Saturday, April 28, 2007

Performance Guy Infighting Fever--Catch It!

Corporate standards prevent me from speaking on the record on my opinions of my Pat's article, but suffice it to say that he nails most of the rationale for the acquisition, in my opinion misses on a few areas, and is pretty much on the money for Oracle and Hyperion, although I think we'll utlimately see that this wasn't about BI nearly as much as it was about the performance management side of things.

Although as the industry analysts seem to be pointing out, there is a convergence of the two spaces at hand, so the ongoing consolidations may be as much about this, as they are gaining an upper hand in any one area.

The Business Objects News Continues to Reverberate

I'll get to my good friend Pat's post next, but the news this week of Business Objects buying Cartesis seems to have had as much reaction (I'd submit it's actually been more, but that's just what I'm seeing from my seat) as Oracle and Hyperion did several weeks ago.

But this article cracked me up, the title of which is "Rivals Decry Business Objects Acquisition of Cartesis."

Decry? Isn't that what the UK did when Iran captured their sailors?

OK, that was a bit gratuitous, but nonetheless the headline did make me read the article, so I'll tip my hat to Jason, and note that the "Noah's Ark" comment, admittedly a textbook PR soundbite, was also humorous, so also kudos to the Cognos machine for coming up with that one.

But I digress. Where was I? Right, Performance Guy Pat's post...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Business Objects and Cartesis - Consolidation Continues

As everyone has seen this week, Business Objects announced its intent to acquire financial planning and consolidation vendor Cartesis for as much as $300M in an all cash deal. There have been many media cycles on this and perspectives on the impact on the industry: - continued consolidation in the market, potential overlap with existing financial applications - including the SRC deal for financial planning and budgeting already in the Business Objects portfolio. This has also been positioned as reactive to Oracle's purchase of Hyperion, which closed and was consummated in high style with Hyperion officially turning over the keys to the castle this week at their user conference. While this may be exciting if you are in the middle of it or work at one of the aforementioned companies, the reality of all these moves are pretty straight forward.

Oracle Buys Hyperion
In spite of how this has been positioned as performance management and rounding out Oracle's BI portfolio with a best of breed BI tool, the simple reality is that the Hyperion acquisition is nothing more than continued acquisition of financial applications to add to its portfolio, as well as the associated customer base and maintenance revenue that comes with it. See also PeopleSoft, Siebel, Retek and most other things added recently. If there is one thing Oracle does not need, it is one more BI tool to add to the multiple versions it has. Hyperion is #1 is financial applications in most markets globally, has a strong installed base, has plenty of legacy Essbase customers, and a nice maintenance revenue stream. (Sound familiar?) They were not successful in upgrading Oracle Financials customers, their new solution was great, but nobody bought it, and so they bought the market leader in the segment for financial analytics. The big get bigger and things roll on.

Business Objects Buys Cartesis
This one is almost as simple, regardless of how it was positioned or not positioned realitive to existing applications and prior acquisitions (SRC) on the conference call. This is about market reach, customers and access to Global 1000 accounts. It has little to do with BI.

Guy notes in his post that Business Objects has been accused of not having strong enough consolidations. While that may be true, the reality is that they do have it and they don't sell much of it. Cartesis does not exactly solve this problem because if you are a company that matters, you likely already have consolidations. If you don't, the bad news for Business Objects is that you are likely to buy 6 -10 seats. This reality is reflected in Cartesis growth - which is to say not much. They also never had success selling in the states. But not for lack of effort.

Conversely, SRC never sold much in Europe outside the UK prior to the acquisition. This deal solves a problem for everyone involved: Cartesis gets a white knight and investors get an exit. Business Objects gets a great enterprise consolidations solution at a low multiple, footprint in key accounts across Europe, and the opportunity to leverage BI and performance management leadership in the existing account base. The portfolio expands, they continue to scale EPM solutions and can fight Oracle head on.

The acquisition, in spite of the pain of buying a French company, should close with good speed and Business Objects will continue with their focus on growth and acquisitions. The overlap is minimal, and I will not be surprised if more EPM acquisitions follow in short order.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Open Source--Who's Buying this Stuff???

We love to kid our old friend Lance Walter for chucking the trappings and benefits of the big corporate world to go off and make the world safe for software in the world of open-source, but with an estimated 40 million users on the OpenOffice.org platform, it's really no laughing matter.

So kudos to Lance and his gang at Pentaho, the leader in Open Source BI (did we get that right Lancer?) on their big announcement that the Pentaho reporting suite will now be offered as part of the OpenOffice.org functionality.

OK, all this .org stuff is starting to creep us out, so we're going to head back into the land of capitalism and rigid class structures if that's OK with everyone...





Business Objects to Acquire Cartesis

I'll post this largely without comment, and let my fellow performance guys dive into the details, and "what this might mean" for the performance management space. But as the three of us at one time or another have worked at Business Objects, one of the most consistent pieces of critical feedback from analysts and customers has been the lack of consolidations capabilities within the portfolio.

And while consolidations might not be a super high-growth area, the lack of an enterprise offering has stymied Business Objects from really penetrating the enterprise CFO office on a regular basis. So the announcement of the intent to acquire Cartesis today portends well for a strong end to end offering for the company in EPM.

More thoughts as the days and weeks progress...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Flash Forward


I thought I’d write a post for all those data visualization diehards out there. Check out Flashforward, Adobe’s user conference that caters to advertisers, animators, artists, designers, developers, educators, entrepreneurs, game designers, hackers, storytellers, strategists, students. In addition to the new techie ways of using flash the conference will also speak to data visualization, database integration, and mashups.

What does this have to do with BI and the performance management space? It’s all about the ways we interact with and interpret data. Advances in technologies like flash impact the ways we view and interact with information. Flash technology is continually advancing and becoming a part of BI tools, flash is often used within dashboards to display widgets and gadgets. As I always say, if all else fails, whatever you do make it flashy.

Knowing the answer isn't always the end of the line

There’s another destination on the Business Intelligence horizon that organizations are embarking on, we’ve been going there for a while, likely unknowingly. Today information workers use a combination of communication methods including instant messaging, email, phone calls, ect. What is the result of this besides clogging up our inboxes with even more messages? A larger investment in communications strategy including areas like voice over IP (VOIP), mobile devices, and video conferencing to allow workers to effectively communicate across their different groups, share information, and collaborate around information.

As organizations look to make sense of their data with business intelligence tools, do deeper analysis or product categories, performance of sales, financial calculations, users look for ways to make sense of the questions and answers. While this is occurring, users also need more seamless ways of communicating with each other to effectively drive decisions. Think of a scenario like this:
Business issue: Q4 numbers are below forecast for Europe
Business question: What are my net sales for Germany vs budget in Q4?
Answer: Net sales for Germany in Q4 are $5million vs budget of 5.8million, a variance of $800,000
Question: What caused this variance?
Answer: Product sales for desk lamps are down by 22%

Deeper analysis can be done around product and market trends but at this point and phone is being picked up and someone, (typically someone is sales) in being asked why this is occurring.
The reality is that once we get the answers to our questions there are a number of next step communications that happen. In this case the following questions could arise; was there an issue with sales, was there an issue with the product, was there something that happened in the market during this time period, what do we need to ensure this trend doesn’t continue?

Knowing the answers doesn't make any difference if you can't effectively communicate those answers to the right people in the organization. Look for business intelligence, communications, and collaboration technology to being to blend strategies together as information grows and users continue to cry out for easier ways to communicate and make informed decisions.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The great dashboard conspiracy


One of the realities of the dashboard discussion is that regardless of whether you marked yourself as in favor of dashboards as being core to performance management or voted against them as just another tool in the bag of tricks, nobody has stopped to ask if you truly need another dashboard. And maybe as importantly, how do all the existing metrics, dashboards, data and activities you are tracking actually translate to how you manage the organizational horsepower under the hood of the organization? When you step on the gas does it actually have an impact?

One of the realities of the dashboard debate is that there is already a proliferation of dashboard technology available in most applications. Pile this on top of the widget craze which is so core to web 2.0 talk and available widely from small start ups as well as with your new laptop from Best Buy loaded with Microsoft Vista. Your ERP has multiple versions of dashboards, portals and views into metrics, your CRM system may have as many as 5 dashboards views, anything you use in a SaaS model is fully dashboard compliant, and business intelligence and business process vendors provide their own strategic scorecards and real time dashboards respectively. And don’t be surprised if the folks in finance (and maybe a few old school sales managers) have their own Excel based dashboard. Dashboards gone wild…

The reality for most organizations is that metrics being tracked in a report or a dashboard are often tracked in a silo, using historical data, and do not result in action. The metrics being tracked don’t actually reflect the process of how people work up and down the organization. They lack consistency, don’t result in immediate action, and often make the issue worse not better as people scramble to correct a metric or threshold they don’t completely understand or measure correctly. And this assumes you actually saw the metric move in your dashboard or could find the related information.

A recent survey by Accenture in the US and the United Kingdom highlighted that 56% of people in finance spend more than 2 hours per day searching through multiple sources to find data. More than 50% of the finance respondents indicated they missed critical business data between three and 10 times per week. What is scary about this statistic is that these are bean counters we are talking about here, the ones who manage the details and the cash for a living. If they are missing the boat, what does that suggest about the operations team, customer service or IT, much less the sales and marketing team?

As you wade into the great dashboard debate, stop to ask what your strategy is. Who really needs another dashboard and how and will it impact how you manage the way you work? Any maybe most importantly, do the core metrics being measured really impact the business? A buddy of mine drives a Saab and he swears by the night driving feature which allows you to press a button which turns the lights off across the whole dashboard with the exception of the speedometer. Regardless of what you call it, that’s the “dashboard” I really want.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Business Intelligence Solutions in Action

Talking about the features and functions of data warehousing and business intelligence tools for reporting, query and analysis is one thing but how they relate to real world examples with customers and the challenges they face every day is another. Check out some examples from IBM of turning information into a strategic asset to impact real life stories, www.ibm.com/special

The first example is of New York city crime investigation and how the use of information assets can make the NYPD more effective with crime investigation and ultimately make New York a safer place for citizens. They outline a story of a pizza parlor robbery and how they used their data systems to track the facts of the case and apprehend the suspect.

On the lighter side, another story demonstrates how data collection can make for a better entertainment broadcast for fans of the PGA tour. Entertainment mogul ABC uses up to date player information and a data management system to make the connection between the players and fans that much more real, increasing the enjoyment for fans to watch as the action unfolds.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just Gotta Read

Ever have problems dealing with a software vendor? This falls into the category of "just gotta read." A bloggers story on engaging vendors for a financial planning solution and some "challenges" reaching the right person. Worth a read...

What’s Hot this Week in BI?


In this week’s review of “what’s hot” I wanted to focus in on BPM, aka Business Process Management a rapidly growing category that fits under the BI umbrella. In 2007 the BPM market exceeded $1 billion and analysts predict an average growth of 24 percent through the year 2011.

What is driving such "hotness" you ask? Today, more than ever technologies are driving a more collaborative work environment and information assets (ie. data organizations are producing) are also growing at a more rapid pace. This relates back to IT searching for ways to optimize their systems to adapt to these changing business conditions, enter SOA (aka Service Oriented Architecture). SOA and BPM go hand in hand as their is a substantial dollar figure tied to an organizations ability to connect their systems to repeatable, streamlined business processes.
What’s the result you ask? Well you can be sure to watch for your favorite BPM vendor get snapped up by one of the larger software players as they look to capitalize on this growth area and build on organizations investments in SOA. Here’s an article that adds some additional color to this topic.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When do you know you’ve achieved “Performance Management?”

I was giving a presentation to a customer recently, describing our unique capabilities to deliver a solution to him and his company that I really did feel would help he and his team solve a pressing business challenge. After I finished the presentation, he paused and asked me “when are we ever done with performance management? Do you guys just keep selling us software forever, or do we shake hands at some point and call it a day? When are we “there”?”

After growling “never foolish man, never I tell you” under my breath, I realized afterwards that he had a point in asking the question.

And it’s not that “performance management is a process, not a product, you’re never done.” (which is true by the way). Yes, you always want to improve; yes, you can always do better; yes, there will always be another new piece of technology. And many technology sales people make their living on going from company to company selling back into the same buyers over and over with a great deal of success.

But let me make the case for putting a wrapper around a specific performance management project and deciding that you’re done once the original objectives of the project have been achieved as a way to get “there,” as the customer was commenting to me. Lots of projects we’re seeing today have multiple phases, multiple teams, and multiple go/no-go dates that bring huge structural and process changes within the organization. And these projects can be great from a vendor perspective—lots of software, lots of services, lots of maintenance. But at the end of the day, is the vendor really solving the problem that the customer set out to address when the project was conceived?

After all, most projects don’t start big, they start small and grow big. And during the inevitable delays, funding pauses, and team reshuffling, the original issue that was to be solved remains unsolved, causing the pain, inefficiencies, and money drain that prompted the project team to be formed.

So here’s a vote to go against the prevailing project prototype these days and—wait for it—solve the original problem that caused you to call in the vendor in the first place! The most successful technology projects—the ones that really change the way you work and compete in the marketplace—are those that people are clamoring to use, not that they are forced to use. And yes, ERP once even fit into this category (don’t laugh). Have you ever seen the order entry process pre-ERP vendor? Not pretty.

But beyond ERP, the reason that most technology projects take off is that they start small with a pilot project that solves the problem that you have. As word spreads that Joe’s team in finance is doing great things with their new financial dashboards, suddenly Sue in supply chain or Jim in HR wants to see these magical dashboards and get their own reports. Now we’re talking performance management! You’ve created a bottoms-up approach to the issue that has people wanting to grab onto your coattails instead of jumping off them so they don’t get tainted with the stench of your project failure. I’ve seen it work time and time again. People want to tell others about their success; they want to show how much better they’re doing using your software. It’s just much harder to do that when it takes 3 years to go-live.

So in the big scheme of things, consider which scenario gets you a bigger benefit, provides momentum within your teams, and shows that you’re leading and solving problems that matter today. Think of that next time you see me pitching my vision and wheel of productivity and try solving the main problem first, and boiling the ocean 2nd. You’ll see a greater return for your investment; your people will be happy, and you’ll actually be “there.” And from the vendor’s perspective, we’ll have a happy customer that we can point to as a success. Wow, sounds like everyone wins here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I Heard Search and Business Intelligence are Dating

It’s spring and love is in the air. What better time to talk about a relationship between two technology categories that seem to be budding in our midst, I’m talking about Search and BI. The love affair between Search and BI has really always been there and it’s the presence of Google and a topic analysts are calling Biggle (the combination of search and BI) reflects ways new technologies are tackling this topic. Just like any good romance story there are a number of truths and lies, here is an interesting article from Search Data Management that drills into some of the common myths about search and BI.

There’s no doubt that organizations are looking at simpler ways to access information and reduce costs. "Many companies are recognizing now that they need to provide business users with more access to BI information. Just the training costs [for commercial BI systems] are often quite expensive. Organizations are looking for easy and simple interfaces," said Dan Vesset, research director at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

If we relate this back to performance management; yes… it’s all about simplifying the way users access information, increasing their productivity, and enabling them to make decisions… but are those the decisions the right ones? How do users know their decisions and the information they are searching on is aligned to the strategy of the business… perhaps Search should do some “searching” of its own for a new romance with performance management?

BI and Performance Management = 23 billion dollars!

There is no question that BI and performance management offerings continue to grow at a rapid pace. AMR Research recently released a study that predicts North American companies will spend $23.8 billion on business intelligence and performance management in 2007. Dashboards and scorecards specifically came in at 5.5 billion and planning, budgeting, and forecasting was 4.1 billion. There was no mention to “sharks with freaking laser beams attached to their heads.”

How Important is Unstructured Data to Performance Management?

Thought provoking article recently in 1to1 Magazine here on the limits to structured information in impacting organizational performance. Interestingly, some of the points in the article are now taken as fact, they've been repeated so many times: 85% of the information out there is unstructured, business intelligence is only getting to 15% of the people in the organization. (Has anyone really every verified these facts? Where did they come from? Who started them and got everyone else to agree to the numbers? But we digress.)

Now while we can debate forever the merits of dashboards as part of the performance management process, the importance of the data itself in EPM projects is not in question. But what if you're only getting at part of the data--whether it's 15%, 25%, heck even 60% of the data in your database or warehouse.?

Well, it means that there's a ton of data you're NOT getting it--and it could hold the key to solving your business problem. But most companies today are having a hard enough time with just getting at the structured data in their systems--how the heck are they going to get into emails, voicemails, and PDF files?

Unfortunately, there's not one particular answer here, but it's a topic worth exploring in much more detail, as it ultimately requires the three components of EPM mentioned above in order to make it work. We'll revisit this subject later, but good food for thought on how to crack this nut in your organization.

Dashboards ARE NOT part of Performance Management--Part Deux

So whilst the “yes they are” side had their turn last week, let’s turn to the other side of the coin and make the claim for the fact that no, dashboards are not part of performance management. After all, performance management is all about the act of “doing” something to impact the course of action within your organization, and by its very nature, dashboards are passive, and allow just a different presentation of data. Just seeing that an arrow is pointed downwards isn’t performance management—it’s what you do as a result of the arrow pointing downward that impacts results.

The other risk in taking the “pro” side of the argument is that is short changes the really great things that can be done once you get beyond the dashboard itself. Too often there is an unhealthy reliance by executives who long for a dashboard, cockpit, scorecard, or whatever nomenclature they feel is appropriate, which will automatically pinpoint the area of the business that needs their attention. At it’s worst this is just lazy, and at it’s best, it’s na├»ve. There’s hardly ever a silver bullet solution to a problem that is manifest by a blinking red light or a downward pointing arrow on one’s computer screen.

Instead, the blinking light is often the culmination of many decisions and occurrences, that, when aggregated and compared against the goal or metric, show up as needing attention. And it the act of getting to the bottom of the issue, taking corrective action, and ensuring it doesn’t happen again that’s at the heart of performance management, not the act of seeing the blinking light in the first place.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Importance of Data Quality in Performance Management


This one is going to be a long running topic in these parts, but it just can't be overestimated how important data quality is to performance management. Just ask the lovely city of Valparaiso, Indiana about it. Now if they didn't have a performance management problem, I think we're in the wrong business. All credit to Timo Elliott for this great example. Visit him at timoelliott.com, and then hurry back here.

CFO Webcast on Performance Management—We’re Bonified!


There’s a great scene from the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” where the little girl playing George Clooney’s daughter tells her estranged dad that her mom, his wife has started going out with someone new while he was in prison. “Momma says he’s bonified!” she keeps saying to her dad, contrasting this new guy’s behavior and standing vs. his less than stellar record at being a husband and father.

Well, with our CFO webcast on Performance Management on Thursday, March 29th (hear it here), we’ve officially reached bonified status folks. Legitimate. Listened to. Bonified.

If you’ve got some time, stop by and have a listen and hear how we’re talking about performance management today. We can’t guaranteed you’ll be bonified after listening, but if not you’ll certainly be on your way!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The “Giving Your Position before it was asked for” Letter to the market—good or not so good?

We live today in a world dictated by public relations. The Presiden has a spokesperson, Britney has a spokesperson—heck even the current loser on American Idol has one. We’re spun, messaged, handled, and fed lots of BS all in the name of controlling the message.

The world of business technology press is no different. In such a competitive marketplace, companies are looking for every inch of advantage, and sometimes, getting out in front of the story is the best way to come out ahead. But other times, the person or company going first overshoots or misses the mark, and is so far out in front of everyone else that they’re less a leader, and more conspicuous for their bravado.

Earlier in our career, we were witness to the fine line between managing the message and market backlash. Our company had just announced a pretty large acquisition—certainly the biggest in our company’s history, and our VP of Marketing wanted to ensure that the press and analysts had the points in hand that our organization wanted to make on the announcement. We wanted our position out there first before competitors could start their own spin cycle. And it was a successful strategy. The articles and briefs by and large had our talking points in there, and the market seemed to be receptive to our message.

Fast forward a few months to when one competitor of ours bought another. Again, we wanted to get out in front and try to dictate the talking points on how the market would spin this acquisition. Bad move on our part. While in the first mass email blast people bought what we were selling, this time they thought our VP was out of line and butting into a situation that didn’t ask for his input. We paid for that email for months with analysts and press people. It became clear that when it affected us, they were happy to hear what we thought, but since the 2nd acquisition wasn’t about us, us trying to make it about us didn’t do us any favors. Follow?

I mention this in conjunction with the previous link to the Finance article on the Oracle/Hyperion acquisition and how some vendors were quick to get out in front of the news and talk about how this was great for them and bad for everyone else (I generalize a bit here). But from the analysts and press folks we’ve talked to, that approach doesn’t seem to have bee wholly effective, and has likely weakened their position in the market. Why? Because just as we saw wit h our 2nd email blast, it comes across a bit desperate—the whole “me doth think thou protesteth too much” line of thinking. Or put in a more modern context “if I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it.”

It’s a fine line when there’s so much on the line, and depending on your market position, taking the high road and waiting for someone to come to you and get your thoughts isn’t always an easy route to take. But based on the brush-back pitches and changes in vendor perception we’ve seen first hand from both a few years ago and in recent weeks, it might be the best route to take.