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No Perfect Answer

Originally published July 15, 2010

Should organizations always adopt new technology when it promises to positively affect the bottom line? Or, are there times when organizations should take the safe route?

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Posted August 10, 2010 by


H'ya Bill,

I am the CEO and one of the co founders of SiSense, a business intelligence platform startup.  We provide an end-to-end BI solution (from data preparation to business user tools) in a single product that relies on very strong technology we developed in house that literally removes the OLAP requirement from a business intelligence solution and often removes the external data warehouse requirement as well (we provide our own version of a high performance centralized data repository based on columnar storage and in-memory query processing).  You can understand from my wording that we basically provide the same types of solutions traditional BI vendors do, only under a completely different paradigm.

As you can imagine, positioning ourselves as such means going head to head with giants like IBM,SAP and Oracle, as well as emerging giants such as QlikView.  The funny thing is, while we are a start up, we never lose a prospect due to the fact we are a start up (and we have some seriously big clients in our portfolio, such as Yahoo and Target).  This is mainly due to the fact that you can set up and feel the system much faster than you can even evaluate a traditional BI system, significantly lowering the perceived risk.

I am not saying this to contradict you because generally speaking you are absolutely right.  But if young companies wants to battle it out with established players, they must have a very clear overall message and make the prospect confident enough that you are not introducing too many unknowns into the solution for which the customer may be penalized in the future.  The unknown unknowns are what serious solution architects fear the most, and they will do anything to limit their challenges to areas where they already have experience.  Saving a bunch of money now is not always the right business approach.  It's usually better to be able to know how much this will cost over 5 years.  That is harder to do when you are using something new.

Technology is great.  I love it.  But the bottom line is, serious customers don't care about technology. They care about value propositions.  If you have an extremely different value proposition, you better have solid technology to back it up, but it is still just an enabler.  If your value proposition is clear and you have a good record, even as a young company you'll be able to beat the established players in deals.





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Posted July 19, 2010 by bryan.watson@bvwatson.com

Bill, the story you relate here -- and the "unlearned lesson" -- is a very familiar one. In my opinion, one of the major obstacles to the adoption of new, cost-saving, performance-enhancing technology is that the business has an "architecture" that constrains, rather than embraces, change. This is an arena that I have started to explore in my blog (http://bvwatson.com/ETL30-blog/) on the evolution of ETL and the rise of what I'm calling "ETL 3.0".

The cost of exploring alternatives is often so significant and the effort so disruptive that the business cannot afford to move beyond the box they have placed themselves in. Complacency then sets in, usually after several failed and costly attempts to break out. The technical staff learns that change is impossible and turns to that old excuse: "we've always done it this way!".

It seems to me that the first step is to move away from an architecture that constrains choices to on that expands choices; from an architecture that is technology- and product-centric to one that is capability-centric; from an architecture that is closed to one that is open.

There is a real-world solution to your puzzlement, and those businesses with the courage to embrace that solution may be astonished at how valuable that can be.


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