The results of Dresners Advisory Services Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Survey 2012 make for sobering reading for IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle. These vendors are grouped together as Titans in the report. The Titans, in Greek Mythology were overthrown by the Olympians. The Olympians (appropriately for an Olympic year) were younger Gods. The war lasted 10 years.
The Wisdom of Crowds survey further confirms the changes happening in the Business Intelligence marketplace, and is consistent with the message from other analysts.
Not one of the 'Titan' vendors made it in to the 'Top 10' vendors for any of the seven categories. The Titans have the deepest pockets, and by far the largest support revenues flowing from their customers, but this does not translate in value and innovation for their customers.
The report also introduced a new grouping of 'High Growth' (Olympian?) vendors this year, of which QlikView is by far the largest.
These are established vendors, gowing at an explosive rate. QlikView improved its ratings in 4 of the categories this year, and is Top 10 in the majority of categories.
As if often the case with these reports, the conclusions are the most interesting part.
- Very large implementations of Business Intelligence solutions remain unchanged since 2010
- Still only a minority of users within most organizations have access to BI
- The proliferation of multiple BI tools continues to accelerate as line of business invests in solutions.
- Users of Emerging and High Growth segment products were more likely to report success than other segment.
Whats going on then?
Business Customers have lost faith in pouring in millions waiting for the 'Ultimate' solution from the Corporate Data Warehouse Group (or whatever title they are given). The fatal flaw in this approach, was that thse systems have become the hardest to change and adapt, when they should the most flexible.They are also have the highest cost of ownership, partly because they are hard and time consuming to change! While the Titans can spend billions adding more and more 'features' to their portfolios, they cannot fix the fatal time-to-change flaw at the heart of their offerings. Customers can however, seek to reposition the approach for higher business value. At the heart of many data warehouses, is high-quality, well structured data.
The pain points are trying to ensure 'all data' is in the corporate data warehouse, in a timely fashion, and can be exploited, explored and assembled in a flexible manner by people in the business.
Adapt your existing corporate Business Intelligence approaches to enable non-data warehouse, and external data to be 'mashed' up with the central corporate data in the Data Warehouse, and exploited using QlikView. Your return on investment will increase substantially and quickly. The Corporate Data Warehouse can slim down and focus on the most vital data, and QlikView can harness this data, integrate the other data of interest quickly and put it in the hands of your business customers with highly engaging applications.
Consumer-oriented business discovery, as pioneered by QlikView reaches and enables far more people, giving rapid, improved results and return on your investment.
I will return to the most exiting transition I have seen taking place in Business Intelligence in 20 years in future posts . In the meantime I might ask Donald Farmer, who speaks about this change in a compelling manner, how he feels about being an Olympian. Is photography an Olympic discipline yet?
Or if you like - Business Intelligence is useless without Business.
As we trundle our way through one of the greatest economic reversals in most of our lives I have been taken by the thought that we were not able to predict the consequences of the chain of events that led to the catastrophic failure of our banking systems and all who depended on it. The current trend in Business Intelligence is to incorporate predictive tools that will help forecast the future - well I'm not so sure that's going to work - what is the value of predictive modelling and forecasting tools that have all failed to alert us to the economic woes that have befallen us - and they all failed - let's face it we are great at analysing the past but lousy at predicting the future. Now we know that we can deliver great Business Intelligence solutions - we can analyse at the 'Qlik' of a mouse how we are doing across any number of variables, we can discover hidden nuggets of information that help us to focus on the most profitable activities and we can show up others who are doing a worse job than us by our clever analyses. But we cant predict the economy, or we have shown that we are very poor at it anyway.
So the lesson! Do profitable business by focusing on the here and now - concentrate on where you get your business - your Customers - analyse the deals at every level. Our focus should be back to analysing our customers - understanding what they want and striving to meet their expectations - this will ensure survival and provide some immunity from the star gazers!!
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I recently had the pleasure of attending a Microsoft Solutions for Business Intelligence seminar in Dublin. The seminar will travel to 39 countries over the next three months. Dublin was the third stop on this tour. The presenter was Rafal Lukewiecki who works for a company called Project Botticelli. Rafal is a very polished presenter. He has a natural flow and covers every detail in both his dialog and his accompanying demos. As a presenter he is very impressive.
A large portion of the day was focused around Microsoft's new "In-Memory" B.I component PowerPivot. PowerPivot enhances the B.I capabilities of Microsoft Excel and was on more than one occasion referred to as "Excel on Steroids". It is being marketed as "Self Service BI" which has the potential to empower the end user to find the answer for themselves provided they can access the appropriate data sources. This sounds good in principle but without the content management facility provided by SharePoint it could intensify the silos of information that currently exist with Microsoft Excel leading to more versions of the truth.
My initial reaction to the tool is that I am quite familiar with many facets of it from my Qlikview and Qliktech experience. It is testament to Qliktech and their growth that Microsoft should adopt such a similar methods. Some of the similarities include.
PowerPivot uses an extremely similar approach to Qlikview in relation to how PowerPivot works under the bonnet. It uses patented compression technology VertiPaq to optimise the amount of disk space taken up by a PowerPivot "Application"(the compression rate is about 10:1) and stores data as a numeric value which has a pointer to the actual value. It is uncanny how similar this is to Qlikview's patented in memory technology. "Application" is the common term for a PowerPivot file at present but may change. The capacity for huge volumes of data was used as a wow factor throughout the day but from a Qlikview perspective there was nothing that has not been done before.
Sample applications are available from the PowerPivot website. They have an all too familiar look and feel and in keeping with the proven Qlikview model provide the facility to explore the product features using information that is meaningful to the end-user e.g. Sporting information, aviation information, nutritional information.
One of the wow factors of the demo was a component in PowerPivot called a slicer. A slicer is the PowerPivot equivalent of a Qlikview listbox and serves as an "on the fly" filtering mechanism. Any previous exposure to Qlikview will negate the excitement provided by this feature.
It is rumoured but has not yet been confirmed that PowerPivot will be cost free for users. There is the cost of SharePoint 2010 if users wish to share PowerPivot applications using in a centralised content management space. This is similar to the Qlikview Personal edition model adopted in Qlikview 9 albeit not identical. The idea seems to be that increases in user adoption will feed user consumption which in turn increases revenue. Perhaps this marketing method is a way of encouraging a user to at least consider PowerPivot/Qlikview when a user is leaning towards an OpenSource B.I. tool such as Pentaho, JasperSoft, or SpagoBI.
Other issues I would like to comment on are listed below.
- DAX(Data Analysis Expressions)
DAX is the new language for expressions in PowerPivot and is quite a powerful language. In empowers the end user to do multidimensional analysis and has a syntax similar to Excel Functions. It has a predefined list of common functions that can be performed on measures, strings etc. This is a strong feature for PowerPivot as relative time comparisons can be performed with ease. This is in contrast to my limited exposure to IBM Cognos' In-Memory B.I. tool TM1 which is part of the Cognos Express suite. I attended a Cognos Express training course in September 2009 and relative time comparisons were an obvious weakness during the course.
The Microsoft Suite of BI products have traditionally consisted of too many components without the natural fit of some of the larger BI vendors i.e. Cognos, Business Objects. The Microsoft BI subcomponents of BI have changed with the release of SQL Server 200 R2 and is now composed of three layers, Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2. This model will flatten further into the future as the subcomponents become more entwined. This move makes sense but there are still too many individual parts within each of these layers. The SQL Server component consists of the SQL Server Engine, SSAS, SSIS, SSRS, and the new Microsoft Master Data Services. The SharePoint 2010 layer is composed of Performance Point Services(the artist formerly known as Performance Point Server). Performance Point Services incorporates ProClarity. On a positive note the Decomposition Tree is one of the available chart types and has been inherited from the afore mentioned ProClarity. Visually this is a really nice chart in my opinion and I have always been a fan. I would like to see something similar in Qlikview in the future. Perhaps the next version of Qlikview will provide this. Another positive was some of the Silverlight charts shown in the Performance Point Services demos. These charts were very pleasing on the eye. As is typical with Rafal Lukewiecki the demos were flawless. I have to commend him on his presentation skills and his ability to communicate.
Microsoft Office 2010 is a requirement for PowerPivot. Larger organisation are traditionally slow moving beasts when it comes to upgrading to the latest version of office. For this reason the exposure of employees of these large organisations may be limited to non-working time. Microsoft have a huge market however and any significant portion of this market is a huge customer base. Positive initial feedback has the potential to influence adoption rates and tap into these numbers.
In summary I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty and testing the functionality of PowerPivot first hand. I am sure given the time constraints involved the features shown in the demos only scratched the surface of the capabilities of PowerPivot. It strikes me that I will appear to have a biased opinion when reading this blog. This is not my intention and I am open to being convinced by the performance of the tool. I have low expectations at this juncture. At present PowerPivot feels like an attempt to play catch up to Qlikview. I do however feel that interesting times lie ahead as mass adoption will lead to further improvements and perhaps a more even contest some time in the future.
Darren Kerfoot - Senior Analyst with QlikPower