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:

Saturday, January 19, 2008


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...


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 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, 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.

Cognos Brings Their Performance DNA to Gotham

Greetings from the Cognos kick-off event for Cognos 8v3. Cognos bills this as The DNA for Performance Evolution. Doors opened at 8am and to their performance credit, the group running the event managed to get it kicked off on time. Cognos bills this as performance management in the real world, with a target of reaching 8,000 customers in 35 cities as well as an online event.

Mark Jeffries kicked off the event and quickly gave way to Cognos CEO Rob Ashe. Ashe welcomed everyone and noted that Cognos 8v3 is a “foundational release – very sturdy and the product of more testing than any prior release from the company.” Ashe asserted that performance management is the #1 priority for all organizations.

Ashe followed with the standard BI assertion - the issue starts from the sheer quantity of data. Another issue is the increasing competitive environment. Arguably we are on the edge of a recession and Ashe suggested that is part of the priority and urgency. Performance of the business is critical. Finally, part of the issue is management. Too much money on automation. Too much back office, but not enough focus on optimization and driving performance.

Ashe commented that Cognos has been on a 20 year journey of innovation. However, the product circle that appeared behind him was not as high quality as other graphics in the presentation. It was the standard circle with performance in the center, first ring measure and monitoring, next planning, finally, reporting and analysis. Ironically, the product diagram was less good than the one I remember when I presented right after Ashe at Computerworld’s BI show in 2005.

He presented an overview of the BI industry using Cognos products for reference and the reality over the last couple years that performance management is where it is going. Performance management is growing up and the result is more demand and CPM going very broad and very deep.

The focus of the Cognos message and belief:

1. BI + Scorecards + planning must all be integrated on a single platform.

  1. Delivery of a framework – revenue management, long term asset management, expense management, financial management. Looking for what is unique in the business and using it to drive forward
  2. Architecture – services oriented backbone on a single, SOA, extendable platform.

Cognos 8v3 key message points: More targeted info to more users, easier to deploy and manage and new solutions and best practices to accelerate success

Interesting that Ashe commented that this has been the longest product test. 9 months. IBM performance lab tested 3 times before release. Ashe also asserted that “Cognos stands alone in ability to make it easy to administer and manage applications in real deployment and drive adoption.” However, it is not clear from the demo that they are providing anything that is revolutionary or truly new here.

There was a little time spent on acquisition talk. Cognos recently closed the deal from Applix and Ashe mentioned that the new company and technology is a strong fit and well received. TM1 was positioned as an “all in one solution for the mid-market”. It was interesting to hear it positioned this way as that was not consistent with the original press releases on the topic.

On the topic of IBM, Ashe noted that he and the whole company are excited. The deal was approved by the Cognos shareholders yesterday with approval vote of 99%. Ashe asserted synergies and shared vision around business optimization and performance. He also mentioned that Cognos employees are excited about the merger. Clearly it is not a merger and it is not clear that everyone is excited.

The event venue is great, being hosted in a rotunda of a former bank. Kudos to the Cognos team for putting the stage together and adding Cognos signage without taking away from the elegance of the venue. Mark Jefferies is the host for the event and while he is high energy, he clearly is not a Cognos employee because he was reading his open remarks from his clip board and needed to refer to the sheet to remember the names of the presenters. Overall a very solid presentation and a good set up for the rest of the presenters.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Perils of Software Vendor Consolidation

CIO Magazine has a solid article that should help get your day off to a roaring start by addressing the rapidly consolidating software vendor landscape. With the rash of acquisitions in 2007, and already more this year, the number of choices for companies is rapidly shrinking--in fact, the article cites a Forrester Research report that shows only 17 major software vendors left--which is almost hard to believe.

Now that doesn't mean that there are only 17 software vendors left in total--but that for enterprise and larger mid-sized organizations, their choices, based on the existing and future standards, are rapidly shrinking.

Now while there's a great case to be made for the "one throat to choke" strategy (that's mentioned in the article), increasingly we're seeing the power shift from customers to vendors as choices continue to be narrowed, and that's not always a good thing for companies and CIO's in particular right now. Once the dreaded "standardization" banner has been raised, it's harder and harder to switch away from that vendor's services--there's too much time and money invested, too much customization, too much hassle. And among the lesser-known switching costs are issues like credibility and politics, issues that never make it onto a Cap Ex proposal but are an inherent part of what leads you to pick a vendor and the "safe choice" in the first place.

A study that I haven't yet seen, but would be interesting either to see the results, or to grab it if it has been done, is to compare the costs of "inter" system integration, and "intra" system integration. Is it really less expensive to do everything within one system? Because often times you go with one of the big vendors due to the breadth of their offering, not necessarily the depth of their functionality. So you end up spending more money to get the less-functional, more "integrated" system to do what you actually need it to do, perhaps negating the cost savings of using the single vendor strategy in the first place.

Confused yet? It's still a jumble out there, and there's great technology and ideas that are most likely on the way--we always see talented people leave after an acquisition and go off and start their own company, focusing on a particular technology or vertical--and this year will be no different. And with the economy doing who-knows-what in the coming 12 months, CIO's may be looking for a more specialized, less costly alternative than their vendor standard, which on the whole, is a good thing for this industry.

Friday, January 11, 2008

TW'sTW "Wait--2008 Started LAST Week?" Edition

New Gartner CPM Quads--Victory is Mine! Oh wait it's not? Crap.
The Performance Management version of Indecent Proposal coming to a market near you... "How can it be a category if everyone is a leader?" That pretty much sums it, up, doesn't it?
We hope this doesn't mean Pat is going to sell us out and go big-time...
Our money is on Bernard as Harry Potter this year in the BOBJ sales kick-off skit...
Just the merest hint of a rumor that the next Gartner BI quads are right around the corner--but you didn't hear it from us...
Oh great, another "best-of list"--that's soooo December, 2007...

Looking forward to PG Pat's liveblogging from the Cognos performance management forum next week...


Sales Kick-off Most Memorable Moments...

I thought I’d follow up on Guys SKO note with a few sales kickoff most memorable moments… January marks the beginning of a new year and chance for those product marketing guys to get in front of sales and pitch the new roadmaps, demos, product direction, solutions, case studies and best practices to energize and get the sales teams jazzed about the upcoming year. Sometimes these events can be a bit of a boondoggle/pep rally, but hopefully there’s always some learning to take away and some energy generated to get the promise of BI out in front of customers in the upcoming year. That being said, whenever you get a bunch of marketing and sales guys together some crazy things always seem to happen. Looking back over the years, there has certainly been some interesting moments and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of three different BI organizations so I thought I’d list a few of the memorable ones:
1. XI is announced – Crystal and Business Objects come together
2. The C-suite and VPs of Business Objects do a super hero skit
3. “And now for something completely different” - Monty Pythons own John Cleese keynotes
4. Sinbad hosts the evening reception at the Bellagio in Vegas
5. Crystal unveils the “Beat the BO Campaign” with VP of sales Bill Gibson boxing with a big blue guy on stage, six months later they are acquired by BO
6. Checking out the penguins in the world’s largest aquarium in Atlanta
7. EPM and EIM are like Oreo cookies!
8. The marketing team takes out a hotel chandelier with a t-shirt launcher while rehearsing their segment
Cheers to the new year in BI and the memorable moments to come!

Sales Kick-off Fever, Catch It!

Well as the calendar turns, the performance vendors turn their attention to motivating and inspiring their sales forces to go out and conquer the world, or at least make their number for the next few quarters.

Microsoft kicked off things this week in Seattle with a gathering of their rapidly expanding BI sales and marketing teams, and Business Objects follows-up next week for their fond farewell as they kick-off 2008 one last time in Las Vegas. Cognos follows-on next month for their swan song as well.

Sales kick-offs are a strange type of event. For the marketing folks, it's a lot of work, as presentations, video's skits, and the logistics of running a top quality event for hundreds, or even thousands of people occupy most of the 3rd and certainly the 4th quarters of the year. Many a Christmas break has been spent on presentation revisions and early drafts of witty videos and management skits. Anyone who has been associated with Business Objects, for instance, knows that the executive management skit planning starts in the summer, and it's almost impossible to find an exec in the evenings leading up to the big sales dinner where the skit takes place, so elaborate is the production.

However, for the sales people, it's often just a chance to let loose in a fun city away from the family and get into random mischief to all hours of the morning before stumbling into the next morning's keynotes.

And by the end of the meeting, no one can remember any of the slides and assumes they'll be posted on the intranet, and everyone can't wait to crawl back home and never see each other again--at least for another year--

Good times, good times...

Rumor has it...

We may be close to seeing a new BI magic quadrant in the coming weeks. Any chance there's a shake-up in the leader's group? Will Business Objects retain its crown from last year? Will Microsoft finally move the millimeter or so it needed to get in the leaders group? Will any of the new and up-and-coming vendors make a splash that will shake up the industry?

Don't look at us, we have no idea, we're just stirring things up...

Watson, Crick, Darwin and Ashe - DNA of Performance

Next week Cognos takes the covers off the next generation of performance management in NY during a live event called The DNA of Performance Evolution in New York City. The event takes place at Gotham Hall next Tuesday the 15th and includes keynotes by Rob Ashe and Q&A with John Hagerty of AMR as well product demonstrations and a customer discussion with Southwest Energy.

The main stage product demo on the agenda is titled "Experience Performance Management Innovation." I will be happy to offer my candid view on Cognos' delivery of this promise as I will be attending the event and hoping to blog in real time if at all possible.

Interesting to note that Cognos is clearly promoting Cognos 8v3 as evidenced by their web links and details on the site. Regardless of the marketing around the assertion of innovation, the launch is clearly important to Cognos 2008 plans. They are doing a similar agenda as a road show as well as a virtual event. Expect customers and partners to be just as interested in the new relationship with IBM as they are in the latest release.

More from NYC.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Process Management Gone Wild

It took Doug Henschen at Intelligent Enterprise doing a Q&A with Janelle Hill from Gartner on the state of play in the business process management segment, as well as the recent IE Dozen Editors choice awards, to prompt me to make some comments on the state of play in process management.

The Q&A with Janelle was related to Doug's blog commenting on Gartner's BPMS problem. Doug mentions that Gartner has a problem because vendors are upset this may be the last BPMS MQ, a notion that Janelle rejects - at least mostly. It is under review, but Doug comments on the concern of one unnamed vendor that Gartner's concept of a Business Process Platform (BPP) favors the big vendors. Like the ones who sell platforms. Ya think? Doug also notes that the genie is out of the bottle for process vendors, and he is likely right. The game is on and process is now something that is offered by a variety of vendors.

The leaders quadrant for BPMS, in rough order of placement (yes, high and to the right matters)

Global 360
Software AG

On the outside of the leader section looking in: Oracle, Adobe, EMC and more. To quote a friend from Texas, this looks like a goat rodeo, and there are a lot of goats. And a couple things that make you go, hmmm.

Among the big headlines for Business Process Management:

First, the category has clearly arrived. BPMS is one of the fastest growing in software, yet what is interesting is how many different types of organizations are spending on capability to make process explicit in their offering and aggressively market it.

Second, the top three players in the space combined for less than $200M in revenue in FY '07. This suggests that not only are they potential acquisition targets, but that the bar to distinguish themselves with innovation has just been raised. Claiming leadership in this market is more difficult now, and the competition punches much harder.

Third, two of the big 4 platform guys are notable by their absence - SAP and Microsoft. SAP gets mention in the report for recognition of the importance of process management and some gaps, especially on the human side, but they are working on it, mostly in the Netweaver end of the house. MSFT is missing in action, but I have heard that the good folks in Redmond are up to something on BPMS. They are also a strong lead feeder to the .Net players in this space like Metastorm.

Finally, can it really be a category when everyone is a leader? Among the concerns here for customers as well as for vendors is the overall criteria and scoring. There are many marked differences among the leading vendors, yet they are hard to discern from the MQ, much less by someone new to the party. This is like when my brother founded the math club in high school and one of the bi-laws was that everyone in the club had the title of president, that way they could submit their college applications with a little something extra. Now think about what happens the next time someone in IT issues an RFP for process management. Goats gone wild.

My guess is that the shelf life of this quad will be about 18 months, much like the last one, and then it will not be renewed. High and right is full, no more leaders please.

One other note from the BPMS Magic Quad. It was published on December 14th by Janelle Hill and Eric Deitert with a couple other analysts. Gartner announced this week that Deitert has left Gartner for a position at Pegasystems, where he was a former employee. Just another thing that makes you go hmmm...

Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm engaged, but I still see other people

Interesting to read the recent article in e-Week on how the SAP-Business Objects deal may impact the long standing relationship between IBM and Business Objects. IBM and Business Objects have been close partners for many years. In fact, IBM has been neck and neck with Accenture as the most important strategic partner for BOBJ for some time. Interestingly, they also develop software together, with specific emphasis on SaaS. And then there is the minor issue of IBM having just spent $5B on Cognos. Guess that might make these strategic partner dinners a little uncomfortable.

In reality, this face-off is likely much ado about nothing - at least in the near term for a number of reasons.

First, many of the partner deals are driven via IBM global services. Even when Cognos becomes fully assimilated into Big Blue, Global Services or whatever they are called these days are likely to do as they please, much as they have always done. And if you don't think they won't recommend Business Objects to an existing account, or Cognos to a SAP Shop, you are kidding yourself. (BTW - Will Cognos' logo become blue?)

Second, IBM continues to drive both a platform play and custom consulting to tailor results for clients via a wrap and trap strategy. Their message to clients is, just keep your existing PeopleSoft HR, essbase, R/3, Agile, JDE, mainframe, and whatever else in the basement. We will freeze those systems where they stand and start building solutions for you on our platform to maximize your investment and provide near term value. Of course BI will be part of those solutions. I am not sure if this is a result of Innovation man or those ideation sessions they show in their idiotic commercials, but it makes sense to many companies. Especially when the alternative is a complete rip and replace with the new stack from Oracle or SAP.

Third, when those big ELA contracts come up and IBM reps are looking for what else they can stick into the goody bag for the $50M they want to charge, Business Objects and Cognos are already on the price list. There will be no incentive for the IBM field guys to vote Cognos, especially if the client has previously bought BOBJ via IBM.

Over time this is may be a stickier issue, but among the options provided short term, IBM customers have more choice and have a little bargaining leverage. For my money, this will be even more entertaining if the rumor of IBM acquiring SAP were ever to come to pass. This would make those awkward blended family holiday situations look warm and comfortable

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Piecing Together the Gartner CPM Magic Quadrant Results

Well, we knew when we broke for the holidays that the Garnter CPM magic quadrant release were just days from coming out. We deliberated about doing a post-festivus alert, but knowing that everyone was quickly headed out of town, decided that the world would have to wait with bated breath for our in-depth analysis of the latest results.

Now while we're not able to actually publish the quad itself, it being copyrighted and all, it's pretty easy to piece together where the main players fell out in the mix based on the 55 font type press releases and wire service reports that have been pinging our inboxes every day since the results were announced.

The big winners:

Oracle/Hyperion: The combination of the two companies nearly complete, they make for a compelling offering in the CPM space; and with the long-time leadership of Hyperion, this one was a no-brainer. Oracle has been on quite a roll lately, racking up leadership awards from all the main analyst firms. Now whether they all equate to Oracle being #1 in BI is another story, but there's no question that the BI pieces have come together for them in the past year.

Cognos: Although their acquisition of Applix was not fully factored into the mix, Cognos was positioned in the leaders quadrant this year, as they have in every year since the quad was released. Another strong showing from Team Ottawa in their last quad as an independent vendor. As IBM has not been represented on the quad in the past, expect the big name change in the leader's quadrant for next year.

Business Objects: The big mover this past year, BOBJ was also positioned strongly in the leaders quadrant, along with soon-to-be lord and master SAP. The combination of the two company's offerings should make this coming year's competition interesting, product roadmap challenges not withstanding. As has been well documented, the Business Objects strategy of buying their way into the leadership position with acquistions of SRC, ALG, and finally Cartesis was enough to push them over the top.

Not-so-Big Winners:
Now while everyone's a winner in our book, you can always tell these companies by the fact that they don't rush out press releases touting the fact that they came in behind the pack, like, for instance...

SAS: Nope, move along, nothing to see here. SAS isn't exactly touting the fact that they aren't in the leaders quadrant again this year, something that must be disappointing to them, seeing as they are rated about the same as they were in 2006--close, but actually falling a bit behind the new leaders given how much the market has changed.

Microsoft: We should really label Team Redmond as having an "incomplete" this time around, as Gartner points out in their review that the PerformancePoint Server product was not fully taken into account into the evalutation, as the product was not actually out in the market in-time to hit the cut-off date. As such, Microsoft was dinged a bit on their ability to execute, but those of you with the quad in your hand will recognize the rightward tilt of the completeness of vision that vendors fight most with Gartner on that they actually did pretty well on. With a full year of PPS selling and positioning in the marketplace, it will be interesting to see how much MSFT is able to move in the coming year.

Other Miscellan-ee-i that we can disclose and have opinions on:

--Total number of vendors in leaders quadrant in 2007 vs. 2006: 4 vs. 2
--Total number of vendors on the quad in 2007 vs. 2006: 13 vs. 16 (so much for all-consuming consolidation)
--Biggest winner: I'll go with SAP actually. If you compare last year's and this year's measurements, while Hyperion/Oracle and Cognos are still clearly the leaders, their position really didn't change that much. However, with Business Objects moving into the leaders quadrant along with SAP, they are well positioned for a strong year, again pending product issues (and those are huge, by the way, so while I don't discount them, they are well set up)
--Biggest loser: Has to be SAS. They were so close last year to the leaders quad, and barely moved up this year, actually losing ground to several competitors. Getting to be a tough market!
--Vendor to watch: I'll leave aside the obvious choice in Microsoft, and actually go with Infor. Their completeness of vision continues to move right, and they themselves are getting very close to the upper right region.
--Off-the-wall New Year prediction: This is the last year for a stand-alone CPM quad--there's already rumblings that it will be BI and CPM next year--we shall see!

Merry New Year!

Happy 2008 everyone!

Hope your holidays were fun and exciting. We here at PG are stumbling back from vacation and will up and fully running shortly. But while we were taking a break, the performance management world was not. More shortly on the bes--OMG NEW GARTNER QUADS ARE OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111