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Lyndsay Wise

Hi and welcome to my blog! I look forward to bringing you weekly posts about what is happening in the world of BI, CDI and marketing performance management.

About the author >

Lyndsay is the President and Founder of WiseAnalytics, an independent analyst firm specializing in business intelligence, master data management and unstructured data. For†more than†seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay conducts regular research studies, consults, writes articles and speaks about improving the value of business intelligence within organizations. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources†are available in Lyndsay's BeyeNETWORK†Expert†Channel. Be sure to visit today!

MicroStrategy World 2014 in Barcelona marked a transformation in the company’s product positioning and corporate direction. From re-packaging their offerings to making their product roadmap public, MicroStrategy is looking to bring to market solutions that are easy to deploy and consume.¬†

MicroStrategy’s new packaging and pricing¬†is based on taking the former 21 product offerings and packaging them as 4 products as follows:

  • Web:¬†A browser based interface for analytics design and consumption (i.e. reports and dashboards).
  • Mobile:¬†An interface for mobile devices to enable analytics and developed apps access on mobile devices.
  • Architect:¬†Development and migration tools to manage application development and BI process automation.
  • Server:¬†The infrastructure required to support multiple data source connection, scalability, administration, etc. capabilities to support governed data delivery.

Together, these solutions provide an analytics platform that supports a wide variety of uses – from traditional reporting to operational intelligence. In addition, added R integration exists to take into account robust statistical analytics to help support forecasting and predictive modelling. This means that organizations can take advantage of additional calculations and analytics available from outside of MicroStrategy’s product suite. ¬†

The overall strategy change in MicroStrategy’s approach to the market complements their overall focus on analytics and how they are hoping to position themselves moving forward. This includes looking at solutions based on how they are delivered – through mobility and cloud availability – to broaden the way organizations store, analyze, and consume data.¬†

Analytics

In general, analytics capabilities and enhancing what already exists is nothing new. Where MicroStrategy is making inroads is its commitment to self-service access and easier development and deployment so that users can get to the data they need in an easier way. Additionally, MicroStrategy is committed to a governed self-service approach, by leveraging their platform for centralized data storage. The goal being to make sure that business users interacting with self-service independently can trust the reliability of the data they access. Obviously this type of analytics is limited to the data being maintained within MicroStrategy, but can help organizations manage information access to ensure accurate analytics.

Mobile

Over the past few years, BI vendors have been focusing on mobility as a way to get analytics out to a broader variety of users. MicroStrategy goes one step further with their app development capabilities and a focus on delivery of mobile applications. Consequently, their ease of consumption 0n mobile devices is obvious based on the fact that many customers are merging mobile apps related to customer experience with analytics insights.

Cloud

Platforms in the cloud are becoming more prevalent as organizations no longer want to have to provision and manage hardware within their organizations. In addition, cloud based solutions can support infrastructure, software, and business application requirements, and in many cases do so in a way that provides quicker time to value. Since MicroStrategy first announced their cloud offerings two years ago, much of their efforts have been spent building out and solidifying their cloud platform. Moving forward, it seems like their preferential deployment model for customers. 

Security

Security really falls outside the world of analytics and Usher is a separate product. However, it addresses the challenges that exist in a world that is rife with security breaches and identity theft. Securing the enterprise and making sure that people are who they say they are becomes more important as mobile devices store so much sensitive data. 

General Thoughts 

This time MicroStrategy World was very different than it has been in the past. As mentioned, there is an increased openness regarding communication and sharing product roadmap information. But it’s more than that. There was an admission that in order to compete strongly moving forward, their products need to become more consumable and easier to develop and to maintain. This goes beyond mobile and cloud based platforms, and towards capabilities that enable self-service, broader data blending, and managing. This was obvious with their new packaging and transparent pricing, but also in their Futures session discussing the goals of redesigning product capabilities to enable easier access for both developers and business users.¬†

It will be interesting to see how the new pricing and product strategy will work and whether MicroStrategy will begin to be more competitive with the likes of Qlik and Tableau.

 


Posted July 18, 2014 8:02 PM
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Many solutions claim to be self-service and tout the value of their offerings by saying that ease of use and high levels of interactivity exist. The reality of these solutions, however, is that there is no industry standard for self-service delivery. There are only concepts of design that are used to enable independent analytics adoption. What this means on a practical level is that the term self-service can be misleading if used without an understanding of the target audience. For instance, some self-service offerings are built with the data scientist in mind, while others are designed to enable broader analytics deployment across the organization. Although this might not seem like a big difference, both expectations and expertise differ within these groups, making their use of business analytics different.

Data analyst/scientist

Technical users expect autonomy. The ability to add data sources, create joins, and add business rules in a flexible way support the role of data scientist. The delivery of standardized dashboards or pre-defined table views only give a limited view of what analysts need to gain relevant and valuable insights. Essentially, self-service for these users is truly that – the ability to leverage data in a way that doesn’t require IT input or management to develop new business insights.¬†

In many cases, these users support management and provide analytics that aid in decision making and daily operations. Because of this, self-service capabilities need to be flexible enough to address daily challenges that may not have been accounted for in design. Since each use case cannot be defined in advance, it might not be possible to identify how information will be needed or why. After all, static reports or views will provide limited insight that will most likely require broader analytics to understand in depth. Since data scientists understand the underlying information structure and business needs, this level of self-service is understandable.  

Business user

Business users, on the other hand, require a more guided experience. This means that self-service refers to user experience. Ease of use, guided design, governed data access to ensure accurate analytics, and pre-defined views are all aspects of this level of self-service. Too much flexibility can actually lead to invalid analytics based on incorrect inferences and joins that may be based on similar field names but that aren’t connected. Therefore, part of self-service involves providing pre-defined access while still maintaining flexibility to slice and dice and one-click analytics to give users quick results.

Organization specific

Although these two audiences are the most common, other consumers also exist. Organizations may have targeted self-service audiences that require specific capabilities or levels of interactivity. These unique requirements should be considered when audiences fall outside of the general types discussed above. Having successful self-service requires solutions that provide the level of self-service the user needs. If this isn’t provided accurately, then self-service interactivity may not be successful.

This post was brought to you by¬†IBM for Midsize Business¬†and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit¬†¬†IBM’s Midsize Insider.¬†Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

 

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Posted July 14, 2014 3:41 PM
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Last week I took part in a Spreecast event, hosted by IBM РCloud: Reshaping The World of Business where the increasing importance and adoption of cloud computing for SMBs was discussed. John Mason, from IBM, stated that cloud computing has become a game changer for SMBs as it takes away any barriers to entry, such as the need for an IT infrastructure or venture capital due to set up costs. Laurie McCabe, from the SMB-Group, expanded on this by discussing that in the last 3 years cloud has become more important to SMBs as it has allowed them to skip on premise implementations and supports their go to market strategy more easily. McCabe mentioned three aspects of cloud adoption that are beneficial to SMBs:

  1. Cost of solutions 
  2. Ease of use
  3. Masking of complexities while providing powerful solutions

All of these aspects also reflect the increasing importance of cloud adoption within the analytics market. Organizations continually struggle with the best way to get information into the hands of decision makers, empower customers, and increase relationships with partners and suppliers. Because many SMBs do not always have the resources to build solutions like this internally, many turn to the cloud. In most cases, SMBs are already familiar with cloud offerings because they have data hosted by outside providers and are comfortable with the concept of the cloud due to a lack of internal IT infrastructure.

As the cloud becomes a more central component to SMB adoption, analytics adoption will also become more prevalent in the cloud. This is already happening as many solution providers offer cloud BI. If they don’t already, it is in their roadmap. In addition to this, app stores are becoming more prevalent due to the fact that the way people are adopting solutions are transitioning to a more self-service methodology. The Spreecast announced IBM’s new app store and many other vendors offer analytics style app stores to make adoption easier. Instead of requiring approval through an acquisitions department, a credit card can be used. All of these market transitions will eventually make it easier for SMBs to apply broader analytics applications, without the roadblocks associated with traditional deployments.

Even for organizations choosing to keep solutions in-house, the increasing prevalence of self-service applications and ease of use and deployment associated with the cloud will translate into expectations that extend to the way solutions are deployed in-house. Consequently, solutions will have to shift to meet the needs of SMBs more readily through increasing ease of use, lower costs, and ease of deployment.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I‚Äôve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Posted June 30, 2014 2:56 PM
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Looking at organization need

One of the most common concerns I hear from organizations is the ability to implement solutions quickly and gain value that can be sold as success to management. Many businesses evaluate how long a solution will take to implement along with the amount of time it takes to have it deployed and seen as a success by business users. For SMBs looking at BI offerings specifically, there has always been the challenge of weighing the benefits against the costs of deployment. Traditional solutions were seen to take many months to implement, and the level of value associated with implementations were not always easy to measure quantitatively. Luckily, the market has matured to the point that a variety of solutions exist which can be deployed in a timely fashion. But quick implementation times are only the beginning of defining value. Having any new software project up and running does not mean that its use is associated with or providing value to the people using the system. In order to truly be successful, organizations need both. 

Time to implement vs. time to value

Sometimes businesses confuse the terms time to implement and time to value. In most cases, IT will look at implementation as their main goal. Their responsibility being to develop and deliver solutions that are used by business users. Business users, on the other hand, want to take what is provided and make better decisions, address business problems, and maintain competitive edge – and do so right away. Both are important for BI and software project success.

Achieving both means making sure that expectations from both IT and business units can be met. It also means that organizations understand what those expectations should be. The IT development effort should be driven by business need. For instance, creating customer facing dashboards and analytics to let customers gain access to their data and plan better will be different than developing self-service data discovery dashboards to increase efficiencies in marketing spend.

SMB specifics

Small and mid-sized businesses are actually driven by time to value more than their enterprise counterparts. The reality for these businesses is that they have more to lose. Resource constraints and smaller budgets mean that SMBs have to get their project choices right and make sure that they can achieve value quickly. Otherwise they risk losing money and not being able to get back on track without major trade-offs. In many cases, I’ve seen expectations about both implementation times and achieving value not met because of IT resources working on multiple projects and not being able to plan accurately. At the same time, business users lack the understanding of the development efforts required and expect that their BI project will be looked at as the main priority.¬†

In order to avoid these risks, project stakeholders need to work as a team, define their goals, develop realistic expectations, and make sure that the value proposition of the solution(s) can be realized based on these aspects.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I‚Äôve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Posted June 22, 2014 9:56 PM
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This was my fourth year attending the Information Builders Summit and I generally come away feeling positive about the organization, its products and general direction. Normally new releases are announced and centre on some additional capabilities to the product suite. This year, Information Builders went a little bit further by showing a greater commitment to data discovery, broader integration with big data platforms, ESRI (location intelligence and mapping), and connectors to a wider variety of information management platforms. All of these announcements address three key market challenges:

  1. “Big data”: How to manage data complexities and develop platforms that are flexible enough to meet ¬†both market demands and an organization’s needs. With iWay, Information Builders provides connectors for all types of platform requirements. Organizations have the flexibility to select the right data warehouse, or develop the right data integration processes to support broader analytics. SAP Hana, Teradata, Cloudera, MapR, and NoSQL were some of the new adapters announced to provide that added flexibility and the opportunity for organizations to adopt technologies that support their business challenges.
  2. Data management integrity: Leveraging iWay provides Information Builders customers with the ability to manage data and ensure quality, validity, and reliability throughout the data lifecycle. This expands beyond selecting the right adapter and making sure that data can be viewed properly. It also involves the processes required to make sure that users trust the information they are accessing it and are able to get value from their data.
  3. Data discovery and exploration: Information Builders is starting to focus more on this area to provide broader interactivity for their customers, with new solutions coming to market this year. Data discovery, coupled with information integrity, is the future of BI interactivity and access. Although a little late to the game, because customers can leverage iWay capabilities as well, they may actually have an advantage in the long-term by ensuring that what is analyzed is valid. The ability to explore data and provide self-service BI access is only effective when the data can be guaranteed to be reliable.

All of these themes provides the basis for a strong analytics framework. Leveraging data, sustaining integrity, and providing access to analytics to all those who need it are the goals of this level of integration. In addition to those general themes, I also spent time speaking with current customers to get their insights. These were the most sited reasons for selecting Information Builders:

  • Privately held company
  • iWay enables organizations to manage their data more thoroughly without having to look for additional products through a “one-suite” approach (as opposed to looking at Informatica or other data integration products to move and manage information)
  • A continued feeling of partnership with Information Builders, even long after implementation
  • Easy to install upgrades

All customers were satisfied with their solutions. Some areas to take note of are:

  • Professional services (PS) expertise with version 8.0 as it is a new product and the PS staff is still getting up to speed. If using this approach, it is important to make sure that adequate support is available with the PS team onsite
  • What solutions ¬†to take advantage of that are not on the market yet, and what (if any) the implications of adding or switching products will be
  • The data warehouse platform to select – guidance may be required to make sure that an organization chooses the right offerings to complement their business and not simply because of brand recognition, etc.

Although I came away from Summit feeling positive about the product and customer value associated with adoption, this year it seems as if Information Builders is starting to expand their market offerings to provide additional value by integrating broader trends in adoption within their products.


Posted June 16, 2014 2:26 PM
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