Monday, June 23, 2008

Getting Lucid With Foreigner

Just when you thougth June might slide by without a post from the potentially overworked and certainly defocused performance guys, I happened to stumble upon yet another blog gem from LucidEra. Following up on their recent webinar theme, Darren's blog post about Sales Ops Hero Going Platnium includes new lyrics by a fan or interested observer of the blog, the company, Darren's thematic stylings, or all of the above. I admit to some skepticism to the post based on both Darren's prior lyrical works and the fact that the source is not named. However, he did go through the trouble to put in a good YouTube video to enjoy. The only way it would have been better is if the lead singer in the video was wearing a Kiss Alive 4 t-shirt. Rock on brother. Rock on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This is Going to Sting a Little...

Saying you're sorry is never something that vendors are over anxious to do, let alone publicly. Every vendor, from time to time, has to deal with issues that spiral out of control, with of course the preferred method being a quiet communication and a hearty promise to rectify the problem.

The challenge with solving the problem that way is the fact that there are any number of ways for disgruntled customers to turn a private apology into a public relations fire drill. And that seems to be what's happened to Business Objects, an SAP Company recently.

Apparently there have been some major issues with the data quality side of the business, and in an email sent out to clients after close of business Friday (pretty sneaky, sis...) pledges were made, resources were marshalled, internet links were included. All with a hope that things would settle down and the customers would be placated.

Alas, such was not the case, as someone sent the customer note onto DM Review, and now everyone knows the issue. Now it's one thing to be a blurb in a "notes" column; but when the editor-in-chief of the publication goes to the trouble to print an article about the issue, things have clearly gotten away from you. And Franz Amman's email statement, while official sounding, doesn't really do much to close the issue since it's still unclear what the issue was. Reading between the lines, it sounds like poor support for upgrading to a new version that finally took a client or two over the edge. It invites more questions and leaves open a lot of interpretation as to what the issue is. Is it a poor quality product? Do the support people now know about the new version? Are there not enough resources to help with migration? Is the migration a much bigger issue than customers were promised? We're left to guess, which likely makes the issue bigger than it probably actually is.

To their credit, BOBJASAPC is running the standard "play defense" from the PR playbook well: issue your statement, use as few facts as necessary, say you're dealing with the problem, stay quiet and let it die away.

The key now is the execution. If they take care of the problem, this will melt away; if not, E6.1 redux here we come! Great for blogging, not as great for the EIM customers out there.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Costco - Operational BI and Muffins

There is lots of talk about operational BI and how to make information actionable in order to focus on the customer. I saw it in action today at Costco. Shortly after scanning our card while checking out, a supervisor came up and took it from the check clerk. After we completed our transaction, we were informed we needed to go the service counter for an offer and special gift.

When we arrived at the service counter we were told that Costco recommended we upgrade to the Executive membership in order to save money. Based our purchase history and today's transaction we were told that by spending $50 to upgrade we would get 2% back on all purchases for the year, be able to get into Costco early every day, and we would be guaranteed a refund for the differences if our purchase rebates did not amount to more than the $50 in year. Most interestingly, the clerk indicated that based on our recent purchase history, we would have no issue coming out ahead on this deal.

As we completed the transaction a supervisor was escorting a mother and daughter up for the same offer. Her comment was, "sure I am interested, assuming you can do this fast." Bottom line is that the offer was good, it was based on actual information, and they were prepared to process it fast. Better information leads to a better experience. Sounds like operational BI in action. At to top it off, they gave us a box of muffins to say thanks. My daughter did not care about the BI stuff, but she loves muffins. Who does not love muffins?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fly American - Take the Bus

So you really can take the bus instead of flying with American. I am currently enjoying a flight delay in the Austin airport after my AA flight got canceled along with thousands of others across North America last night and today. Once again, poor performance by American in a week of poor performances. Among the big wins for American:

1. American scored #9 out of the top 16 airlines in North America for overall quality of service in 2007 according to the annual quality ratings. Last year was the worst year for air travel in the last twenty according to the survey. I would post a link, but you already know this about both American's poor performance and industry in general.

2. America lost a law suit filed by 9 sky caps at Logan airport. Their new baggage policy where we all now pay to check bags at the curb cost the sky caps money - $325,000 - according to the suit. $2 per bag adds up.

3. Today the front page of the paper - all of them - indicates American had to ground 300 md-80 jets for safety inspection after 15 of 19 jets failed spot checks. Apparently this was known by overnight news deadlines, but nobody bothered to tell passengers until they arrived at the airport. This includes those like me that checking after midnight local time for an 8am flight.

As a result, American is now busing people to DFW to try to get them out of Texas They are also moving them to other flights on other carriers. Who knows what is happening elsewhere. I switched to Southwest and will get to my next stop eventually. However, it will be a long time before I go back to American Airlines. If you want to fly American, you can always take the bus.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Performance Management is Hot says Gartner

Chicago was host to the Gartner BI conference this past week. I had a chance to attend and tried to focus most of my time on the CPM side of the house attending most of the performance management related sessions, here’s a recap from the events that took place:

CPM is still hot according to Gartner, with strong growth in the market over the past several year, the future looks bright for once upstart now well established category of performance management. Nigel Rainer had a session on CPM where he called out five key focus areas of corporate performance management functionality including; planning and budgeting, dashboards and scorecards, financial consolidation, profitability optimization, and financial management reporting. Rainer also had spoke to hosted solutions in the CPM realm as an area to watch in the next 2-5 years. This holds true particularly in the mid-sized business market where organization have neither the budget nor the IT staff to support user demand around performance management applications.

There was lots of interesting commentary around XBRL and hosted solutions as the future of the space, there was a mention of XBRL filing being made mandatory by the SEC. Rainer spoke to XBRL as a new way to revolutionize the way companies provide financial information to the org. Rainer pointed to the SEC’s financial explorer portal which provides financial details of several dozen publicly traded companies using XBRL tagging.

John Van Decker and French Caldwell had an interesting session on GRC and financial governance, the net here was that most of the smaller governance vendors will get sucked up by the already consolidated CPM/ERP vendors and added to the portfolio. They also spoke to the overall vision of document management and collaboration as a key piece of the future of GRC.

From a vendor perspective there were a number of other very interesting presentations from the other BI vendors including Oracle and SAP/Business Objects, where they showed roadmap and tried to paint an integrated story. The session that I did sit in on was SAP/Business Objects where they mostly talked around SAP/Business Objects integration or BI/ERP cooperativeness and focused mainly on the Business Objects product stack feature some of their newly acquired technology such as their text mining functionality acquired from a company called Insight.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


As you no doubt have been hearing if you’re either at the Gartner BI conference this week, or if you’re a regular reader of all the hip, happening IT publications, InfoWorld (among others) has the scoop on the long awaited announcement of which SAP and Business Objects products made the cut, and which did not.

There seemed to be some degree of confusion between what was said at last week’s SAP BI and Portals conference, and what appeared in print, but with no revisions or corrections coming out after the initial wave or articles, our bet is that what’s on paper is what’s happening.

Interestingly, these announcements don’t deal with the entirety of the product overlap—by John Schwarz’ own admission, product decisions on Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, Dashboard Builder, Voyager Visual Analyzer and BEx BI are still outstanding, so there’s clearly more to come here. But still, we start to get a clear idea of who won out in the product battles:

· Planning—looks like OutlookSoft is the big winner here, perhaps not surprising given the investment SAP was already making in the product; one wonders what will happen to the joint BOBJ/Cartesis new planning product effort bringing a new planning product to market—likely shelved. Also shelved is the ALG and unfortunately, SRC planning products

· Consolidations—interestingly, they announced 2 solutions—kind of “enterprise” and “mid-market” if you will (although they would likely argue on this classification, but his is how analysts are already referring to them). Cartesis, with its large European install base, gets the nod on the enterprise side, while OutlookSoft is on point down stream. Again, a good breakdown, and there were relatively few SRC consolidations customers, and clearly Cartesis was the product of the future here.

· Dashboarding—this one may cause some chafing. They’ve decided to go with the Pilot dashboarding product, and will ditch the Dashboard Manager product from Business Objects. Given the number of customers on the BOBJ technology vs. the Pilot install base, this is not an insignificant move. However, given some of the known architectural and technological limitations of the BOBJ products, they obviously felt that the Pilot product had a more robust technological foundation and didn’t come with many of the scalability issues that Business Objects often had with these products.

· Profitability—no surprise here, as the ALG functionality wins out, and the agreement with Acorn will be undone. ALG, while not selling a ton of product for Business Objects, was a great pick-up, and gave the company a huge dose of credibility in the EPM marketplace, both from the IP they picked up from the company management, as well as the technology itself. The goal now is to scale the skill set for the product into the SAP channel, which should really help sales.

Overall, not too many surprises, outside of the dashboarding strategy. Everyone pretty much knew that SRC was not long for this world, although the team was doing some really interesting things associated with the mid market efforts of BOBJ, so hopefully the product will live on in some form or function; and the vertical expertise and IP (and so forth…) should aid the OutlookSoft application, although that’s not an insignificant effort right there.

Next up: aligning the staffing resources around the product decisions. Hey wait, is there any connection here to the number of resume’s in my inbox lately?

Naahhh…. (man I’ve turned cynical in my old age).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Big "O"

News of Oracle Corp's share drop echoed around the software market today as Oracle shares fell 7 percent Thursday March 27. Questions again arise around whether or not the shopping spree the company has been on in the past few years is paying off, Oracle has spent over $35 billion over the past three years on acquisitions. It’s been unique to watch Oracle’s aggressive moves particularly in the BI space with the acquisition of Hyperion, there have always been rumors around whether they will actually be able to successfully pull off their acquisition strategy. Oracle points to some of this downturn to be reflected by the US economic situation and overall market dynamics as many companies are being forced to pull back on their IT spend and investment in new technologies. It will be interesting to monitor this term as Oracle fourth quarter guidance for the is being set cautiously. The macro economic environment will hurt companies like Oracle more than smaller software vendors, giving a fighting chance to smaller players to come up with that next big thing and does open up the door for rival ERP software vendor SAP to gain some momentum particularly in the BI space.