October 8, 2007

Some quick thoughts on SAP acquiring Business Objects

1. SAP needed outside talent again. In March I wrote that Shai Agassi’s departure wasn’t as a big a deal as it seemed, because guys like Dennis Moore were still there. Well, by now Dennis Moore is NOT still there, and rumor had more of the good personnel acquisitions leaving as well. And unfortunately, my personal experience of some of those remaining is that they’re ethically unfit for their roles (and that’s putting it kindly).

2. The NetWeaver strategy has been failing. Does anybody care about NetWeaver any more? The whole thing includes some great ideas, but implementation has been lacking.

3. The Business Objects guys are proven successes at integrating disparate BI product suites. The Crystal Reports acquisition proved that.

Before writing more, I should check the extremely one-sided consulting contract I had with SAP, specifically for the expiration date of the NDA. How one-sided? Well, I naively agreed to a clause that I couldn’t sue them under the contract, expecting their concern about their reputation to keep them in line. Since then, they’ve cheated me out of considerable amounts of money that they owed. Arggh. Live and learn.

July 9, 2007

Revolutionary trends in the analytics market

I just finished another Monash Letter. It was a follow-up to a previous one that discussed various strategic positioning possibilities in business intelligence. In the prior piece, I pointed out that most leading vendors were pursuing similar strategies — BI as enterprise infrastructure play. In this piece — for Monash Advantage members only — I point out how that sameness allowed for disruption and revolution, and highlight a few trends that are pointing in those directions. Specifically, the trends I cited included:

  1. The return of load-and-go. (A major current trend.)
  2. UI diversity. (An accelerating trend.)
  3. Analytic business process support. (A huge opportunity for transactional application vendors that they haven’t yet seized.)
  4. Expansion from relational/tabular/structured to text/unstructured data. (The biggest opportunity of all, although it’s still in the very early stages.)

Relevant links include:

My list of potentially major disruptors starts with Endeca, QlikTech, and the open source movement.

April 3, 2007

Business intelligence — technology and vendor strategy

The most recent Monash Letter – exclusively for Monash Advantage members — spells out some ideas on BI technology and vendor strategy. Specifically, it argues that there are at least four major ways to think about BI and other decision support technologies, namely as:

  1. A specialized application development technology. That’s what BI is, after all. Selling app dev runtimes isn’t a bad business. Selling analytic apps hasn’t gone so well, however.
  2. An infrastructure upgrade. That’s what the BI vendors have been pushing for some years, as they try to win enterprise vendor-consolidation decisions. To a first approximation, it’s been a good move for them, but it also has helped defocus them from other things they need to be doing.
  3. A transparent window on information. As Google, Bloomberg, and Lexis/Westlaw all demonstrate, users want access to “all” the possible information. BI vendors and management theorists alike have erred hugely in crippling enterprise dashboards via dogmas such as “balanced scorecards” and “seven plus-or-minus two.”
  4. A communication and collaboration tool. Communication/collaboration is as big a benefit of reporting as the numbers themselves are. I learned this in the 1980s, and it’s never changed. But BI vendors have whiffed repeatedly at enhancing this benefit.

The Letter then goes on to suggest two areas of technical need and opportunity in BI, which may be summarized as:

Good launching points for my other research on these subjects are this recent post on analytic technology marketing strategies and two high-concept white papers available here.

March 19, 2007

Three ways to market analytics-related technology

“Decision support”, “information centers”, “business intelligence”, “analytic technology”, and “information services” have been around, in one form or other, for 35+ years. For most of that time, there have been two fundamental ways to sell, market, and position them:

More recently – especially the past five years – there’s been a third way:

as early-generation implementations get replaced by newer ones.

At the 50,000 foot level, here’s some of what I see going on:

Related links

March 16, 2007

Have analytics vendors rediscovered ease-of-deployment?

Business intelligence (BI) used to be characterized by speed and cost-effectiveness — short sales cycles, low-cost departmental purchases and deployments, evasion of IT departments’ strangleholds of data, and so on and so forth. That focus has blurred, as BI vendors have increasingly focused on analytic applications or enterprise-wide standardization sales. But increasingly I’m seeing signs that the pendulum has swung at least partway back. For example:

It’s about time.

October 5, 2006

The problem with dashboards, and business intelligence segmented

It is becoming ever clearer that dashboards aren’t working out too well, any more than predecessor technologies like EIS (Executive Information Systems) did. The recurring problem with these technologies is that if they’re mind-numbingly simple, people don’t find them very useful; but if they’re not, people are overwhelmed and still don’t find them useful. This column by Sandra Gittlen does a good job of spelling the problem out.

I think there are lots of problems like that in BI, and what we need to do is step back and consider all the different kinds of BI that enterprises value and need. More precisely, let’s consider the major kinds of use of BI, because it seems that each calls for different kinds of technological support. Here’s one possible list:

Here’s what I mean by each category. Read more

September 23, 2006

Scathing review of Oracle’s pre-Siebel BI products

Stephen Few offers a blistering review of Oracle Discoverer, its portal integration, and its UI in general. This fits well with what I said last November:

Obviously, Oracle has the potential to be a titan in analytics. But it doesn’t have its act at all together yet.

And so I agree with a couple of comments on Stephen’s post, to the effect of “Well, gee, no wonder that Siebel’s BI tools look like they’ll be the surviving technology.”

EDIT: Mark Rittman offers a lot of screenshots of Oracle’s Siebel BI Suite. If you look at other posts on his blog, you’ll see Discoverer as well.

July 21, 2006

Integrating BI with planning

One of my big themes these days is the integration of various kinds of analytics with each other, and with other kinds of IT. The following got a good reaction when I posted it in an SAP forum, in response to a question about integrating BI and planning. Read more

January 20, 2006

The Power of Portals

I did a webinar last week on portal technology. On that webinar, I promised to post a link here to my whitepaper on third-generation analytic business processes. Done. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

The webinar was pretty fast-moving, so I’d encourage you to replay it if you have a bit of time. But if you want to know just the tippy-topmost key points, the list is something like this:

November 21, 2005

Oracle’s perennial confusion about analytic technology

Oracle is badly confused about analytic technology, and indeed long has been. It would be tough for me to coherently explain why without being, well, confusing. So I’ll just list a series of data points, which hopefully should suffice to illustrate the point.

That’s even before getting to Oracle’s problems in data warehousing itself, where it can’t beat Teradata and DB2/mainframe at the very high end, and low-cost options like Netezza are a looming threat as well.

What’s particularly ironic is that some of Oracle’s core marketing pitches have a lot to do with analytics. The whole integrated stack story? Doesn’t make much sense when you’re only talking OLTP; only with analytics in the picture is it coherent. The whole scalability story? A few huge websites and the like aside, that’s mainly about data warehousing now.

Obviously, Oracle has the potential to be a titan in analytics. But it doesn’t have its act at all together yet.

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