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.
879PPESW2GAT

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. http://209.234.225.154/viewer/home/

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

HammerTime!

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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Panorama and Google Apps--The End of Software as we Know it?


The blogosphere has exploded today with the announcement of the tie-in between Panomama and Google apps. An interesting BI angle here, although adoption of Google apps is fairly non-existant--that doesn't mean it will stay that way.

Something to stay tuned on as the market dynamics around delivering BI and performance management continue to sway between the desktop and the clouds...
Panorama has been a relatively smaller BI player in the past, but this marks a great opportunity for them not only to raise their visibility, but also to get a seat on the Google bus early on. Additionally, it provides them some much needed counter-positioning muscle vs. the other BI heavyweights like IBM and Microsoft, which have their own issues with Google...
As they say on the Drudge Report, "...Developing..."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Is Your Team #1?


Walking through San Francisco International and I happened to glance up and see the newest (at least to me) "We're #1" pronouncement from Oracle. They claim to be #1 in Enterprise Performance Management, which the sub-head in the ad defines as Business Intelligence, Financial Applications and analytics.

While Oracle gets full credit for leadership as of the latest Gartner MQ, it is not immediately clear that Oracle is #1. This may be a function of overall market share, or it just might be more chest pounding from Oracle. Of interest is the fact that Gartner calls out that Oracle's BI offer needs work and the fact that current customers, especially the Hyperion customers, are taking a wait and see approach to Oracle offerings.

Oracle has a strong global market share in financial analytics, but it is by no means clear that Oracle is #1 in EPM. Especially if SAP has anything to say about it. And they do, based on a recent announcement of Oracle replacements based on their offering not inclusive of Business Objects.

Let the games begin.

Is Your Team #1?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Corporate Help for Planet Earth


Watch the following video to get a glimpse at what large corporations can do to help with environmental concerns. Watch video

The video speaks to how environmental efficiences not only save the companies bottom line but are doing something good for the environment. The Green question of the day is how can Business Intelligence help organizations get better insight that will enable these environmental best practices... Watch for more on this topic and the relevant customer case studies that tell the tale.

Check out the green section of the Cognos newsletter to learn more about their Green BI. http://www.cognos.com/newsletter/green/

Monday, March 10, 2008

Press Release Performance Management - Can We Get a Little Clarity


Ok, so I am overdue to get my blog on after a recent long vacation. Thinking that I needed to get up to date with everything in BI and performance management I did a quick surf of a number of websites to get up to speed with recent events - and found a couple of press releases that could use a strong dose of improved performance. So about Clarity Systems.

On March 5, Clarity Systems announced that they had an airline vertical market and that it is taking off. They went on to announce that JetBlue, Eos, British Airways, and "other" regional and international airlines have selected Clarity 6. This is great news for Clarity, except on the messaging and press release front.

It is great to know the vertical is taking off. Might be good to tell the other internal folks at Clarity, as the press release appears to be the only mention of the new vertical on the whole website. Airline does not even get a call out under "other industries" in the web navigation either under solutions or partners. Note to Clarity for sake of clarity, it is a vertical or not?

In the same manner, are you a leader or not? Clarity indicates they are a leader in performance management - the press releases all say so. This includes the press release where they announce they are visionary, not a leader in the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for CPM. As if this is not bad enough, take a look at the quote from Clarity's president Mark Nashman:
“We believe Gartner's report acknowledges our software for its openness, flexibility and depth of functionality in all areas of CPM,” says Mark Nashman, President, Clarity Systems. “In my opinion, it distinguishes Clarity Systems as a thought leader and innovator in the CPM market.”
Ok, I got it. And it other news, Mark's mom thinks he is a wonderful son and could not have committed the crime. Seriously. Seriously? While we all know it can be painful to run the Gartner gauntlet to get a release approved when mentioned in a report, at least they are clear about the rules of engagement. (In contrast to Forrester, which is a whole other post). I guess it never occurred to me that I could have just inserted the words "In my opinion" somewhere in the quote section to indicate this was the actual opinion of the person who is being quoted.

So actually, when Clarity says leader, they mean thought leader. I got it. Ooops, I read the rest of the release. It goes on to quote Nashman at the end of the release:
"We believe Gartner's Magic Quadrant for CPM Suites recognizes what our customers already understand: Clarity delivers visionary CPM solutions to the market.”
So the Gartner quad actually represents what their customers think, that they are a visionary, not a leader. This is helpful and actually explains that their vision is to have an airline vertical, but it is not actually generally available today. We think we are leaders, but our customers don't think so.

This would help explain where the other airline customers might have gone. In the release on their visionary airline vertical, the other airlines are never actually mentioned. Jetblue, Eos, and British Airlines have cleared customs and boarded the release, but the other airlines apparently got caught in a security screening. They did not board. Not in the headline, not in the body of the release. So what is there to prove they actually exist? Who writes this stuff? Who approves this stuff? Seriously. The visionary leader release has Dilbert written all over it. The airline one is a thing unto itself.

Color me dazed and confused. And I am sure it is not only me.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

SQL 2008 Launches in LA - Ballmer Talks





The next wave of Microsoft BI launched last week with the launch of SQL Server 2008. The event in Los Angeles reached 4,000 attendee and is the first city of an epic tour that spans across the globe as the Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 are let loose on the market.

Get more details on this event and other upcoming events and watch Steve Ballmer’s keynote here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pentaho-mentum Fever, Catch It!

Congratulations to our good friend Lance Walter (or Walters), and his merry band of Pentaho-ites on their recent round of VC funding. Having raised money and suvived the gauntlet of presentations to generate new rounds of financing, I know how much hard work and effort goes into making this effort a success.

And in this case, it's not just the $12M in funding that's impressive, but who's doing the funding as well--nice set of backers for the company!

Although certainly not tailor-made for everyone, this success certainly ensures that open source BI will remain part of the conversation for the forseeable future. Congrats Lance!

PG's

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BI Chasm Crossed?


If you were around in the early days of BI you likely heard term "Crossing the Chasm." The term, was actually the title of a well known marketing book by Geoffery Moore, which was labeled the bible for bringing cutting-edge products to progressively larger markets. The pure play BI vendors have almost all gone the way of the dinosaur from their hay day almost ten years ago. There were dosens of BI vendors all fighting to be the first to cross the theoretical chasm, vendors like Crystal Decisions, Actuate, Cognos, Business Objects, and MicroStrategy, some those companies are still around, check out a longer list here, be careful this could bring back some memories.

So where are we now in the road to cross that invisible BI chasm? Some might say that for companies like Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, the chasm has already been crossed or rather moved to a much larger software category chasm in different area of the epistical landscape. Are there a new breed of software technologies that are on the forefront of a new BI chasm? One could certainly make the case for this when thinking about the movement with on-premise BI and a company like Lucid Era. Or potentially swinging to the other side of the spectrum and looking at a company like Pentaho and how Open Source technology will play a role in the future of BI. And how about a technology like search, something tells me that there are still a few notes to be played by mega vendors (including Google) when it comes to joining BI, simplicity, and search.

Not to knock the master but from a critical point of few Moore places a large emphasis on being the first to cross the chasm, but as we have seen thus far being a later mover in a given technology market may also be advantageous. Although much is still to be determined, you could look at the larger players like Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle as examples of vendors who moved into the BI market late in the game and are achieving success.

So is it about innovation or capitalization? And at the end of the day does it really matter? It certainly matters to the customer and to the overall growth and profitability of their businesses. Analysts have often commented on the how the evolution of the BI market has not progressed as they had envisioned and that the pure plays didn’t focus enough on innovation but rather took a buy approach. Does this lack of attention to innovation impact the end game or are innovative BI features simply rolled into a part of a greater offering that is at the end of the day sold for less and has the ability to reach a greater audience?

We are now at a place in time where the leading analyst firm calls out the 7 leaders in the market, the most in the history of the space. Organizations are saturated with BI tools and overlapping functionality, the mega vendors are coming to the game with cheaper more affordable offerings to drive BI into new places in the market where it has not been sold before. In addition to this BI functionality is being driven into applications and platform technologies and simply given away, where 5-10 years ago it was sold at a premium. My question is, what is the next chasm for BI to cross, will there even be one? There has been a lot of commentary about the removal of the BI Gartner quadrant, why even have one when there are only four or five major players?

It’s sometimes interesting to take examples from other technologies and get a sense for their journey to cross the chasm. Take the example of the new Blu Ray technology, Blu Ray is the next upcoming technology to challenge high definition DVD market and has recently taken a major step forward. A recent announcement that Toshiba will no longer develop, make or market high-definition HD DVD players is a major turn in the market. It’s somewhat similar to the technology transition that occurred with VHS and Beta, remember that thing! Blu Ray is on the promising track to the be the next in line, one way to think of the history is VHS…DVD…Blu Ray. Read more about the Toshiba announcement here.

Whatever the next step in is for BI, it certainly has been an interesting ride thus far and continues to drive towards solving business challenges and delivering insight and value to organizations around the world. Thanks for taking the time to read my chasm thoughts.

Cheers,
Nic

Friday, February 15, 2008

Out and about.

Apologies for not piling on to the new Business Objects launch, but interesting to read from multiple sources about the surprise nature of the new release...who says there will not be any surprises from the new Business Objects?

So that it will not be a surprise, I will be off the grid for at least a week for a little vacation without blogging, or a mobile phone for that matter. When I emerge I promise to revisit the blog with a little more content than I have been able to show in the last couple weeks. I will also be ramping up the new performance guys Q&A. I will be starting with an noted industry analyst and maybe a vendor or 2 to keep things interesting and see if we can get a little performance management insight that goes more than press release deep.

In the mean time, have a good weekend and send your thoughts on potential questions for our upcoming experts.

XI 3.0--The Stealth Launch

While we've previously mentioned our brief, but captured-for-posterity, mention in the XI 3.0 launch video, what hasn't been covered nearly as much is how surprised everyone seems to be that this product came onto the market this week. And we're not the only ones.

We'll likely get into details of what's actually "in" XI 3.0 in the coming days, as we gradually get back on our blogging feet (damn job changes and deadlines), but suffice it to say that it looks like the first stab at integrating the text mining capabilities acquired through the Inxight purchase last May into the BI platform. It really remains to be seen how much there "is" in the release that's usable by customers today in 3.0. The other key features seem to be focused in the EIM area, with EPM not directly addressed.

Business Objects has in the past had a stellar track record in supporting and marketing its new releases into the marketplace. It will be interesting to see, with all the internal churn occurring in the organization, if there will be the same level of support and marketing for this release.

My sense is off, given the timing and the manner in which 3.0 was released. In past releases, (V1 and V2), significant new functionality was accompanied by global roadshows and marketing events to drive demand and customer upsell in conjunction with the press release. In this case, looking on the events site, I see a few events in the coming months specifically on XI 3.0 in Europe, but nothing in North America. I'm not sure what that says about the release itself, or maybe the marketing strategy of the new regime in San Jose--or both.

And lest our readers worry that this is turning into a Business Objects blog, we haven't forgotten about Cognos and IBM and their solutions launches this week either, no sirreee...
PS--Yes, Yes, we know the above logo is from 2.0. But seeing as how our friends came up with the whole logo and "XI" concept, that's the version that will always stick with us...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

THERE We Go...

FINALLY the Business Objects Gartner press release makes its appearance.

Given the multitude of changes going on internally right now in the BI and performance management structure (one look at the new management team line-up shows Marge Breya out of marketing and in Juliette Sultan's old job heading up BI, Mark Doll out of the EPM GM role (and back to E&Y), a new marketing lead (from Pilot Software via SAP), and Greg Wolfe back in charge of the Americas), one can imagine that folks may be just a bit distracted. However, and not to dig too far into the weeds, some folks that were "clickable" are not on the front page, but if you click on John Schwarz link, you see all the old BOBJ management team in their old roles (including Marge, Mark, and Greg). Helloooo webmaster!

But that Philip Smeed video is AWESOME--a thousand cocktails to you sir!

Performance Guys get in on the action with XI 3.0


Check out the latest news on the new Business Objects BI platform, named Business Objects XI 3.0. The new product release brings the promise of information integration and delivery into one BI platform. This release really focuses on the integration of DI (technology acquired from Acta) and the data quality tools (technology acquired from First Logic). XI 3.0 starts to show the pay off from the past couple of years Business Objects has spent on the development of their EIM strategy and their commitment to bringing additional value to their BI platform customers by establishing the necessity for trust of data, and getting the right information to the right people and teams. But beyond all the new technology bit and bytes, the most interesting part of the release is the Performance Guys plug in the new Business Objects XI 3.0 video, watch for it in the background in the first 30 seconds of the video!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Breathless Reporting? Me Doth Thinkest Thousest Protesteth Too Mucheth...

Contrary to reports that my blog post yesterday was "breathless" reporting by Pat, I feel as though I must respond as such:

1. Wow, um, thanks.

2. Let the record reflect that it wasn't me reporting with a headline that Microsoft was the big winner in the whole magic quadrant thing, but someone from Information Week, and I remarked that it was a fairly bold departure from all the staid press releases with which Gartner constrains the vendors.

3. I would have remarked similarly if the article was focused on Cognos being the leader as well; you know I call 'em as I see 'em.

4. I'm in no way saying that one vendor or the other has everything that a customer could need--far from it, and you dissecting the ins and outs of the various offerings is instructive, but not wholly relevant to the point I was making. And as regular readers to this esteemed blog will recall (here and here), I've written in the past about what I believe to be the myth of BI "standardization," and why just saying "so and so has standardized on our BI tool" actually means little beyond the press release. Are they using Excel? What's their portal? What DB tools and integration tools to they use? How many ERP user licenses do they have? Often times the standardization argument falls down here, which, like it or not, benefits non-pure play vendors like the folks in Redmond (or "did" anyway, now everything's all mixed up, which is a topic for further dissection).

5. I'm as confused as you are on the puppies post--clearly we've entered new territory on this blog and need to get Nic some help.

6. Happy birthday to my fellow PG's, here's to another year of fun and merriment!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Putting the Truthiness in BI

Ok nation, time for a fact check - or at least a little dose of reality for the BI truthiness that seems to have invaded the performance guys blog from somewhere in the pacific northwest. First we had seals being broken, followed by puppies, and can kicking. At this rate, it will not be surprising to find an Eddie Murphy Boomerang reference and a free year of Cat Fancy when you download your trial of Performance Point Server via a special performance guys offer. Give me a big old break.

First, the facts:

Gartner finally just released their new Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence. Have a look at the report here.

One of the news stories covering the release leads with MSFT's strong position in ability to execute. You can read the article, or check Guy's breathless rehash here.

Nic invariabily lets the proverbial dogs out here.

Steven Colbert popularized the word truthiness when he launched his show in 2005. It was later named the world of the year and the wikipedia definition reads, "a satirical term to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts."

While their are some facts here, much like Nic's puppy surprise (where did that even come from), there is also a little more to the story. And isn't this supposed to be a BI blog?

I think Doug Henschen is on target in his review in Intelligent Enterprise, that none of the vendors really stand out - and that Gartner played it safe. The top vendors - SAS, Oracle, Business Objects, Cognos, Microsoft - are in one long continuum and Doug nets out that he thinks they all have a ways to go before they get to the top right in the MQ. Sounds about right.

Microsoft gets full credit (some would argue much more credit than they deserve based on their position) for having a strong set of products, large and active ISV channel and strong product quality. They also have a cost advantage for many organizations - especially critical for the SMB market. What is interesting is that there is no mention of MSFT being the BI standard in any account, a point raised for vendors like Cognos and Business Objects. How can you be an execution leader with no tier one enterprise standard deployments? I am not saying they don't exist, I just have not seen them.

Also interesting to note that MSFT gets dinged for being late to the BI party and Gartner notes that according to customers they lag behind in "metadata management, reporting, and dashboard and ad hoc query capabilities." In other words the bread and butter of BI is not as good as the other leaders. Sounds like the litter needs to grow up a little more, something that is widely expected.

As for the other leaders:

Cognos gets point for enterprise deployments and benefits of the version 8 architecture and positive perspective impact of IBM capabilities when the acquisition is completed. They get called out for lack of performance management and predictive capabilities as well as product overlap.

Business Objects scores with strong core BI and platform standard customers as well as SaaS leadership in category. However they get docked points for XI upgrade and migration headaches and get called on the carpet for having the least effective support of any major vendor. Ouch. Both of these have been points of pain for some time and this obviously had a negative impact to their position.

Oracle gets well deserved credit for having a strong enterprise offering, even if the name, OBIEE, leaves more than a little to be desired. Among the cautions are the uptake by Hyperion BI users (surprise) and long integration cycles with multiple BI products and offerings that will occupy Oracle and customers throughout 2008.

SAS rounds out the leadership pack with pronounced breath and depth of analytics that go well beyond the traditional BI requirements. However, as per usual, they lose points for being hard to use, lacking some key features and not even being the BI standard in many places where they are well entrenched for analytics and predictive analysis.

Note that Microstrategy and even Information Builders (on the line), are leaders in this quad, but they are not generally in the same class as those noted above.

Congratulation to all the leader's in this years Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI. It should be an interesting year with new products, new integrations, new market strategies. Let's hope for a little more fact based reality and a little less truthiness. And as Guy notes, where is the BOBJ press release?

Surprise, Surprise, Puppy Surprise


Big news from Gartner yesterday with the release of the new BI quad. The quad itself positions Microsoft as the dominant vendor in the "ability to execute category," partly due to their partner and sales model and mostly due to the new functionality built right into their core platforms which they are using to deliver BI, The Office System and SQL.

The time seems to be now for Microsoft to release the hounds, and deliver on their BI strategy as the major players in the space (Business Objects and Cognos) will be consumed with integration efforts. In addition to this the company just released the v1 product PerformancePoint Sever, which is not really a v1 product but more of a combination of a more mature product portfolio with the ProClarity tools and Business Scorecard Manager (a 4 year old scorecarding tool built in house at Microsoft). What is new is the planning and budgeting functionality which is added into PerformancePoint and is delivered in the all familiar environment of Excel. Add in some new BI functionality in the latest release of Office 2007 and an upcoming launch of SQL Server 2008 and you can quickly get the picture for why Microsoft is that clear leader in the ability to execute column. Oh wait, how could I forget the most important piece, PRICE. Which could actually be more of a factor than anticipated given recent economic rumblings, just ask you stock broker.
What will happen when SAP, Oracle, and IBM get their acts together? Will HP jump into the game and pick up MicroTradgedy? Only time will tell but all of this gives Microsoft a good opportunity to give a real kick of the BI can in 2008, it’ll be interesting to see how many puppies are really inside. Heck just ask the product manager for Crystal Reports what happened when Reporting Services released back in 2002.

Information Week Breaks the Seal...

It's interesting how all the BI vendors go to great lengths to adhere to the strict guidelines and protocols established by Gartner and the other analyst firms on what you can say about your own particular rating in the annual magic quadrants races, waves, and vendor evaluations. And it's reflected in the type of bland, non-newsy press releases that vendors tend to issue in these cases, like Cognos here, and Microsoft here (strange that we haven't heard from BOBJASAPCO (Business Objects an SAP Company) yet, they're usually right on the ball with these types of announcements when they're happy with their placement--could it be that they're not? hmmm...
In any case, all that is out the window now as Mary Hayes Weier writes today in Information Week about the Microsoft Surge into the leader's quadrant at the expense of some of the other traditional BI vendors. I'm not sure how taboo or copyrighted any of this information actually is, but it does provide some welcomed insight into the actual report, and lists some of the other vendors and the general area in which they placed in this review cycle.

Overall there's a lot to be happy about in both the Gartner report and this article if you're based up in Redmond today. Expect this article to be forwarded around to A LOT of prospects and customers. What strikes me is the refreshing context that an article like this provides, in contrast to the careful dancing and posturing that all the BI vendors go through in their official announcements. Ultimately I think this helps the customer and the market.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sign of the Times--Bernard Departs

I wanted to add my own personal observation to others who have written this past week (I liked Darren's post over at the Lucid Era blog as well) about Bernard Liautaud's official departure from Business Objects, as the SAP transaction becomes official. Obviously it's a fact of today's M&A world that as companies get acquired, the executives move on, take new roles, and in many cases, fade into the sunset.

My sense is that Bernard will have a lot more to say about business intelligence in the coming months and years, although I do wonder about the weight of his message, now that it will be given through the prism of SAP's point of view. After seeing him deliver so many presentations about how important "independent BI" was to the Business Objects customer base, it's still jarring to think that just one year ago at the BOBJ sales kick-off, he was up on stage with a safari hunter's hat on and toy gun shooting at the "big game" of SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, making fun of their offerings, and vowing to take them on whole--he really had the crowd eating out of his hand. And now he's going to be on the SAP board of supervisors. But such is life in the corporate world. You wear many hats, including safari hats; you change teams and allegiances; and even your points of view depending on where your career takes you.

However, I'll relate one personal anecdote from Bernard (I realize this sounds like an obituary, and while he's in fine form, in a professional sense, there's a lot of BOBJ obituary writing going on right now). Before I joined the company, I was listening to a recorded BOBJ earnings call to get a sense for him as a leader, and as someone that I'd potentially like to follow.

What came through in that call was as proud a recitation of goals and ideals of where he wanted the company to go as I've ever heard from an executive. At the time, the Jim Collins book "Good to Great" was all the rage, and I think they even brought Collins into the sales kick-off that year. But however Bernard's vision was executed (and I can go on and on about how it did and to the extent that it actually "was" throughout the following years), there was no doubt that day that the leader of that company was fully vested in making something great out of the organization he had built. He realized then that were he was wasn't good enough, and he was using a great quarter's results to make the case both to the employees, as well as to the investors, that merely being an industry leader wasn't satisfactory--great companies survived through their continuous innovation, commitment to excellence, and ability to change and adapt.

I suppose it's a bit ironic that in the end, the company was sold and was not able to survive. I'm not sure what it says about Bernard's ability to execute on that vision, but it's good to know that there were leaders in the company that actually believed and subscribed to this vision and those ideals. In life I'm finding that often times it's the battle vs. the result that defines you (man I'm getting old...), and no one can deny that although SAP may have "won" in the end, it was one hell of a fight to get to that result, and Bernard was a great leader for so many of us to follow into battle every day.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

TWTW, Smackdown Edition...

Actionable business intelligence--what a concept!
All Things Considered--No Wait, that's NPR--All Things Seen and Heard on BI and performance management...
THE BI Blog...the BI blog...the bi BLOG--nope, the first way sounds the best.

OK this was admittedly a paltry effort this week--time to step it up...

PG's

Friday, February 01, 2008

Not Just ANY BI Blog, but THE BI Blog...

Adding a gratuituous new link over at the right, as the Death Star formally enters the blogging world with the humble and unassuming name of "THE BI Blog." Not content to be snarky and sarcastic in one blog, PG's Guy and Nic will continue their quest for global blogging domination in "quasi-official company men" capacity over at the new site as well, with the help from the multitudes of other Microsofties that are all focused on wearing you down until you see all things BI their way.

Or is it technically "our" way? Or maybe eventually it will just be "the" way...

BI and Search

Today's news of the proposed acquisition of Yahooooooooo! by the Death Star, while not very BI/performance management related, still brings "search," and more directly "how does this impact BI and performance management" to mind.

Truthfully speaking, the announcement just a few weeks ago that Microsoft was acquiring a real, live, honest to goodness enterprise search vendor, FAST, is probably more directly related to our core topics here, but today's news re-emphasizes a point that several folks have noticed, namely that "search" has the potential to be the future interface of business intelligence.

Now despite attempts by other BI vendors to get into the realm of search (Business Objects' well intentioned, but unsupported "Intelligent Question" immediately comes to mind), and unstructured data, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful, in part due to the fact that the engines aren't optimized to find data outside of the data warehouse and data marts which which the search tools are associated. And companies like our friend Dave Kellogg's Mark Logic exist and thrive due to their ability to work across multiple data types and sources to scour information everywhere to get you the result you need.

But it's hard to escape the fact that there's a convergence in technologies going on here, and that the user interface for finding out what you need, as well as the engines that actually "do the finding" are quickly coming together. And whatever comes out of the other end of all this mish mash is only going to help information workers everywhere get ready access to the information they need--maybe by simply typing in a question into a search bar...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

All Things Performance - Seen and Heard


Lots of activity and reports from all across the world of performance management this week...actually in the last couple of weeks. Some truth, some rumor, some things to be determined. So a little bit about a number of things:

Business Objects announced nice earnings this week, up 20% to $444 million. Most amusingly, Business Objects was referred to by eChannel Line in their write up as SAP Jr.

An industry analyst recently suggested that the Cognos acquisition by IBM is doomed to fail because they are going to get pulled into the EIM group, get squashed and disappear. Time will tell on this one.

According to Valleywag, BEA employees have been instructed not to blog about the impending acquisition by Oracle. In an effort to help, they suggest you send them tips and they will take care of the rest.

One of the more interesting suggestions coming out of the closure of the SAP / BOBJ deal is the idea that John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects is now in the running as the heir apparent to SAP CEO Henning Kagermann. Apparently he has made a very strong impression with Kagermann and the senior management at SAP.

As of the earnings announcement today, it was officially announced that BOBJ founder and chairman Bernard Liautaud has officially resigned his positions as chairman of the board and chief strategy officer. He is widely expected to be elected to the SAP board later this year. Congratulations to Mr. Liautaud for building one of the pioneers and leaders in business intelligence and guiding it to a successful exit with one of the industry leading software companies. From zero to $1.5B in revenue for calendar 2007. A great ride.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

But is it "Actionable?"

I was speaking to an IT director today from a large oil and gas company--think, well, LARGE--about their user of BI within their organization. Like most companies, they have every BI tool and product under the sun housed within their organization, which causes just the expected headaches you'd think an IT shop would have with that many vendors floating around.

Our conversation focused on if, with so many vendors, they were really able to deliver BI to the people who needed it most in the organization--"pervasive" BI, if you could call it that. He mentioned that it was indeed a challenge, but actually hinged on one main concept--is it actionable?

He relayed that despite all the competing and overlapping products, the cream always rises to the top, so to speak--if you can get the data in tools or applications that make things actionable, those are the tools that people will use and continue to ask for. They don't need fancy interfaces, they don't need 3 weeks of training, they don't need all the bells and whistles and options and features--they need it to help them solve the problem in front of them.

Of course there are lots of ways to read into this, but it's nice to see that customers can see through the hype and fluff, and still be focused on delivering real value to the people who need it!

Friday, January 25, 2008

TWTW, Milestone Addition...


Tickets, get your BI conference tickets, tickets, tickets, get your BI conference tickets...
Who knew the word "infrastructure" could have so many different meanings?
Interesting developments in the the "other" BPM marketplace--are end users getting the shaft?

That will do it for us this weekend, we're off to have some cake and ice cream to celebrate, but if there's clowns at this party, we're outta here...

It was 4 Years Ago Today...The Performance Guys Started to Play...

They've been going in and out of style,
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile,
So may I introduce to you?
The act you've known for all these years...

The Very First--Performance Guys---Colummmmmmmmmmn...

Yes, kids, it was four years ago today that two young lads from Business Objects set out to change the world of performance management. Armed with a T-1 line, a computer, and hearty dose of sarcasm and cynicism, the first Performance Guys column was penned for DM Review.

We'd like to think we've matured in the last four years, but who are we kidding? We'd also like to think that the performance management market has matured as well. We don't know if we're kidding about that, but we'll let you decide after you take a stroll with us down memory lane and revisit (or for 99.999999% of you, visit the first time) our take on performance management back in early 2004.

(ed.--note that there were originally 7 myths, but in typical Morrissey fashion he felt he needed to edit me down)

The Five Myths of Performance Management

You can’t drop a quarter without hitting some sort of performance management project these days. Everyone I every industry is struggling for better performance. If that’s the case, why is it that so many of us are still confused about what performance management is? Is it due to endless process reengineering by your in-house consultants or because you can’t get at the data? Is the sales team demanding a new dashboard?

Frankly, we’re confused by all the confusion, and hope to use this monthly forum (gratuitous thanks to DM Review) to help you wade through the fog and FUD that is performance management and give you some practical advice on how to proceed within your organization. So let’s start out this first column with us trying to explode some of the most common myths we’ve heard about performance management, and why your organization “can’t” do it—

Myth #1: Performance Management is too new and won’t stick in the marketplace. This is a great first place to start. The truth is that term performance management, or “EPM,” “CPM,” or “BPM,” or whatever software vendors are calling it today, is in fact relatively new—just over two years in fact since our friends at Gartner came out with their first magic quadrant on the market. What’s not new, however, is what performance management is trying to do for your organization—that is, align people with goals and objectives so that you’re all dancing to the same beat. Ever have an initiative to improve customer retention? How about employee development? Surprise!—you’ve been doing performance management. It’s not new it all—it’s what you’re already doing today.

Myth #2: It’s a technology problem. Wow, does this one get a lot of play from people who are dragging their feet on getting started on performance management initiatives. Usually (by the way) from people who stand to lose something or get exposed if such an initiative moves forward. So really quickly—do you have a data warehouse in production—or several? Does your company have access to its own CRM, SCM, HR, Financial, or ERP data base? Are you producing reports for your business users on topics like customer profitability today? Ta dah, all of these things come about as a result of technology. The systems are there, so relax. Focus instead on how you get the information OUT of the system. That’s not a technology problem, it’s a project management challenge.

Myth #3: A Balance Scorecard is the Answer. Now don’t get us wrong, we’re big fans of Kaplan and Norton, and everything they’ve done to advance the discussion. Plus, they throw a mean conference party if you ever get the chance to go. However, because companies don’t understand what performance management actually is, many have latched onto the concept that if they just adopt the Balanced Scorecard system, all their problems will be solved. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. Too many companies are using Balanced Scorecard as a crutch, when they should be using it as a cornerstone from which they really attack the key factors in making their business more productive and successful. Truth be told, it’s hard for many companies to fit all of their key objectives into the four main pillars that Kaplan and Norton espouse. Does it mean BSC won’t work for you? Absolutely not. But BSC is a part of a performance management initiative, and just that.

Myth #4: You know what a KPI is. A lot of the breezy talk about performance management assumes that the IT teams are fully versed on key performance indicators, or KPI’s. We’re guilty ourselves of speaking with so many acronyms pertaining to business needs and pay little attention to whether or not these are terms and metrics that a) you understand, and b) you can help us report on in our systems today. The fact is that just showing a VP of Sales the total number of customers gained this month is not a KPI. It’s nice to know, but not a KPI. Why isn’t it? Because there’s no context to the number, that’s why. Who cares how many customers were gained this month? A better question—how many net new customers do we have this month vs. plan? See the difference? KPI’s require some background information, and they need to be measured against a goal. Just regurgitating the numbers does little for the business user—but giving them context gives them the knowledge they need to make the tough decisions.

Myth #5: A New Planning System solves the Problem. This one will hit close to home for some of our vendor brethren, but it’s not a slam against them—per se. It’s actually more in tune with myth #3 above—it’s a crutch. Now, if you’re using some mainframe legacy system that you had to band-aid together to make it Y2K compliant, we feel your pain, and have some folks you can call. But one of the hugest myths in performance management is that everything starts with a plan or budget. And that’s just not the truth. Planning and budgeting are certainly involved and a big part of performance management. But as so many companies are discovering today, it’s about more than just that, and thinking you’ve got performance management beaten once you sign the P.O. for a new planning system misses the mark. If you don’t have good processes, methodologies, and a way to link your high level objectives with your tactical goals and metrics, no one can save you, not even the best planning system on the planet.

Well, that about puts a wrap on the first column. We hope we’ve helped get the discussion started on performance management, and we’re looking forward to continuing with this next month.


Not too bad actually. While certainly myth #1 has gone by the wayside, EPM is certainly in the mainstream, we still actually see the other myths quite often out in the marketplace. And thank God for that, or else this would be a really boring blog...

On to the next four years and beyond!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Are Vendors Ignoring Users in Business Process?

So among the many things crossing my Google alerts in the past week is this little gem posted on ZDNet and referring to recent Butler Group research which suggests that Business Process Management vendors are tech-obsessed, creating features at the expense of users needs.
According to the article.

BPM typically allows business professionals to develop operational processes which reflect their business requirements, according to a Butler Group report, with application development, modelling and integration services driving the users' need for the technology.

However, vendors tend to get carried away with technical aspects of BPM rather than responding to users' real needs, Butler Group said: "One worrying issue is that BPM has a history of hooking into the latest and greatest technology wave."

While users focus more on the human interaction angle of BPM, vendors prefer to see the system as a "technology sell" — a standpoint which can negatively affect communication, according to Butler.

No issue with what BPM is and what drives it. However, I am not sure why anyone should be surprised to find that when integration services are potentially an important part of the equation, then vendors might look for more features. The fact that BPM is often a technology sell speaks both to who the buyers are (at least 50% of the time in IT) and maybe more importantly, who is selling it.

When you view the summary of the Butler report, you find that their recommended short list for vendors in the current state of the market includes BEA (soon to be Oracle), Pegasystems, Metastorm, TIBCO, and Software AG. There are many things I could take issue with regardng this leader short list and I can only assume they have a very European centric view of the market, but the reality is that 4-5 of those vendors, if not 5-5 of those vendors are focused on and have built their business on IT driven sales. So the idea that IT vendors selling with an IT slant a particular technology that is also applicable to business people might cause issues with the communication of value of said solution is a surprise why?

The simple reality here is that all these vendors have arrived at the BPM party by trying to come up-stack to include business analyst and senior management related tools like stand alone process modeling, condition logic, business activity monitoring, custom forms, dashboards, etc to capitalize on the growing interest in BPM. This also helps them compete with pure play leaders in the space (Savvion, Appian, Lombardi) who focus more on the business side of the value equation. Core to BPM's rapid growth and success as a category is that the value proposition is easy to understand: rapidly develop process solutions (usually sub 90 days for the first application) which are easy for business users to specify, define, and then manage once implemented. The fact that these solutions help close the gaps between existing legacy applications and work with whatever the organization has in the back office is very compelling to both business and IT. Often the business value and ROI is very high.

Both the article and the research summary also suggest that SOA is a threat to BPM. This is not likely unless a BPM project gets caught up in the wheels of SOA strategy and never gets executed. The reality is that companies who are smart about BPM use the capabilities around modeling and rapid solution development to scope and execute on enterprise wide SOA strategies which deliver both high value in terms of business readiness and lowered cost. That would be a great topic for more research and much more helpful then the suggestion in the article, which is obviously incorrect, that SOA is a new feature of BPM. Yawn. However it does a pose a threat to business value when one of the big platform or IT guys sells BPM as one more thing on the price list while they are trying to sell integration technology or application servers. In that scenario, everyone loses.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It Depends on What you Mean by "Infrastructure"

There's a lot of talk in the wake of all the BI combinations of what role BI actually "plays" in the technology world. For while there are (and hopefully will always be) great vendors that provide specialized BI capabilities that addresses specific audience or industry needs (think vertical specialities like CPG trade promotion analysis analytics), for the most part, with all the big players now having a full-blown BI portfolio, BI is now largely a feature of the infrastructure--albeit a huge feature--but a feature nonetheless--of that these vendors are selling to the market.

Which begs the question, "what do you mean by "infrastructure?"" Because that can mean a few different things.

On the one hand, with data warehousing, data integration, and all the security, administration, etc. abilities that come with BI these days, saying that it's now an infrastructure play is easy to follow. Most of the BI platform plays are administered by IT, not the end users, so they're a core part of what IT delivers to the rest of the employee base. So infrastructure as a technical term is well understood.

But taken another way, infrastructure can also mean "embedded." And this view of BI is far more interesting in my opinion. Because for most vendors the goal is to have "BI everywhere" and "BI ubiquity" and "BI democracies" (and I could go on with pithy vendor terms), we only achieve this if business intelligence is inherently baked into my daily job. I may not even know I'm using BI--I just see an alert, pull up a credit score, see a forecast trend, all within my daily routine. BI? Never heard of it.

That's where I suspect we'll start to see the next cool aspects of BI and performance management emerge. We're already seeing vendors talk about embedded BI--part of the process, part of your job, not something that you have to do different. You don't have to stop what you're doing, log into a system, run a report, then resume your work--you just right click and pull up the report, for instance.

There are some vendors that are farther along than others in getting BI to this level, and whereas sexy graphics and analytics were all the rage just a few cycles ago, be on the look-out for embedded BI capabilities coming to an application near you for the next big thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baby Got BI


It's not quite Sir Mix-A-Lot…but Baby got BI. Check out the music video from the Business Objects team in Vancouver, this is how nerds break it down. Peas and carrots. Word-up.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Big Ticket


The dates are set for the second annual Microsoft BI conference Oct. 6-8 in Seattle Washington. The events hopes to build on the tremendous popularity of the first Microsoft BI conference held in May of 2007. Sure it’s not U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Rolling Stones and the ticket scalpers down at SafeCo field probably aren't getting too worked up over it but who’s to say software can’t get it’s groove on from time to time. For more information on the conference check out:
http://www.microsoftbiconference.com/

Saturday, January 19, 2008

TWTW, LIVE, FROM NEW YORK, IT'S...

So this whole vendor consolidation thing--it's totally going to work, right?
Cognos BI v8.3.1 blogging fever, Catch it!
And if you dropped it, try catching it again!
Is it saas? Or SaaS? Or wait--it's not SAAS is it? Oh forget it, let the partner figure it out...
"Cognos V8.3 BI" and "The Princess Bride:" Two phrases we honestly never thought we'd see together
"BI" and "Draft Funk:" Two phras--OK this has got to stop RIGHT NOW!
SAP and Business Objects--Germans. French. This will TOTALLY work--history is on our side!

Whew, well that will do it for us this week. We'll be over at the bar if anyone needs us...

PG's

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kind of a Busy Day Yesterday in the World of BI...

So in addition to the big news that Oracle was final able to find a number that Carl Icahn could live with, and with Cognos trying to convince the world that v8.3 of their BI suite was the greatest thing since sliced bread, SAP and Business Objects also got into the act yesterday, announcing that the transaction was all but done, and coming to market with 9--count 'em--9 new solutions to the marketplace.

And the changeover to the SAP web motif is already underway, if you head over to http://www.businessobjects.com/ and check things out. Not sure that the color schemes really match up, and I think we all know where things will end up, but an interesting dichotomy and contrast in styles side by side in the same website nonetheless.

In the midst of well placed banner ads and somewhat murky conference calls yesterday came the solutions. Did we mention there were 9 of them? We can show you a press release in case you don't believe us. Spanning the spectrum (gratuitous last "Let There Be Light" plug there for the old BOBJ marketing team) of performance management, reporting, and everything in between, these new solutions, available on the market today and likely trained on heavily at this week's final BOBJ sales kick-off, are now in the hands of sales reps everywhere.


But what are they? Well, it's hard to tell. If you click on one of the solutions from Business Objects, you actually head over to the SAP website, where the solutions talk a lot about capabilities, but little else. It doesn't take a marketing genius to see that these solutions are little more than marketing rebranding, and that's actually not necessarily a bad thing. After all, they need to start somewhere, and at such time (months or years down the road) when they get the product roadmap figured out, these should be formidable offerings. Until then, however, if I'm a competitor, I'm going to have fun making the SAP rep talk about the products that comprise these solutions and how they actually work together.

Scalable BI: Around the World Around the World…


As BI continues to go "around and around" for organizations (see the Daft Punk for a visual and audio reference to the current BI challenges) an interesting article has come out from the folks at B-eye network on the top three enablers for scalable BI. While highlighting the fact that reliable information is critical, and must be (1) presented in the right format, (2) deliver at the right time and right way to be consumed and (3) embedded within the right business process. The article also distinguishes the fact that there are different types of BI, including corporate, team, and personal. An interesting way of looking at BI across the organization and segmenting the various purposes of BI.

I wanted to call out point number two specifically, as this hits home on the issue of organizational productivity and brings the conversation of scalability to a direct head making the issue of timing and right tool for the job become a key ingredient to reach true organization scalability. Giving users the ability to get answers in the simplest way possible and enable maximum productivity in the environments in which they are already working.
It seems pretty critical for business users that BI functionality is embedded into the processes and tools that they address in their everyday world. There is undoubtedly an abundance of BI tools out there but for an organization to truly scale their BI investments will come down to how they approach and bring BI into the worlds that their users currently work. Now back to more Daft Punk...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More from Cognos - So About The Product


Picking up and closing off from yesterday, let’s talk product for Cognos 8v3. The demo portion of the event was led by Cognos VP of Product Marketing, Leah MacMillan. MacMillan started by quoting a recent Accenture study indicating the up to 2 hours a week is wasted looking for information, most organizations information is wrong half the time and that people admitted they used the wrong information at least once a week. Interesting, sounds like they need BI, specifically Cognos 8v3 to storm the information castle.

MacMillan then did a very credible job in calling out key issues for different classes of users and new features in Cognos 8v3 to address those points of pain. Among the key highlights for the CEOs include briefing books and the demo included Indigo Montoya’s briefing book displayed in PDF format. It was not clear what time frame and metrics where measured for Mr. Montoya’s quest. Also new capabilities for the portal, portlets and metrics management.

Cognos mobile was also highlighted for business line managers as well as new additions to the planning capability and multi-tabs displays for their dashboards. While hard to show the capabilities of how you can change a spreadsheet and the plan, the planning element of the demo did showcase integration with MSFT PowerPoint.

Those important non-BI users called employees were also called out with new capabilities focused on author once, publish many times. Other details mentioned include integration with leading enterprise search capabilities including Google One Box, MSFT Express 2008 and other vendors, as well as enhanced personalized alerts. This includes the ability to right click and add alert conditions.

MacMillan finished with mention of additional capabilities required for customers, partners and suppliers and well as hard core BI professionals and indicated she did not have time to review but teams were prepared to demo and spend time. She noted there were additional benefits for these groups of users. However the likelihood is that the focus on administration is among the highlights for both camps. The BI administrators get more capability to manage from the portal, which in turn helps them manage users outside the firewall.

The demo section was then followed by a quick Q&A Chad Erman from Southwestern Energy. Suffice it to say that Erman is a fan of the company and technology, noting in his responses that Cognos is a company “that just gets it”, and that they are so good they are nearly mind-readers. However he is very credible on stage and should be a strong reference to Cognos for the foreseeable future.

The demo and the presentation were both handled very professionally. Ms. MacMillan is very credible on stage and showcasing the product. The key themes around the event – the evolution of performance management and performance management in the real world were both delivered on in the presentation. Cognos deserves high marks for the event and their presentation and new capabilities.

However, as one might expect from a point release, this is not a game changer, and I am not sure that Cognos meets their suggested bar around innovation. The concept of BI on a Blackberry, re-usable portal widgets, portal based administration and multi-tab dashboards are not exactly new or innovative. However, they are all very useful capabilities that should be high on the enhancement request lists of existing customers and are likely to have immediate uptake. This is a straight upgrade for customers on Cognos 8v2. This is not necessarily a straight upgrade from earlier versions, so your results may vary. Look for Cognos 8v3 from your local sales rep as it is available now and have fun storming the castle.

The Many Mutations of Performance Management

As you know, we here at the Performance Guys are always on the look-out for new thinking and new solutions that focus on the performance management arena. And while the big players are slugging it out at the macro level, hiring top industry analysts, having one last sales kick-off, and getting ready to take over the world, other specialist vendors are quietly going about their business and solving problems for companies across the vertical spectrum.

One such example comes to us today from Red Prairie from the NRF show (you may have seen other cool NRF unveilings earlier in the week--pretty soon the damn shopping carts will be driving themselves--and the futuristic vision of Webvan will yet be achieved--VICTORY!--but I digress).

Companies like Red Prairie, focused on vertical solutions, are unveiling their own performance management solutions--this one branded in the imaginative "R"PM, or "Red Prairie" Performance Management (bets on if this name catches on? Anyone?) for retail companies. Now Red Prairie isn't necessarily a household name like some of the links above, but sports an impressive client list that uses--and depends on the RP software to help them optimize their operations and performance.

OK, there "is" the matter of the product being built on top of a certain software giant's own performance management application, but that aside, it's important to remember that many vertically focused organizations--retailers in this instance--are wary of using the big guys as their vendor of choice for BI and performance management--they're worried about cost, customization, and if the vendor truly knows and understands their key issues. Vendors like Red Prairie show us that in this rapidly accelerating era of consolidation (It's true, Oracle will one day rule us all), that innovation and laser focus on solving key business pains for a customer still has a place in the market.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And How Would You Like Your Performance Management Served?

There's obviously been a lot of talk over the course of the last few quarters about the changing delivery model for performance management and business intelligence to the marketplace, and there are huge ramifications with the move from a desktop/server delivery method to a more services oriented approach.

Just a few years ago when Business Objects was releasing their first version of crystalreports.com, the interest from customers and prospects was exceedingly low--and the adoption, aside from all the "free trials" that were given away, was even lower. The common argument of not trusting the data outside the firewall, integration, and overall control comprised the litany of reasons why companies would never turn to a SaaS model for BI.

Fast forward a few years, and with the help of forward thinking SaaS companies like LucidEra, and our blogging friend Darren Cunningham, the issue is no longer whether the model is viable, but rather, how it gets integrated with other enterprise applications--which shows just how far the ball has been moved--the SaaS vendors are getting the same barriers to adoption as traditional vendors. That shows a real maturity of the technology.

Another sure sign that you've arrived--Microsoft is not only in the game, but experiencing channel conflict on who would host the SaaS services, and how that might impact partner revenue streams. Now since the folks from Redmond are highly dependent on their extensive partner community to be their eyes and ears out on the street, a channel uprising is no small matter. But more importantly, it shows that the argument has moved from whether cloud computing, or software + services, as MSFT calls it, is a viable way to deliver technology, to who is going to be the one delivering it.

With new applications like mobile computing and enterprise search making strong headway into the information worker's mindshare, the issue around performance management adoption is rapidly moving from "if" a company should adopt a performance management solution to help their top and bottom lines, to "how" they'd like their solution delivered.

Cognos 8v3 - Ask the Experts

After Mr. Ashe concluded his keynote presentation, he did a little Q&A with industry analyst John Hagerty of AMR research, a noted expert in performance management as well as compliance. John is a favorite of the performance guys and a great choice for this type of event for a variety of reasons - he knows a ton about the space, is very credible, and he speaks clear English and does not pull his punches. He also happens to be a former Cognos employee, which never hurts, but John did not expressly endorse the product, nor would you expect him to.

John did a Q&A with Rob Ashe and continued to reinforce some of the key themes and challenges in the market place: billions of dollars spent on aggregation and collection of information without enough measurable impact or direction on what to do with the information or how to drive business return. Also the challenge of not enough tools - or the right kind of tools for all types of users.

Hagerty and Ashe both commented that for many organizations, the journey to a performance managed and optimized organization is still early stage. Ashe also commented that journey is often custom to the needs of individual organizations. (Very good point)

To address this issue, Hagerty outlined a maturity model for organizations moving to a more strategic approach to BI and performance management. For AMR clients, you can find it here, but for the rest of you, the headlines of the 4 stages are:

1. Reactive - Performance management and/or BI used to address a specific issue. This services as the baseline in the department or organization

2. Anticipation - The viral impact as performance management projects starts to spread. Nothing breeds success like success

3. Collaboration - A more proactive approach as the organization starts to recognize the cause and effect relationship between their goals, the information and the expectations of performance.

4. Orchestration - A coordinated approach that moves everyone to the same sheet of music. Very much rooted in strategy

Both Ashe and Hagerty asserted that most organizations are early in the process, but on their way to a more strategic, higher value approach. Interesting, and likely due to time constraints, neither panelist was asked or volunteered examples of more mature or performance managed companies. While Southwest Energy was on the video transition to the panel and spoke live later(I will comment on this later), I thought this was a missed opportunity.

The closing remarks by both men netted out to don't boil the ocean with your performance strategy and look for return at every step. This is very much on point and a constant struggle for those in both business and IT looking to execute on their performance strategy.

Overall this was a good session and both presenters were on script and kept things moving. However, the audience and Cognos might have been better served to allow John Hagerty a little more time and his own stand alone presentation slot to get one level deeper on how to make performance management actionable and reference some more specific case studies in context of the AMR maturity model. This might have cut into the demo a little bit, but the credibility of AMR and a global view would have served the corporate interest at least as well. And teams were standing by to demo around the room.

Stay tuned for new product features and demo update.