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Welcome to my BeyeNETWORK blog! Please join me often to share your thoughts and observations on new analytic platforms, BI and data management. I maintain a vendor-focused practice that uses primary research, briefings, case studies, events and other activities that stimulate ideas as a source for commentary on strategy and execution in the marketplace. I believe the emergence of a new class of analytic platforms, and emerging data management and advanced tools herald a next step in the maturity of information technology, and I'm excited to be present for its emergence. I hope my blog entries will stimulate ideas that will serve both the vendors creating these new solutions and the companies that will improve their business prospects as a result of applying them. Please share your thoughts and input on the topics.



May 2009 Archives

Lucidera has a unique value proposition. Yes, they do BI - so do many other vendors. Yes, they do a SaaS model - ditto. How to set yourself apart? Focus on improving performance, not just reporting and leaving that to the person on the other side of the glass. Add context, best practice and benchmarks, guidance - and service. Lucidera calls it "domain specific analytic applications." Here at IT Market Strategy, we tend to complain about people not calling such things analytics applications, but I won't quibble here. What matters is that it is succeeding.

Lucidera, who first shipped in 2007, has passed the 50 customer mark and is accelerating. They have shifted selling strategy: recognizing that their market is still on the business side (LOB), what Vice President of Market Development and co-founder Ken Rudin likes to call "shadow IT," they have gone over to a strategic selling model. Lucidera sells into the sales function with a Pipeline Healthcheck. They sell applied analytics that prescribe better selling tactics based on their benchmarks and analysis. The customer's VP of Sales must be included in the deal, or they don't proceed. Lucidera has moved from transactional selling, hiring more senior reps who can be consultative partners to their customers. Eating their own food, Rudin claims, has led to a 100% increase in average order size, and a  30% decrease in sales cycle time. Q4 2008 was their best quarter yet, and while Q1 saw the same challenges other vendors are facing, it was encouraging.

Applying aging analysis like time to win (and time to lose, which is very significant and often overlooked) directly against salesforce.com data has given Lucidera an easy-to-find target market and a solid success rate. "Instant insight" is the mantra, and actionable advice is a service play that is resonating with the small firms that often have not ramped up expert selling strategy yet. Some, Rudin claims, are already asking for a consultative review once a quarter because "they understand the analysis and the concepts, but without continual reinforcement, they often forget what the key insights and conclusions are." This may turn out to be another market opportunity, but Lucidera is very focused right now on where they are. Guided analytics are a good step, even if they may need to go further.

The platform is stable, with built in ETL, a column-based data store, and Mondrian-based OLAP from Pentaho. The Spring release (it even sounds like salesforce.com) has extended visualization and analysis capabilities. New trend metrics and relative time capabilities, atop dashboards and gadgets that can be edited and drilled through for ad hoc analysis of the data that Lucidera imports, have enhanced usability significantly. They've moved to a Flex UI, which has also made a big difference. The next step will be to move into other domains, still in sales and marketing. Focus means a lot, and we expect Lucidera to move in a measured way, choosing and building for highly targeted audiences. It's a winning strategy.

Posted May 10, 2009 10:38 PM
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IT Market Strategy recently sat down with Marge Breya, Executive Vice President & GM Intelligence Platform & NetWeaver of SAP BusinessObjects, to discuss the first full year of life within SAP after being acquired at the beginning of 2008. Breya oversees full product line responsibility for BI and information management  solutions, as well as the company's OnDemand business. In addition, Breya is responsible for solution management of SAP NetWeaver within the Technology Group at SAP AG. Prior to joining SAP via the Business Objects acquisition, Breya served in a number of executive roles at BEA Systems, where she was senior vice president (SVP), CMO, and chief strategy officer (CSO); and Sun Microsystems, where she served in various executive management roles. In this excerpt form our conversation, the discussion turned to how the BO portfolio and the SAP portfolio would combine for greater leverage.

You're busy right now thinking about the developmental opportunities for how [your] portfolios work together.

We've got some early things coming out.  For example, at the SAP Insider event [see http://bit.ly/lqjRz for IT Market Strategy comments on that event] we showed the combination of Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA) and Polestar - that's a good combination of "in-memory platform meets analytical tool," where  1+1 =3 for the user. You get a Google Earth-like approach to massive amounts of data.

The way that BI products will exploit BWA has multiple flavors. There are differences in the way SAP Business Object integrates with BWA versus everyone else.

I'm not sure we've talked about how other companies will get access to BWA at all, yet, publicly. The open accelerator technology - the TREX technology - is not currently embedded in BW. It is a columnar optimization and a calculation engine that lets you do pretty aggressive compression on data.  As a result, the resulting performance is much different from relational environments, and doesn't require the setups and aggregate building you have to manage even in an OLAP environment.

Today's BWA users are only using it with SAP data. And with SAP's BW offering, usage for non-SAP data is still minimal. Now along comes Business Objects with a much broader remit: help customers make decisions on all their data. So this fairly formidable asset of yours still has a wall around it. Where do you see yourself going in broadening that asset? I would imagine that you want to see a bigger target market.

Let's tease apart the warehouse and accelerator technology. We have relationships with Oracle, IBM, and others. We'll soon be announcing connectivity to BW, for analytical stores, etc. And we're broadening those relationships. That's important because we want to work well with all large enterprise data warehouse (EDW) vendors.

Does that mean BW becomes "more federatable"?

Yes, it will be able to play a supporting role. Some people use BW as their EDW, but we want to make sure that it's also a first class citizen in any EDW strategy. On the other side, coming from a semiconductor background, I feel strongly that an in-memory analytics engine can be a digital signal processor (DSP) for the kinds of calculations that customers will need to do. There is a broad range of acceleration technology we can bring to market.  That technology needs to be applied to any data source on the face of the planet.

Posted May 8, 2009 8:19 AM
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Personally, I don't want to spend the money for high-priced Adobe tools to make notes in PDFs I see from vendors in briefings. So I decided to try out one of the free download products, and the following is a quick review.

I downloaded PDF X-Change viewer from Tracker Software Products' website here. The usual process, a bit clumsy, followed - unpack, run the installer. Told it I don't want it to be the default PDF viewer. Then I opened a few PDFs to test. First impression - great speed. Second: sticky notes, text boxes are easy to find on the menu. I drew some circles around things for highlights, created sticky notes (out in the area away from the page so I could still see it - nice. Switched tools and tried the text box tool, which stays in place on the page itself - less useful if the page is densely packed. Used the search tool to find multiple references to the same thing, and quickly check if "partners" was mentioned. Worked fine. Highlighted some text, underlined some text - all works very nicely.

Finally, I saved the annotated files. Then I opened them with Adobe's free Reader. My additions were still there, and in fact the Reader tools even showed them to me in the annotations pane. I was unable to make any changes to them, but when I went back into PDF X-Change I could.

Get this product if you need to anotate PDFs. It will make your life somewhat simpler if you like to keep notes with the materials. I doubt that I'll use Reader much now - I'm setting that default.

Posted May 7, 2009 1:33 PM
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IBM has taken another key step in its Information Agenda strategy, improving customers' ability to analyze, understand and remediate existing data by acquiring Exeros. There is a fundamental business problem that grows with data volume: an understanding gap. As new development, acquisition and integration of multiple systems takes place, meaning and process understanding are often obscured or lost entirely. At the edge, this is manifested when new BI efforts attempt to find data and its meaning. Exeros Discovery is a leading solution to that problem. My good friend Jim Kobielus of Forrester has provided some excellent background in his blog here. Some other firms are also pursuing this kind of BI-related analysis, Balanced Insight comes to mind, and I'll blog about them soon. IBM's ambition is broader than that, and acquiring Exeros is a key enabler of its vision.

Creating, maintaining, and especially optimizing corporate information assets rarely proceed in an orderly fashion. We tend to solve the business problems in front of us, and big picture issues get short shrift. Preventing and remediating redundant, inefficient and obscure data sprawl takes discipline, time and analytical skills that are, and will always be, in short supply in most organizations. Architecture and stewardship projects all too often fall to the bottom of the priority list because something else "must be done sooner." Stewardship projects using MDM and data quality products  often take a long time - too long in many cases to get the funding and resources they need. Exeros was having success in the market by shortening the early stages of these projects. They have described a number of marquee customers who achieved substantial savings in MDM and DW efforts by automating the analysis needed to get the project launched. Numbers like "10x reduction" or "cutting 70%" have been part of Exeros' message.  IBM's goal here is clear: it wants to lower the barriers that prevent responsible data architecture practices from gaining a foothold.

It's no accident, then, that while IBM's Arvind Krishna talked about InfoSphere in the analyst call about the Exeros acquisition, he also noted the expected synergies with the Optim product line. I've talked about those products here, and the development and enhancement of Optim's products has been aggressive. IT Market Strategy expects to see new announcements from Optim before the quarter is over. The addition of Exeros adds another important tool to IBM's arsenal. "Discovery by itself is useless," Exeros' Piyush Gupta said on the call. Perhaps that was a bit too strong. But there is no question that the efficiency, validation and remediation capabilities of Exeros Validator, which can apply business rules found by Exeros Discovery (or manually input) will have an accelerating effect on projects. and strengthen IBM's Information Agenda story.

The people of Exeros - executives, engineering, sales - and even (in a very unusual step) reseller partners - are apparently all coming aboard. And they are a good team. But the leverage of a sales and technical team like IBM's will mean we are about to see a familiar tale unfold. Exeros had recently moved to an indirect sales model, and suddenly they have 1000+  IBM salespeople (and soon the new BAO team, discussed here) pushing them in the marketplace. The "acquire, distribute, bluewash and integrate - then sell even more" model is alive and well, and we can expect to see substantial revenue in the very near term from this deal. IBM may have chosen a terrible time to make the announcement, letting it get buried in the tsunami of announcements from the Websphere brand's Impact event, but that will not slow down field level execution.

Posted May 5, 2009 12:20 PM
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 Increasingly, IBM is aligning its business unites to delivery synergistically and build cross-domain successes. IBM Global Business Services (GBS - $20B in revenue in 2008) has added its first new service line since IBM acquired PWC. Two other units, the software group and IBM Research, have joined with GBS to create the Business Analysis and Optimization line, intended to make IBM the dominant player delivering advanced analytics focused on optimizing business outcomes. 

GBS has pursued the capture and reusable packaging of intellectual property and methodologies in its engagements for some time, encapsulating business processes, industry requirements, standards and regulations for reuse. IBM proposes to combine those assets with software components and advanced work done in IBM Research to deliver a "predict and prescribe" approach to its customers' business challenges.

This is a formidable array of assets, ammunition for a 4000-person organization pursuing a carefully targeted set of competencies:

  • BI and Performance Management
  • Advanced Analytics and Optimization
  • Enterprise Information Management
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) Strategy

All the contributors bring substantial skin to the game. Ambuj Goyal, who heads the information management portfolio for IBM Software Group (SWG), told me, "We're harnessing everything we've built" - data management and data warehousing tools, BI, content management, and other components. He's been hammering on the notion of an information agenda as part of IBM's Information on Demand strategy, and driving awareness of the need for data quality and stewardship to satisfy executive demand for trusted data. One in three execs says they don't, even for the relatively mundane types of reporting that are still commmonplace.

In IBM Research, Brenda Dietrich heads a team of 150 mathematics PhDs, many of whom have been working directly with customers to build predictive models. Three key plays are in the first round: risk and fraud analytics; analytics and data optimization; and advanced customer insight, which draws upon BAO head Fred Balboni's recent successes driving GBS business in the retail sector.

The new organization model, in typical IBM fashion, will be rolled out on a massive scale. Most of the people in the organization are being "re-badged;" they aren't new, dedicated headcount, but they have experience in many facets of the problems to be tackled, and are in an accelerated program designed to bring them up to speed to meet an expected demand curve that IBM believes will be very steep. I would not bet against them.

Still, this new effort is only a step on a journey the information technology industry needs to travel. "Predict and prescribe" is necessary, but not sufficient to achieving true analytics-based automation, where the "prescription" is applied to operations within policy- and rules-based guidelines. In such a model, we deliver guidance to decision makers for the exceptional cases, freeing them for more creative and aggressive endeavors. Some advanced organizations have already built such applications, and they will have a leg up. If you are among them, IT Market Strategy would like to hear your story. Please contact us - leave a comment here, or email mervadrian@gmail.com.

Posted May 2, 2009 9:46 AM
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