Friday, December 21, 2007

TYTW—The Year That Was—Festivus for the Restofus Edition…

Well campers, as we come to the end of our posting year for 2007, we wanted to take a minute to thank you for your support, comments, and encouragement in helping us get started on this little venture. When we began blogging The Performance Guys earlier this year we couldn’t even get our families to read the thing, let alone anyone of any importance; and now there are thousands of you visiting the site every month, something that we’re frankly still a bit mystified by (Ed. note—maybe it’s a Festivus Miracle!)

In any case, we will dispense with any airing of grievances, and instead wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season! Here’s to a great 2008, where we resolve to try to use this blog for good, not evil; write and act closer to our age, and continue on our quest for the holy grail of BI and performance management that we’re sure exists somewhere…

We’ll see you in January, 2008!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tis the Season to be Mobile

There’s no doubt PDAs will be popular stocking stuffer this year, whether it’s the new iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Smart Phone, there’s something out there for everyone. The mobile market has always been read hot but when I read a recent article about RIMs Q3 earnings announce that more than doubled, I couldn’t help but write a post about the growth of mobile and the relevance to mobile BI.

BI vendors have been waiting for years for this egg to hatch, bringing the power of business intelligence directly to the users mobile devices has been a strong area of interest for quite some time now. Just take a look at where some of the BI players are at with their mobile strategy, read about the Business Objects mobile strategy, and how they are making BI available on any mobile device. Cognos 8 goes mobile as well extending the value of the Cognos 8 Business Intelligence architecture by providing users with access to timely, secure, and personalized information on their BlackBerry® wireless devices. Microsoft is also in the mobile BI game and is actually one vendor who has an interest in both the BI and the mobile businesses. They have a whitepaper on using windows mobile and business intelligence for making better business decision wherever you are.

Look for the wave of PDA user empowerment to continue and vendors to look for simpler ways to get information into the hands of the business users. Good or bad, BI on the mobile device is yet another reason to make us all more addicted to our little dingleberries!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Public Sector Performance Management

We here at The Performance Guys like to tackle a variety of BI and performance management topics (with an occasional BPM post thrown in just to keep Pat happy--I kid, I kid...). But it's not very often that we talk public sector, and this story from the Chicago Tribune highlights the fact that county government (in this case, the black hole that is Cook County government, in which Chicago is located) has its own performance management challenges as well, and that the issues that we try to attack and address with business intelligence are not limited to for-profit companies--they affect organizations of all types and sizes.

The issue confronting the County is not a new one--they lack critical visibility into where the budget is being spent, and whether or not a proposed tax increase will actually have the intended impact. Now, speaking as a Chicagoland resident for over 25 years, I can tell you first hand that in the past, passing a tax hike was as easy as finding Lake Michigan. With the government fully aligned with the City and Mayor Daley, there's never been a huge debate when fares, fees, or levy's have been instituted.

But take a look at this passage from the article, which could be a transcript from any for-profit company around the world:

At public hearings the county has hosted on its current $3.2 billion budget plan, its leaders sometimes sounded like CEOs reassuring shareholders their investments would pay off: "We don't waste anything," Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans said in November: "The money that we're asking for is money we will put to good use."In seeking $890 million a year in new tax revenues, Stroger said he has achieved "enormous operational efficiencies" during his year-long tenure, and has adopted "modern business practices."

Stroger also points out that he has introduced "performance-based budgeting" using productivity benchmarks.Seigle's idea for a Cook County bankruptcy filing would not solve its "revenue problem," Stroger spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi said in a statement Friday (see box above). "When any business, public or private, refuses to raise revenue while expenses continue to outpace income, then it is time for all stakeholders to consider drastic expenditure reductions. Cook County government needs additional revenue to pay its employees."

What's missing from Stroger's budget plan is specific-enough objectives, said Gidwitz, a director of Rush University Medical Center, which works closely with the four county-run hospitals. "Where you can cut is the second question," he said. "The first question is, 'What do we need? What are the priorities and strategies?'"

What's interesting about this budget squabble is how leaders from the private sector are being asked to get involved and help the County address its issues and raising critical questions that you hear project teams talk about in most EPM projects--how do we institue processes that solve our problems and help us be more accountable? And when you read the quotes from the former CEO's and executives, what becomes apparent is that like most organizations and performance management, they know they have a problem, but aren't sure how to fix it. Enter a great performance management opportunity!

Many times, especially in Cook County and Chicago, the government isn't too high on public accountability and disclosure; but in this case, we get to see some interesting insights into the challenges that government has with accountability, budgeting, and performance, and how the principles we advocate and write about here can be applied to the public sector as well.
Can't wait to get back for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pumping Some Serious Iron

Just off the heels of the PerformancePoint Server launch, Microsoft is getting pumped up again with another major BI product launch just around the corner. SQL 2008 holds the promise of trusted and secure data and the ability to leverage core business intelligence functionality to gain better business insight, now that’s strength that even the Govinator couldn’t handle. SQL Server has long been the backbone of Microsoft’s BI story, together the wave of PerformancePoint Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, and soon to come SQL Server 2008, Microsoft is really stacking up the rack. Watch for more details on the launch of SQL Server, in the meantime you can get more familiar it by watching the demo here,

Friday, December 14, 2007

TWTW, "Predictions? We Don't Need No Stinking Predictions!" Edition...

Making the connection between the subprime lending mess and personal performance management as only Pat can...
Cognos and Applix, finally together where they belong...
More Cognos! More Solutions! More of everything for everybody in every vertical everywhere!
Oco is completely Loco...

OK Santa's little helpers, that will do it for us this week--more parties to attend, more performance management mayhem to unleash, more timewasting games for PG Nic to uncover. See you next week!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Still More BI Predictions

So just when you thought it was safe to get on with business because we have so completely and thoroughly covered BI in 2008 via multiple predictions as noted here, along comes yet more BI predictions from Oco. I guess that gives us a total of 20 predictions on BI in 2008 (at least that we know of). The Oco 5:

- BI goes diagonal. In 2008, we will see the era of vertical and horizontal BI solutions converging toward diagonal solutions -- those focused on specific business problems extending across similar industries. (Huh?!? I am not sure I even know where to start with this one)
- BI Best Practices...customers will insist on best practices to measure and improve their performance. (I would file this one under the Seth Grimes obvious category. In other news, data quality is important and A-Rod is well paid)
- Technology will move from an IT priority to a business decision. Business users will decide what type of technology, what business model, and even which vendor. (Not only are these mutually exclusive, but anyone who ever took a project in front of a purchase committee knows this is self evident. )
- Growth of the IT Light Solution Model. Forward looking organizations are looking at projects more strategically and selecting business models to move faster. (There is more here but it doubles back on business model, vendor and some reference to IT off shoring)
- BI adoption rate expands into small and medium-sized organizations. BI will become more mainstream in 2008 with adoption in the mid-market. (I am having a hard time with this one for a variety of reasons including BI for the mid-market is such an old idea, small companies like Microsoft spend a lot of time here, say it with me "open source", and the sentence makes no sense.)

Generally, I would like to give credit for having a point of view and sharing it with the market. However, when you apply the Jim Rome rule, "Have a take, don't suck", this clearly does not meet the standard. It looks like the Oco guys saw competitor LucidEra's top 5 and shifted into action mode. Not fast action, because they are down 15 predictions to team Lucid, Intelligent Enterprise, and the Performance Guys.

However, 10 days later when they get in the game, they produce the BI equivalent of a football team looking at 3rd and 25 who runs a draw play to clear 5 yards for the punt team. BI goes diagonal? Seriously? You can't make that up. Seriously?

It looks like Oco is on to something with SaaS BI, focus on segments and customers, and appears to have a smart CEO. They also make a guarantee of success and apply a fixed bid methodology to their delivery approach. Very interesting. It also looks like their marketing, or at least their PR sucks, and that the CEO did not read the press release where he was quoted before it hit the wire. (I am also not sure about the Cincinnati Bengals Nike Swoosh logo thing, but that is another column.)

Oco has some name brand customers, a strong value proposition and a chance to succeed in 2008. Here is hoping they make good.

Cognos Blasts the Performance Management Market

We've spoken in the past, as has every industry analyst if you ask them or read their work, about the fact that it appeared that the Cognos performance management offering was starting to appear a bit worn around the edges, what with the newer, flashier acquisitions and products being released out into the market.

Well earlier this week, on December 11th, the fine folks in Ottawa started firing back, issuing a torrent of press releases touting their new performance management vision, new financial performance management solution plans, strategic financial planning solutions, as well as a pharmaceutical performance solution as well, which addresses a key market that other vendors have not explicitly called out.

Now the skeptics and competitive vendors among us will point out, and perhaps rightly so, that these press releases are nothing more than a rebranding of the Applix products now that the acquisition has been completed. In in part, they would be correct. But it's hard to argue with the fact that when you read the reviews of the Applix acquisition from analyst firms who caution customers and prospects to get a better idea of the Cognos plans before committing to the Cognos solution, this is a necessary step to help regain lost market moment momentum that inevitably occurs during these "we bought them but don't quite own them yet" periods.

But if you dig down a bit further into the first press release, you see that they're really beefing up both the innovation center concept; and with the introduction of the pharma performance solutions, they still have a really comprehensive offering around the discipline of performance management--it's good to see them back in the game and fully engaged.

The Window Dressing Begins...

News this week from our friends at Cognos that with the closing of the Applix acquisition, they're ready to get going on the rebranding efforts, starting with the names, which take on the "Cognos" front end, while retaining their "Applix" back end.

Frankly admitting that "The products do not currently integrate with the Cognos 8 BI software," and that that work should be done sometime next year, is refreshing. Too often vendors who grow by acquisition try to apply some quick back-end band-aids, which end up fooling no one. And with the enormity of the roadmap exercises facing the big vendors as they try to digest these acquisitions, few would believe that the necessary resources have already been devoted to back-end integration at this piont anyway.

It's been a busy week for our friends up in Ottawa, which we'll continue detailing next...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Personal Performance - O'Neal Goes Golfing As The Ship Goes Down

The sub-prime mess continues to expand and move the market with everything from today's rate cut and dow drop to the President's bail out plan for home owners. What is interesting is how rarely you get a look into the inner workings of the institution as the tidal wave mounts. In the case of Stan O'Neal and Merril Lynch, it appears as the crisis mounted, he was golfing.

I ran across this article from famed author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The New New Thing) in Financial Week that gives precious insight into O'Neal's last days at the helm. Between August 12 and September 30th O'Neal played 20 rounds at 4 different courses. You can look it up on the USGA website. While ML was busy losing $8.4B, O'Neal's handicap improved slightly from 10.2 to 9.1. With his expected $160M buy-out, it is a good bet his handicap goes even lower.

The article with commentary from Lewis inside the mind and out on the course is worth the read. I guess personal performance when the chips are down really counts.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Here Comes Another Bubble

This one's worth a watch... love the "blog, blog, blog, won't you please blog this song" part, so I did.

Friday, December 07, 2007

TWTW, The Count Edition

10--no, 15 possible trends for BI in 2008 (cue "The Count" laugh)...
ETL--Cadillac, Toyota, or the power windows that are really standard but could be sold separately--discuss amongst yourselves...
Finance, meet IT, IT, Finance--ok, um, wow, this is awkward...
SAP and Microsoft--two great tastes that taste great together!
Why do we think this study was sponsored by the makers of Altoids?
Business Objects and SPSS--two great tastes tha--oh wait, we did that one already.

Well, that will do it for us this week everyone. Two of the three PG's will be getting all gussied up for the big holiday shindig at PG Guy's house tomorrow evening. If a holiday party is in your weekend plans, enjoy the debauchery and remember--lamp shades go best with a plaid or brighter colored sweater.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lucid Predictions for BI in 2008 and Beyond

December means holiday sales, all you can eat football, any excuse for a holiday party, and operating plan reviews. Often this includes a look back at the year and a look ahead. Our good friends at LucidEra added their good cheer and prognostication to the BI market with a press release and blog on what is ahead for BI in 2008. According to team Lucid:

1. SaaS BI will gain market traction. (We assumed this based on Lucid's funding round this year)
2. Innovation will be led by smaller vendors (Hmmm)
3. There will be a shift away from tools to pre-built apps (may not be great for Lucid)
4. Applications that integrate data and improve processes across transactional systems will drive the next wave of SaaS (they are on to something here)
5. A new breed of BI channel partner will emerge (or old partners breed new services and offers)

Full credit to LucidEra for having a point of view and sharing it via multiple channels. I would not be surprised to find they are growing, especially via their Salesforce relationship and focus on applications tied to revenue visibility. Every CEO wants to know, "where is my deal?" so this makes all the sense in the world.

However, if prediction 3 is right, it does not bode well for Lucid and small fry. Now that Cognos, Hyperion and Business Objects have all moved their BI platforms and applications to the P/L statements of larger applications providers, the law of the jungle suggests that unless the small guys deliver a discontinuous innovation with high barrier to entry, the large full stack applications vendors will win early and often.

An entertaining rebuttal to the Lucid top 5 was posted by Seth Grimes in his weblog with Intelligent Enterprise. Seth gives Ken Rudin credit for insight, followed by suggesting that his top 5 list was "mighty
solipsistic". Ouch. Like Dennis Miller ouch. (Yeah, I didn't either so I looked it up with my friend Merriam.) Not sure this makes Ken Rudin out to be Bill Parcells, but maybe it explains why LucidEra lists itself in their own customer list. Got to say, I don't think I have seen that one before.

Seth then adds his own list of BI prognostications for 2008:
  1. Ever increasing attention to data quality
  2. BI integration of streaming and text-extracted data.
  3. Location intelligence.
  4. Collaborative analytics.
  5. Advances in natural-language query and question-answering capabilities, which will all the same remain far from mature.
  6. The start of attention to data provenance, reliability, and uncertainty
Generally not bad additions, but I don't know that I buy the idea that data quality is any more important next year than it has been over the last 10. Since Seth points out that his list is not exhaustive, I would like to add a couple highlights not covered in either of the above lists.

12. The intersection of business process with business intelligence and performance management. Gartner suggested in their last BI MQ that combining BI with process management was likely to happen this year. It did with Tibco buying Spotfire as we noted here. Both Forrester and Gartner indicate this is a no-brainer, and Ken's item #4 starts to point this direction, but this is by no means limited to SaaS and is much more about process than data.

It is only a matter of time because process management as a market is projected to be a $6B stand alone market by 2010 by IDC, and it is growing at about 25% CAGR. Looks pretty sexy next to the BI growth numbers, however the BI guys don't have a good solution. Oracle has some notion of integration-centric process management, Business Objects has no actual process management capability but SAP is heading in this direction via Netweaver, Cognos relationship with Lombardi is dead, and SAS appears to be doing barney partnerships with a couple vendors while they try to figure it out. It is coming. Write it down.

13. Open source BI is big and getting bigger. See also JasperSoft and Pentaho. What don't you get about free?

14. Simplicity and ease of use. Somebody commented on this in a response to Seth's blog and is right on point. Why can't my BI portal be as sexy as my fantasy football dashboard and reports? It remains my contention that if everyone could customize their applications, dashboards and reports with everything from their favorite sports team to their Second Life avatar, BI usage would skyrocket.

15. Predictive analytics. This crosses into the process management world as well as complex data mining and modeling. Business Objects just announced a partnership with SPSS as we noted here. If predictive analytics can continue to be simplified and broadly available, things will get interesting.

It seems we could discuss further the intersection of the BI and performance management, but rationalization of overlap in the portfolios of the big vendors will happen naturally over time.

Here's to an exciting 2008!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is ETL still a standalone market?

With the recent wave of consolidations in the BI and performance management space, there’s one vendor that’s rather glaring in that it’s still a vendor—and not a division of one of the big behemoths—and that’s Informatica. You really do have to give this company credit, with their singular and laser guided focus on one aspect of the BI market—data integration, and all that entails..

While they briefly ventured into the world of analytic applications back in 2003-2004, they eventually abandoned that strategy and refocused both their development, as well as their sales efforts, on the far-less sexy, but all-of-a-sudden far more important aspect of integrating data from any data source, cleaning it up, and getting it ready for use.

It’s a sobering, but often realistic fact of life that when something bad happens, while one group suffers, there’s likely another group that actually benefits—morbid to think about, but part of the world in which we live. We mourn a relative dying, but funeral homes and graveyards actually need people to die to stay in business. Our car breaks down, the tow truck takes Visa; the plane is delayed, the Body Shop in the terminal makes a sale—it happens all around us. Now OK, you’re obviously asking what the F*&% this has to do with data integration. And I’m getting to it. The “bad” compelling event that caused the most suffering in the business community earlier this century was Sarbanes-Oxley. Tons of headaches, additional costs, consultants, filings—all the “stuff” that we didn’t have to do before. But what happened here was that as a result of needing to absolutely ensure that the data was clean and trusted, we then put a premium on companies that could provide us that assurance. Enter vendors like Informatica. See, it was worth it to stay with me right?

So INFA has been chugging along, and was long rumored to be a natural fit for any number of vendors, but particularly Hyperion, SAP, and Cognos, once Business Objects bought Acta (which INFA then sued the very next day for patent infringement and won, albeit a reduced verdict just recently), and IBM bought Ascential. But those acquisitions never came, for reasons we’ll leave to the side for now.

And now that Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, and IBM all have their own flavor of data integration and ETL capabilities, has Informatica missed the boat? Or can they maintain their relevance in a specialty market that’s now an ingrained part of a larger offering? In the “department of unfortunate timing” category, they had recently signed OEM agreements with SAP and Cognos, so were certainly making moves to stay independent and maintain their viability. But now, we need to wait and see what shakes out with the respective product roadmaps that everyone is waiting to see from these vendors before we have a clearer idea of what to expect.

The need for clean, timely, and trusted data is certainly not abating—if anything, it’s more of a need and requirement than ever. But increasingly, the question of whether I need the Cadillac of data integration, or a nice boring Toyota of ETL is one that customers will be asked to answer. And if the Toyota can be offered with the free rustrproofing, sunroof, surround sound speakers, and GPS that vendors like Oracle and MSFT can easily bundle in, might that not be enough for most people.

Or is data integration that important that only a Caddy will do?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The CFO-CIO Partnership in Performance Management

Much is obviously made of the focus on the line of business (that’s "LOB" for all you performance management insiders) regarding performance management software and applications, and rightly so. After all, most IT pro’s have no idea what planning and budgeting software actually does, much less which product actually fits best for the finance teams, so while they will often act as a primary gatekeeper or “rule out but not in” the preferred vendors, they rarely act as the decision maker, and in fact have often been relegated to a signatory on the PO in the entire process.

But there’s a strong case to be made for allowing the CIO to move up from the back row of chairs against the wall and join the main table at these discussions. For while the CIO is often now reporting to the CFO in the wake of the regulatory and financial scandals of the early 2000’s, they now command a vast array of applications and infrastructure investments that give them a unique and highly desirable perspective on the technology being used within the organization, beyond whether responding to whether they’re an “Oracle or SQL shop.” Let’s discuss just a few of the key reasons for ensuring that you have a strong CFO-CIO partnership in your organizations today as you embrace performance management projects:

First, they can bring invaluable experience and lessons learned from past implementations. Whether it be an SAP or Siebel project, they can point out the pitfalls and lessons learned from what was likely a long and drawn out process, and ensure that in BI and performance management, this time around you don’t make the same mistakes.

Next, they can point out new trends and technologies that they’re seeing their peers use, or that are starting to be adopted, and give you the pro’s and con’s of adopting those technologies yourselves. For business people who are used to a Software as a Service model in many aspects of their lives, SaaS may not be a big deal—but there may be significant IT implications, limitations on how the application can be used or who can access it at any one time—and you need to ensure you’re aware of how a new technology would impact your use cases.

They know ROI. In part because in many cases their past IT projects have often failed to achieve the lofty ROI goals set by the project team at the time of purchase. They know the staff that it requires to implement such products, the hidden fees and resources often required, and the unforeseen pitfalls that may not affect your project directly, but that will impact the broader IT environment, and further complicate their lives, while slowing down your project. While we on the business side often tend to get fairly excited about the potential of the technology, they can give us the straight scoop.

Additionally, they know the products that are making the biggest impact on the market. We’ve all read about the frighteningly short tenures of CIO’s these days, which means that your own CIO has likely been around the block at time or two. This is a good thing for our purposes, because it means they’re likely highly networked and know many of the vendors you’re evaluating from their prior lives. They’re plugged into their own roundtables and networking groups, and they have the off-the-record conversations that senior executives have that will let you know if you’re on the right track with your project. After all, at the end of the day this IS an IT implementation—and their neck is also on the line to ensure that it’s a success. They’ll be the ones to let you know if the product you’re evaluating has had issues elsewhere, and what those issues might be.

Now, there are likely 100 more reasons to ensure that the CIO is part of the discussion as you get ready to fully embrace the promise of performance management, but hopefully these few, if not giving you pause, then perhaps help you ensure that the CIO is at least on the “TO” line of your next project evaluation meeting, and not just a “CC.”

MicroSAP Anyone?

Posted with limited comment, because this would likely make our heads explode...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Personal Performance - You Just Got to Read This

So in an effort to discuss performance in all its many facets, Monday brings you an update from the personal performance category - bad kissing means you do not pass go and do not advance to second base. According to the article today in CNN and elsewhere, bad kissing is bad for relationship performance. A recent Gallop study notes that the majority of men use kissing,"as a means to an end -- namely, to gain sexual access." Hmmn, really? Thank you Peter Gammons (the Red Sox are good too)

In other news, the sun rises in the east, the Yankees are likely to spend big in the free agent market, BI vendors will push dashboards, the Patriots win again, and women place more importance on kissing in the relationship.

Stay tuned for other performance developments...or something

Predictive Analytics and Performance Management

Our friends at Business Objects continue to be busy in putting together their BI and performance management portfolio, as they announce a rather significant OEM agreement with SPSS to embed their data mining and analytics platform within BusinessObjects XI.

Good news all around for customers of both platforms; obviously with SPSS being a smaller player in the statistical and data mining space, there's a lot of (hands clasped before saying this word) "synergy" in bringing these two solutions together. First, the unification of two relatively complimentary technologies against a common foe--in this case, SAS, just as last week it was Abobe and Microsoft was the target.
It's an interesting combination that SAS hasn't been able to completely exploit in the marketplace, the combination of forward-looking, predictive analytic capacilities embedded into the business intelligence and performance management process. But it has some solid capabilities and potential to take performance management solutions up a notch in terms of their sophistication.

And while it's early days, it still does remain to be seen if this actually gets BI and information into the hands of more people, or if it's just a richer analytical environment for the experienced and sophisticated BI and analytics users that are already using the tools. If it doesn't expand the (pardon the pun) "universe" of users for the BI environment, then I'm not convinced that this is much more than a marketing relationship, since the BI sales process and the hard-core analytics sales process hit two different audiences with two different products.

But if they can find a way to embed the anlytics into BI processes, and make BI more process aware to the average user, thereby attracting more folks to the BI environment, then I think we can actually be getting somewhere. But kudos to both groups for seeing the potential of BI and predictive analytics and moving to bring them together in an alternative to the big dog SAS.


With apologies to missing the Friday recap, some worthwhile posts to catch-up on before starting off this week...

This just in, Portals may be the next frontie--wait, didn't someone already say that?
Cognos checks in with the performance guys...
BOBJ and SAP seal the deal...
Adobe and BOBJ seal THEIR deal...

Quick week last week, we'll look to make it up in these next 5 days...