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!


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.


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...


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...