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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

In the 1980s, before the dawn of data warehousing, companies ran reports and queries directly against operational systems. But this analytical activity undermined the performance of core systems and created a rallying cry for a dedicated reporting and analysis system, known as the data warehouse.

But what if you could have your operational cake and analytics, too? That's the fundamental question that Cyberscience asked back in 1977 when it was founded. And while the industry chose data warehousing as the architectural solution to manage reporting and analytical workloads, Cyberscience went against the grain. It kept optimizing the federated query technology of its Cyberquery product to run against operational applications and databases without degrading performance of either.

Fast forward 40 years and what's old is new again. As data warehouses teeter in the architectural abyss and hardware performance skyrockets, Cyberscience now finds itself on the cutting edge. By combining operational and analytical workloads, Cyberscience provides a compelling alternative to both data warehouses and operational data stores. With more than 5,000 customers and a top-rated customer satisfaction rating from BARC, a German research firm, Cyberscience is a long-time business intelligence (BI) vendor that has focused more on engineering and customer value than marketshare or mindshare.

The key to Cyberquery's success is a data dictionary that abstracts back-end resources and integrates with an optimized runtime engine that uses native connectors to speed access to most applications and databases. The dictionary automatically grabs metadata from the source databases and populates fields with plain English labels. Customers further customize the metadata layer to meet business requirements and enhance data security.

Driving Cyberquery's query engine is a fourth generation report specification language (much like Information Builder's WebFocus language) that makes it easy for customers to build any type of report and customize the look and feel. More than half of Cyberscience's annual $15 million in revenue comes from independent software vendors who embed the product in their own applications or white label it as their own. And despite its vintage, Cyberquery offers modern charting components and a fairly contemporary look and feel.

For more information, see www.cyberscience.com.

Posted September 1, 2014 11:51 AM
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For many years, Logi Analytics carved out a profitable niche selling an easy-to-use report and dashboard development platform to information technology (IT) professionals. But its recent foray into analytics--with Logi Vision, a visual discovery tool that first shipped in January--targets business analysts.

Staying true to its commitment to ease of use, Logi Vision brings a fresh new perspective to analysis by making heavy use of heuristics. The tool makes it easy for business analysts to shape, analyze, and visualize data without IT assistance. For instance, the tool automatically identifies data types, concatenates related fields into a single data object (e.g. city, region, and country into location), rearranges columns based on relevance ratings, and suggests visualizations based on the contours of the data, among other things.

Besides its use of heuristics, Logi Vision supports other features that distinguish it from the growing crowd of visual discovery products. For one, Logi Vision offers unique collaboration features that are tailored to business analysts, including search-based discovery, favorites, and rankings. It also makes it easy for analysts to follow each other's work via a customizable shared workspaces and activity streams (think Facebook news feed).

In addition, Logi Vision offers sophisticated binning capabilities that enable analysts to create custom groups from numeric and date values. It also sports a home-grown mapping engine that enables users to view maps while disconnected from the internet. Finally, Logi Vision integrates components from Logi Info, the company's flagship BI development environment.

Logi Analytics shipped Vision 1.3 this week. For more information, go to www.logianalytics.com.

Posted August 26, 2014 10:00 AM
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If you're a big data trailblazer, one way to monetize your risk is to offer your services to those following in your footsteps. This is exactly what Sears Holding Corporation has done. In 2012, Sears Holdings formed MetaScale to offer big data consulting and managed services to large companies in any industry, although it has deep expertise in retail.

MetaScale runs a Big Data Center of Excellence with big data experts who help companies install, implement, and manage Hadoop, NoSQL, and other big data tools and systems. Unlike big data vendors that also offer consulting and managed services, MetaScale is vendor neutral. It can piece together components from multiple vendors and Apache projects into an optimal environment based on a client's unique requirements. It also helps customers conduct proofs of concept, customize a solution to their needs, and manage production environments on a 7x24 basis, either at the customer's site or MetaScale's own hosting center.

MetaScale has helped companies build big data solutions to support real-time inventory tracking, customer segmentation, 360-degree customer views, personalized product offers, network analytics, and pricing optimization. One specialty, for which it has several patents pending, is migrating mainframe data and processing to Hadoop.
For more information, see www.metascale.com.

Posted August 23, 2014 6:24 AM
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One of the best, least known business intelligence (BI) vendors is Dimensional Insight. Founded in 1989, the company has done what few BI vendors have managed to achieve in the past 25 years: maintain a growing base of staunchly loyal customers.

Without much fanfare, the Boston-based company has amassed 2600 customers in more than 30 countries, generating about $20 million a year in revenue. According to most independent customer satisfaction surveys, such as those from the Business Application Research Center (BARC) in Germany and Dresner Advisory Service, Dimensional Insights sits at the top of the pack in terms of overall customer ratings.

Dimensional Insight has very loyal customers, largely because the company has focused with laser intensity on a few markets, such as healthcare providers, wine and spirits, and manufacturing goods and services. In each of these areas, it has crafted custom applications that make it easy for customers to onboard the product and derive value quickly. Moreover, the company's flagship product, The Diver Solution, offers flexible navigation and rich visualization on top of a robust data integration platform. The product also offers a low total cost of ownership.

The company competes against Qlik in the healthcare and goods and services markets and niche vendors in the wine and spirits market. For more information, see www.dimins.com.

Posted August 18, 2014 3:50 PM
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Data integration is bread-and-butter technology. Never glamorous or sexy, it holds the key to opening data to business users. Until recently, most data was tabular, stored in relational databases, and pumped in batch from one system to another. Today, data is multi-structured and increasingly managed by cloud applications. Data integration platforms that don't keep up with the times are doomed to an early obsolescence.

One data integration vendor that is determined to stay relevant among changing tides of data management is SnapLogic. The San Mateo, California-based firm offers a data integration platform that runs both on premise and in the cloud so it can connect any application or data source either inside or outside the firewall. The design, management, and monitoring tools run as multi-tenant applications from HTML5-based browsers and almost any SnapLogic functionality can be triggered by events or scheduled jobs via its REST API. Moreover, the product manages multi-structured data using JSON rather than forcing data flow through a tabular format.

SnapLogic derives its name from pre-packaged data connectors that "snap" together in visual data pipelines in its design tool. SnapLogic offers hundreds of snaps for just about any application or database, both in the cloud or in the data center. The company is also venturing into big data integration with its Hadoop-based offering called SnapReduce 2.0 and pre-built data integration templates that support core processes, such as order to cash or source-to-target data flows from various source systems into Amazon Redshift.

For more information, see www.snaplogic.com

Posted August 15, 2014 3:26 PM
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