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By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard Actuate was once the king of production reporting. But the rise of self-service BI tools, BI suites, and industry consolidation made Actuate a bit player in the larger BI market. Over the past several years, the company has been re-inventing itself and hopes its new "fremium" iHub offering will allow it to capitalize on millions of BIRT developers. Actuate is the sponsor of open source BIRT, the Business Intelligence Reporting Tool, used by an estimated 3.5 million developers. Actuate also have a complete BI solution, based on its iHub server, that customers can buy on a perpetual or subscription basis. Many of the BIRT developers are unaware of Actuate's broader BI offerings. Others find the move from free open source, to paid premium capabilities too steep. With the iHub F-Type, customers get all the capabilities offered in the paid-for iHub server–interactive reporting, scheduling, security–for free. The catch? Customers are limited to 50 MB per day. The usage resets itself each day, and there's a nice thermometer to advise how much disk space is currently used by reports (note: screen shot below based on 500 MB license). Customers can then buy additional capacity at $500 per month per 50 MB. The iHub F-Type also has a really nice pop up tutorial that guides the developer through the most compelling capabilities of the server. In the screen below, note the buttons on the left pane. The Interact button will show the developer how with the iHub F-Type, a previous static report is now interactive with a pop-up menu to sort or filter, requiring no new programming. The interactive reporting capabilities are a strong-point of the platform (see the BI Scorecard summary and detailed scores for more information), and a core aspect of self-service BI that many vendors are overlooking.
Pay-as-you Go the New NormActuate is betting big on iHub F-Type. It's also betting big on a move to subscription-only pricing. Previously, Actuate offered both subscription and perpetual licenses. In the company's last quarterly investor call, CEO Pete Cittadini said that "going cold turkey to subscription … was the right thing to do." The move to subscription-based pricing is also a stated direction from competitor TIBCO in its acquisition of Jaspersoft in April this year. With BI cloud gaining momentum, customers and vendors alike seem more accepting of the pay-as-you-go model. I have always liked about subscription-based pricing for ensuring customers don't buy any more BI than they need, and conversely, for keeping a vendor focused on meeting the customer's needs. With perpetual licensing, customers risk shelf-ware and when dissatisfied with a product, the license is a sunk-cost with leverage only on a typical 22% annual maintenance fee.
Embedded BI: The Next WaveSelf-service BI and visual data discovery have been all the rage the last two years. These tools typically meet the needs of business analysts trying to mash multiple and new data sources together. At the other end of the user spectrum, front-line workers often consume data embedded within operational applications. In the past, reports and nuggets of data embedded within operational apps may have been custom developed. As these applications get refreshed, and with the growth of start-ups, embedded BI may be the next wave of BI growth. It is a BI segment that Actuate is specifically targeting, along with several other vendors: Jaspersoft, LogiAnalytics, Information Builders, and Oracle has identified this segment as a future direction. To make embeddability easier, in Actuate's F-Type, an "Integrate" button nicely allows a developer to cut and paste the requisite Java Script into custom apps or portals. Actuate may not have the mindshare of some of the bigger BI vendors, but they certainly have sown millions of seeds of developers. This latest offering seems a strong move to allow them to capitalize on that base of developers.
At Information Builders annual conference earlier this month, the vendor launched a new visual data discovery product and touted its unique ability to replace custom-developed apps.
Visual Data Discovery, Take 2Enterprise reporting has long been the core of Information Builders capabilities. Aiming to better serve power users, the company announced a new visual data discovery interface, Info Discovery, now in beta and expected to be generally available in the fall (see the keynote here, demo at 55 minutes). This product joins a chorus of recent product releases from new entrants such as Logi Analytics with Logi Vision as well as Birst Visualizer. Vice President of Products Kevin Quinn thinks they will be the first vendor to support "governed visual data discovery," showcasing how their product integrates with the existing server infrastructure and security. To be fair, a few other vendors also have this integration, but arguably, most lack it. The vendor expects to have a free 30-day trial version. The output looked rather Tableau-like, with checkboxes, sliders, and some nice visuals (see screenshot). Some purists in the visualization community may protest the use of pie charts and red in green on the same widget; but I'll wait to see what's in the final GA product. here). It's not that I have a thing against ribbon bars per se; it's something to do with the fonts and design that just doesn't look as appealing as what I'm seeing in competitive products. Arguably, it's a subjective point, and for now, the vendor's argument is, "if you don't like our skin, you can change it." Info Discovery is not the vendor's first foray into visual data discovery. The vendor also OEM's technology from Advizor Solutions, integrated with Developer Studio and marketed as "Visual Discovery." That product had little adoption, which I think was due to a combination of limited marketing, ease of use, and flexibility. Let's see if the second time is the charm.
Build vs. BuyWhile visual data discovery may be a new focus for the company, the vendor is continuing to improve its core reporting capabilities. There aren't too many greenfield accounts in BI these days; companies of all sizes have at least some sort of BI deployment. However, one area where Information Builders is carving a new niche is in replacing what previously had been custom-built apps, often for thousands of users. To cite a few examples from the conference:
- Oklahoma Department of Human Services used WebFOCUS to replace previously Cobol custom application to track child support issues across the state
- Raintree Oncology assists doctors in dispensing prescriptions for cancer patients. Its new WebFOCUS application combines data from multiple, external sources (claims, prescriptions, clinical outcomes) . The multiple levels of security and ability to create its own branded application led them to Information Builders.
- Wendy's talked about their journey from mainframe, printed reports, in which sales and marketing was not particularly satisfied to now 6000 WebFOCUS users, with interactive reports and dashboards. The deployment requires only one BI administrator and supports district managers to shift supervisors; they expect to add another 4000 users this year. And did you ever wonder why they have square hamburgers? They don't cut corners. "A cut above" is the company's motto.
By Cindi Howson Sapphire this year was all about simplicity, the cloud, and millenials. That's the message that CEO Bill McDermott wanted to drive home in his keynote. BI, meanwhile, took a back stage to HANA and Cloud announcements. At SAP, all roads lead to HANA, whether for BI or for transaction processing, on-premises or in the cloud. HANA is just three years old, and as an in-memory appliance, SAP has rapidly seeded the market with developers, fostered its partner network, and introduced new products that leverage the speed of in-memory. Customer Norwegian Cruise Lines spoke of how HANA allowed them to better analyze their data, faster than a previous data warehouse, and saving $700 million annually. Most interesting to me is how Norwegian Cruise Lines hadn't used anything from SAP before HANA, a proof point that HANA is not only for big ERP customers. The NFL with its fantasy football app is leveraging HANA, mobile, predictive, and Lumira to support its millions of fans, a customer base of millions and growing in the 25% to 50% range annually. Seoul University Hospital reduced its query time from hours to seconds, with a 147% return on investment in HANA. More importantly, CIO Dr. Hwang, said HANA allows them to analyze comments that were never before accessible. While all the news with HANA seemed positively glowing, news on the leadership and BI front in particular was a bit more fractured. Last month, CTO Vishal Sikka abruptly resigned, amid speculation that he was frustrated the position of CEO was not in his future. In the BI space, two key people with Adam Binnie and Jason Rose also recently moved on. Insiders say the timing is coincidental. Outsiders worry about the impact on the BI roadmap for a product line that is one of the most complex in the industry. McDermott's vision for simplicity has a long way to go in BI. Jayne Landry, newly appointed General Manager of BI and taking over from Binnie, outlined the BI roadmap. She conceded that for most BI segments, there are two, sometimes three, products (visual discovery includes Explorer and Lumira; dashboards includes Design Studio and Dashboards a.k.a. Xcelsius). The vision to simplify the product line was clear; the execution of how and when to get there was anything but. Dashboard users were assured there would eventually be a migration utility to Design Studio, the strategic product, and in the interim, were told to check out a product from partner APOS. Landry conceded that killing Desktop Intelligence was a mistake. At issue is how to support existing investments, while focusing resources on moving forward. In empathy for SAP, who could have predicted that Apple would kill Flash, a technology on which Dashboards is based? Long-time customers have been rightfully worried that SAP cares more about newer products HANA and Lumira than about the mature and broadly deployed SAP BusinessObjects. Judging from the headlines and excitement around these newer products, they might be right to worry. However, Landry shared a pie chart describing the company's three areas of analytics: enterprise BI, agile analytics, advanced analytics.
Enterprise BI then is clearly getting the lion's share of development resources, but is indeed on a slower release cycle. Speaker Ty Miller, Senior Director of BI, likened Lumira to the shiny new Tesla—innovative engineering, new technology, disruptive— while the BI Platform is like the tried-and-true Porsche. It's an apt analogy. It would seem then that it's not that SAP cares more about Lumira, but rather, that there's more frequent news as it's on such a rapid release cycle. To that end, the noteworthy new features in version 17 (due out this month) includes (refer to BIScorecard.com for a detailed review):
|Category||Main Products||Developers||Release Cycle|
|Enterprise BI||SAP BusinessObjectsCrystal ReportsDashboards Design Studio||600||6 to 12 months|
|Agile Analytics||LumiraExplorer||200||6 to 8 weeks|
|Advanced Analytics||Infinite Insight (KXEN)Predictive Analysis||100|
- InfoGraphics, an evolution to Stories that combines visualizations, with text and images, and a greater degree of formatting
- Direct connect to on-premises HANA and BW data from Lumira Cloud
- Support for MAC , with the beta available mid June
- Free hand SQL. This is huge, but as I've heard it as a roadmap item for a couple of years now, I won't hold my breath until I see the beta.
- Live Office support for newer universes created in 4.x (.UNX); this has been a hole in the product portfolio since version 4 was first released in 2012. Microsoft added support for universes in Power Query last month, a partial solution for long-time Live Office users.
- Parity in the DHTML and Java client WebI interfaces
TIBCO acquired open-source BI vendor Jaspersoft for $185 million, setting off speculation about who's next. Will the acquisition make TIBCO a visual data discovery and reporting powerhouse, or be just one more tickbox for an infrastructure company that is still stumbling in the BI space? TIBCO acquired Spotfire in 2007, and while other visual data discovery vendors such as Tableau and Qlik have been on fire, Spotfire lost momentum and mindshare under TIBCO. In 2012, and the first half of 2013, it seemed that things might be perking up for Spotfire. TIBCO announced a 30% growth rate for Spotfire in the first half of 2013, and acquired a number of capabilities that bolstered an already good product (see in-depth evaluation on BI Scorecard): • Maporama Solutions for location intelligence • StreamBase for accessing real time data and event analytics • Extended Results to provide KPIs and alerting on mobile devises. But in the second half of 2013, its CEO described Spotfire's results as "disappointing," a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2014. This is a stark contrast to its competitors who have continued to grow in double digits (Tableau 82% and Qlik 21% for 2013). TIBCO CEO Vivek Ranadivé speculates that it has done well in the enterprise accounts but poorly in small to mid-sized businesses, where much of the growth is. Does the Jaspersoft acquisition help in this segment? To a limited extent, it may, because the commercial edition of Jaspersoft has been easier to buy, even available per hour via Amazon Web Services. As an open source product, though, Jaspersoft's sweet spot is with OEM customers who embed BI capabilities and with large enterprise customers who like the extensibility of open source. What Jaspersoft doesn't bring to the table – that TIBCO still seems to lack – is the relationship with business users and departmental buyers who are driving the demand for visual data discovery tools. The Jaspersoft-Spotfire combination does bring the capabilities of a full BI platform to TIBCO, checking the boxes for reporting, query, dashboards, mobile, and visual data discovery. The combination may be appealing for customers new to BI, but that's most likely in the small to midsized segment again; enterprise customers have BI solutions and standards, and tend to be willing only to fill in where there are weaknesses in their incumbent solution. And for the time being, the Jaspersoft-Spotfire products are disparate product lines, so the benefits of interoperability wouldn't be immediately realized. I do hope the company will quickly figure out pricing and packaging, as well as boost mobile capabilities for Jaspersoft content with the capabilities it got from Extended Results. With this acquisition, some industry watchers have wondered who's next: Pentaho? Actuate? And who would be the acquiring companies—Tableau? Qlik? or an analytic platform vendor such as Teradata? For Actuate, they already have solid production reporting and acquired Quiterian in late 2012, rebranded BIRT Analytics, so no, I don't see them needing to fill in holes in its product line. Qlik, meanwhile got solid business ETL capabilities with Expressor back in mid 2012, so wouldn't need Pentaho for that. Qlik lacks production reporting and business query capabilities, so that could prove complementary, but with QlikView.Next on the horizon, I don't think the timing is right. Qlik also has some great reporting products via partners such as Nprinting. Tableau, meanwhile has business query, but lacks production reporting and native predictive analytics, so Pentaho could make a good combination here. Both Tableau and Pentaho have been pursuing the big data market and direct connectivity to NoSQL sources so there are some shared synergies there. Beyond that, there has to be a fit culture- and vision-wise, and in this regard, I like the prospect of all these smaller companies continuing to focus on their core competencies. In other words, the Jaspersoft acquisition may not be the start of more acquisitions to come. In the meantime, I only hope that Jaspersoft doesn't get lost in the larger TIBCO and brings some energy and momentum to the company's efforts in the BI space.
By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard The world of business intelligence has been revitalized by the buzz of big data, the promise of personalization, and the agility of visual data discovery. Yet many companies struggle with the basics of accessing data, particularly new data sources. BI has long been considered a tool for power users and for management to run the business, but easier-to-use tools, mobile BI, and visual data discovery have allowed new classes of users to exploit the value of data. BI Scorecard's annual survey of BI users, administrators, and directors shows success rates have remained flat since the survey was first conducted in 2006 (based on 513 respondents). Success is defined by BI's ability to improve access to data, decision-maker's perception of value, and impact on revenues, customer service, and operating efficiency. However, the portion of customers saying BI has delivered significant business impact declined in 2013 by six percentage points to only 28% -- the lowest since the survey began. While there are some very successful and impactful BI deployments, the majority are stuck in the middle, with respondents reporting only slight to moderate success and business impact. On the bright side, few respondents (3%) reported outright failure. BI adoption as a percentage of employees remains flat at 22%, but companies that have successfully deployed mobile BI show the highest adoption at 42% of employees. (see Figure) Survey respondents say that if they had appropriate budget, clean data, and organizational policies that support BI, 50% of employees on average should be using BI. The gap between deployed BI and potential BI users shows that companies are not tapping BI's full potential. While much of the industry focuses on software and technical innovations, the main barriers are organizational and cultural, according to 84% of survey respondents. Executives can address organizational and cultural challenges, making leadership the most important organizational criterion for success. Aligning BI efforts to business goals is the second most important success factor. Alignment requires a strong business/IT partnership and ongoing dialogue, something many companies lack. BI teams that report directly to the CEO or to a line of business show the most significant business impact. However, strained BI resources make it increasingly difficult to expand the reach of BI or for companies to take advantage of new innovations. As demand for new data sources, more users, and analytic complexity increase, BI teams have to work smarter, and business users have to embrace self-service BI. Most companies (66%) have standardized on a BI platform across the enterprise or per line of business. However, the companies that deploy tools from specialty vendors report higher success rates and business impact than companies that use one BI platform exclusively. Big data stole most the headlines in 2013, but dashboards, new data sources, and self-service BI are the main priority for investments in 2014, followed by mobile BI, visual data discovery, and upgrading to the latest BI releases I have long advocated that customers should evaluate the quality of customer account management and technical support. The greater the partnership between a BI vendor and a customer, the greater the likelihood that both sides will manage—and meet— expectations. Overall, customers of specialty BI vendors such as Tableau and Qlik had higher satisfaction rates, while those of larger BI vendors Oracle and SAP were less satisfied. However, the size of the BI vendor alone does not equate with lower satisfaction, as Microsoft, for example, scored well on quality of technical support. The quality of technical support has a huge influence on success and business impact. We are talking software, and sometimes disparate components, so it's almost a certainty that BI teams will encounter problems. The difference among BI vendors is in how quickly and adequately those problems are resolved. And yet, the quality of technical support for some BI vendors has only gotten worse as they've built broader portfolios and experienced high employee turnover. How much does it matter? Customers who rate the technical support as very good to excellent, also have the highest degree of business impact, with 45% rating BI's impact as significant, compared to the survey average of 28% rating the impact as significant. The BI Scorecard Successful BI survey is not sponsored by vendors. The full report can be purchased here. For a free copy of the 30-page highlights, take next year's survey. Sign up here to be notified of when the survey opens.
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