software has grown significantly over the past five years. Recently, Forrester Analyst Jeffrey Hammond claimed that open-source technology is now “a de facto standard” for IT, with many companies hoping to save $30K-$40K per server in 2010 by switching to open-source.

Open source solutions are bubbling to the top of many types of applications. Open Source BI solutions, lead by Pentaho offer the cost and flexibility advantages previously lacking in many packaged commercial solutions.

So just how will this model play out? Will applications become commoditized with revenue models moving from software to services? Will the Cloud help to drive this change?

Share your thoughts on this, I am interested to know what you think.

Cloud-based BI Stack Partnership Deal

BI Market, BI Solutions, Cloud Computing, on Demand BI No Comments

A new partnership recently announced between four open-source and proprietary vendors heralds a big step forward along the BI Cloud roadmap. Vendors Jaspersoft, Talend, Vertica and RightScale have formed an alliance to lead the integration stack of open source BI into cloud environments.

  • Jaspersoft – open-source BI
  • Talend – data-integration technologies
  • Vertica’s – analytic database
  • RightScale’s – management software for cloud-based application deployments.

At first light it appears the integration is at the technical and sales levels only. Customers will have to form form contractual agreements with each vendor; each vendor naturally responsible for supporting their own technology. This signals a hiccup in such a fast paced IT integration society.

But the good news is that customers will be able to use the pay-as-you-go pricing model integral in cloud computing. The offer is expected to be attractive to smaller enterprises that do not have a full developed BI capability and to smaller resellers or consultants who will add their domain expertise.

Cloud is also used by larger enterprises for periodic BI projects or experimental analytics outside their enterprise analytical framework.

BI on Demand Lessons Learned from LucidEra

BI Market, BI Solutions, on Demand BI, SaaS No Comments

If rumors are true, it is sad to see pioneering BI on Demand provider LucidEra shutting down their service, however in attempt to recognize their value to the ongoing development of BI on Demand, let’s look at what we can learn from their demise.

LucidEra has been a strong evangelist for why, who and where BI on demand had a valuable role to play:

  • Why – on-demand can be a faster, lower cost, and more effective option
  • Who – especially small and mid-size, having a solution that can be rapidly deployed on a user by user basis may be the only affordable, and technologically viable choice.
  • Where – LucidEra also understood the significant value BI contributes at the front lines, such as the sales team and support centers.

Like any pioneer, the disadvantages are that the market has insufficient experience to determine what they want, what they need and how they want it delivered. In particular, BI customers want:

  • Fully featured BI – not simplified applications. Many early BI on Demand offerings were constrained by a standardized data model approach and standardized reports. This meant customers had to adapt their business problem to the LucidEra solution, rather than the ideal of the solution fitting their particular business needs.
  • Ability to Integrate Multiple Data Sources – To simplify deployments and deliver quickly, LucidEra started off focusing on Salesforce.com data only. However, many customers wanted to combine salesforce.com data with information from other systems, such as marketing, finance, and operational systems.
  • Power of true BI – a system is powerful enough to answer spontaneous business questions or identify and address unusual trends as they arise
  • Scalability – a system that will grow with them as their needs grow.

Did LucidEra make the mistake of assuming that customers would be willing to sacrifice power and flexibility for speed and low cost? If so, they are not alone, as many onDemand applications could be said to fall into this category.

In spite of the demise of LucidEra, this does not signal the downfall of BI on Demand applications. It merely serves to indicate as a painful way for one vendor to learn what the customer wants or needs before they build a service to meet that need. There are other BI on Demand vendors out there doing just that, having learnt from the experience of early BI pioneers and early BI adopters.

Gartner Sets Record Straight on SaaS BI on Demand

Analyst Reports, on Demand BI, SaaS 1 Comment

One of the main difficulties most businesses face when selecting software is separating the hype from the reality. This also applies to considering web-based on demand business intelligence analytics.

Gartner found that of the five commonly held assumptions – three are entirely false and the other two only partly true.

Businesses often don’t appreciate how quickly software can be improved after the initial launch. With such a competitive market, software development vendors are pressured to get products to market ASAP, and no longer wait for perfection in terms of either feature richness of functional performance. However, with feedback from early adopters, development continues vigorously and the applications can be almost transformed in the first 6-12 months. I think this is actually a really good process, as it helps to validate exactly what users do want, and not waste money developing performance or features that are not appreciated.

Of the five most commonly held assumptions about SaaS BI models:

1. SaaS is less expensive than on-premises software – TRUE

SaaS applications do not require large capital investment by businesses for licenses or support infrastructure. This can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership over the first two years. After this time, client site deployed applications can become more economical in terms of financial reporting [amortisation impact], however this is not necessarily true for an operational IT expense perspective.

2. SaaS is faster to implement than on-premises software – HALF TRUE

Speed of implementation for SaaS is faster for simple applications, however one must deliniate between initial implementation time and the additional time taken to deploy it to all users, which can take 2-3 times longer. As the complexity of processes and integration increase, the gap decreases. This is due to the larger percentage of the deployment time spent on customization, configuration and integration which can be equally difficult for both models.

3. SaaS is priced as a utility model, similar to electric companies – FALSE

Many vendors claim to charge on a usage basis, but in most cases they must commit to an agreed estimated usage independent of actual use.

4. SaaS does not integrate with on-premises applications and/or data sources – FALSE

Companies can integrate web based data using either batch synchronization, real-time integration using Web services or at the user-interface level through mashups.

5. SaaS is only for simple, basic requirements – FALSE

Whilst there are limits to customisation on SaaS models, the feature set of many applications rivals that of on-premise versions. SaaS vendors provide development platforms that enable high levels of configuration and the metadata level. The area of tightest constraint is in end-to-end processes requiring complexworkflow or business process management capabilities.

I hope this gives more confidence to those businesses considering SaaS models. For more on SaaS BI and vendor options available.

BI Cited ‘Top Technology’ for 2009

Analyst Reports, BI Strategy, Cloud Computing, CRM Solutions, IT Strategy, SaaS No Comments

The latest Gartner 2009 CIO Agenda survey of 1500 CIO’s has revealed some surprising and not so surprising results.

Firstly, the not so surprising is that BI has been voted as the top technology for 2009, after all BI has held this spot since 2006.  What is surprising is that the focus is not on analytics – the survey indicated that the top CIO business expectation was in improving business processes. This surprised me, as many companies have supposedly already been through this era – or maybe is just wasn’t done well enough. The other inference I have made is that BI is now focusing on the operational value it contributes – what we refer to as OBI.

The rankings of exectations and technologies are:

Expectations

  1. Reducing enterprise costs
  2. Improving enterprise workforce effectiveness
  3. Attracting and retaining new customers [#2 in 2008]
  4. Creating new products or services [#3 in 2008], however innovation is forecast to move up the ladder to top spot by 2012.

 IT Strategies

  1. Tighter link between business and IT strategies
  2. Reducing the cost of IT [#10 in 2008]
  3. Delivering projects that enable growth
  4. Attracting, developing and retaining IT personnel

 Technologies

  1. Business intelligence [BI] [ since 2006]
  2. Enterprise applications such as CRM or ERP
  3. Servers and storage technologies.

 The survey results overall are not surprising. As the current market is hardly conducive to growth strategies for most businesses, it is an ideal time to refocus on core business and get better at the basics. BI is known for its ability to improve productivity whilst reducing costs. We can not overlook the past carnage of poorly implemented BI projects and tools that were too difficult for most business users to integrate into their daily operations. However, in the past two years this scenario has changed signficiantly, with tools much more business oriented and the knowledge base of implementation best practice taking learnings from the past and crafting far better BI program practices of today. The other missing link I will personally add is the level of education the business receives, not in using BI but in why they should be using it, and exactly how it improves a business from single user self performance management all the way up to the boardroom strategy.

Virtualisation, cloud computing and software-as-a-service [SaaS] are also acknowledged as cost reducing strategies but many IT managers are still cautious around availability, security, and a full functional fit. Such technologies are gaining favor with mid to small enterprises that may not have the full IT capabilities of larger corporates.

Overall,  although BI is voted the top technology for 2009, the ‘killer app’ is ‘Leadership’. Companies don’t want consultants giving them a set of options – they want strong leadership paths to drive their businesses through the current downturn and still come out having advanced in some way. It may not be with customer growth and revenue growth, but I expect we will see leaner and meaner businesses forging ahead with renewed vigor and tighter focus.

Survey base: N=1500 CIOs worldwide, Duration= 3 months to Dec 15, 2008. Average company size = 400, average IT budget = $90 million.

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