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The stakes have never been higher for suppliers of interactive business intelligence. Our benchmark research on business analytics finds that businesses overwhelmingly (89% of participants) want simpler analytics and metrics, and usability (57%) and functionality (47%) are the two most important evaluation criteria according to our Value Index vendor and product assessment methodology. In addition our business analytics research, 38 percent said that accessing analytics and metrics via mobile technology is important or very important.

I have been evaluating business intelligence tools that run on smartphones and tablets for many years to determine how well vendors are meeting the needs of business. In the case of Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile on the Apple iPad and iPhone, I was not overwhelmed by the implementation. In fact, I found significant challenges in configuration, usability and functionality that make the software less effective than it should be. Oracle BI on Apple mobile technologies compares poorly with other products in the delivery of comprehensive and usable BI on mobile technologies, including those my colleague and I already have assessed from ActuateIBMInformation BuildersMicroStrategyQlikviewRoambi and Yellowfin. Let me tell you about my experience.

I attempted to assess Oracle BI on the iPhone and iPad last year, but the company did not have a freely available demonstration available from the Apple App Store. I decided to try again when I saw a tweet that announced free access to the latest Oracle BI on mobile platforms. From the application information on the download page I discovered that the software was published last May, so it isn’t brand-new. While you can download the software, you cannot access the instructions to actual use it; I had to find separate instructions posted by Oracle. The configuration requires a two-pass setup where you must register with Oracle to get user authentication and access to database-level configuration for the demonstration database. I got to the instructions, but after sending a follow-up tweet that I could not get the application to work, I got a reply from Oracle sending me the URL of a specific instruction sheet. Once I reviewed the instructions and got through the detailed configuration screens, I was able to set up Oracle BI on my iPad and iPhone.

This was definitely not a simple process, especially compared to that of most other BI vendors, who simply provide an integrated demonstration database for use when you download the application, eliminating configuration. This approach has been the standard set by hundreds if not thousands of demo applications available over the last several years, and it makes sense since software vendors want people to see that accessing their mobile technology is simple and the user experience is enjoyable. Somebody at Oracle might want to try out its competitors’ applications to see how easily this can work. 

Oracle provides one example demonstration called Brand Analysis that has multiple dashboards. Using this, I found that the application fails to take advantage of standard iOS features. For instance, it is not doing initial autosizing to fit the screen or when you zoom into an analytic view, and standard hand gestures that you would typically use on an Apple device are not available. I expect any business intelligence application to support basic interactive user needs, from drill, pivot and page to sort, filter and rank selections. Oracle BI does some of these, but it’s not intuitive about when you can drill down or if you are just zooming into a chart or table, and if you want to pivot, it’s not clear whether that is possible. Paging through data is simple enough, but any level of sort, filter and ranking is impossible unless you go into the full product and build the output, which then can be accessed by the mobile tool. You should be able to easily save views, make notations and share your findings, but you can’t, except for emailing the URL you are looking at to someone else.

I do like elements of the geographic views on the data, but after any interactions the application is slow to respond and refresh, which is surprising, since most metrics and analytics could have been pre-calculated to make the demonstration fast and easy. Our business analytics research finds that search and navigation are the top two requested needs of business users, but Oracle has failed to support these operations as simply as it could.

To be sure I did not miss anything, I went back and watched a promotional video and did additional research on the Oracle website. I even Googled around to see if other functionality that does not come naturally is included in the product. I did find some specific interactions for drilling down and prompting action which I worked through. However, it is not clear that the Oracle developers have spent much time personally using Apple devices, or they would see how difficult their app is to use and conclude that it is not positioned to compete against others in the market. If there is any advantage to using Oracle BI on Apple mobile devices, compared to other vendors’ software, it is not clear to me since you want it to be easy and simple to use.

If Oracle wants to get significant adoption and get on the short list of vendors who provide valuable analytics and business intelligence on mobile technologies, it had better get a better approach real fast. It must also determine how to deliver incremental updates every quarter; treating mobile platforms like Apple’s with the pace of traditional enterprise software releases and updates every year or so will fail. If you are an Oracle customer, you will have to upgrade to its 11.1.1.5 release as it does not support previous releases, and if you are not a customer, then you will have to determine if you have resources to install and configure in IT. I would have hoped that it would offer a version in a cloud computing method to quick start customers, but could not find that this was available anywhere. Oracle competitors have a significant number of public customer references, and could not find any significant ones for Oracle who needs to take steps to energize its mobile BI efforts to stay relevant.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer


I attended the annual MicroStrategy World in Miami to check on the progress this company known for business intelligence (BI) software has made in expanding into a mobile platform and tools company that also announced a new version of its products. While MicroStrategy’s efforts in mobile BI and cloud computing are ahead of its competitors in the BI industry, they’re not its only expansion points for enterprise software.

Social media is another. In the last few years social media has transformed how people and companies interact, as well as how the technology industry communicates and conducts research. For example, our firm has been committed to the use of social media for four years – well before other analyst firms and vendors came around to it. In 2011, we researched the use of social media in business, along with its intersection with business analytics and big data, collaboration, cloud computing and mobility. Our research across marketing, sales, customer service and talent management found many advances and revealed how using social media is becoming a business benefit. As its evolution continues, there is a shift not just to interact through it but to capitalize on it. At Ventana Research we call this social media intelligence, which we define as the practice of gaining maximum business value from social media activities, processes and systems through the use of analytics, information and action based on them.

We believe that to enable this new intelligence for socially centered marketing and customer processes requires technology dedicated to support it. This brings me back to MicroStrategy, which announced its entry called Social Intelligence; it uses social media as a source for information, analytics and engagement with consumers and customers building on top of its business intelligence and mobile platform technology. MicroStrategy has been working to provide enterprise-class software to enable chief marketing officers and marketing teams to use social media to gain strategic organizational value. The company has built a foundation from which to access Internet community sites to collect consumer and customer information and synchronize it with enterprise systems. MicroStrategy Gateway, announced last summer, currently integrates only with Facebook, but MicroStrategy plans to support other channels. MicroStrategy mentioned Google+, but I think more value lies in channels with deeper context of community, such as FourSquare and Yelp, which have more behavior and psychographic value to business to consumer type companies. MicroStrategy Gateway uses permission-based sharing of information from Facebook, such as exchange of Facebook tokens and linking them to a unique customer ID that might exist in a company’s own customer information systems. I predict that this sophisticated type of social media-focused application and data integration will become as important as traditional data integration is for interfacing to enterprise sources of data. It also requires refining abilities to manage large volumes of information such as those covered in our research on BigData and Business Analytics. MicroStrategy’s enterprise-class cloud computing service can be used to support this these requirements for supporting social media intelligence.

MicroStrategy also has applied its knowledge of marketing and customer analytics to an application called MicroStrategy Wisdom that can segment, analyze and target consumers and customers. This applicationwasannounced and released in beta last fall, and MicroStrategy provides a free demonstration version to download from the Apple AppStore. With it, you can quickly access more than 30,000 individuals who have already provided permission and their Facebook tokens and analyze their friends’ fan information – this resource includes information from more than 5 million people in what MicroStrategy calls the Wisdom Network. You can analyze your own Facebook friends’ fan information, as I did, and contribute it to the growing Wisdom Network. It took only a day to do, as MicroStrategy processes the data overnight and sets up the analytics for use in the application. The native Apple iPad application that I used was easy to use, and you can navigate through and interact with the information to quickly ascertain how to use the Facebook information. It is not clear what level of your Facebook friends’ details is exchanged into MicroStrategy, and this should be a reminder to check your Facebook privacy settings (which have not been easy to understand and change).

To demonstrate how a company can engage and interact with customers and consumers in Facebook, MicroStrategy built an application called MicroStrategy Alert that it announced last summer and also can be downloaded from the Apple AppStore. Once you have given it permission and shared your Facebook token, the application uses your Facebook information to let you review news, events and offers in a simpler manner than Facebook itself. With this product MicroStrategy wants to demonstrate how easily your organization can build a mobile customer engagement application to monetize a company’s fan base. MicroStrategy shows its expertise in mobility with two other sample applications: Usher for managing events and Emma for social listings and engagements; both operate across your Facebook friends and their friends. Organizations uncertain about what is possible in mobile applications for social engagement will find these applications useful examples of how to engage customers with a social media intelligence strategy.

All of these developments should help MicroStrategy gain credibility for its brand and software with marketing organizations as part of their social media strategy. The company’s unique approach puts it in a league of opportunity by itself, as most other approaches are just focused on analyzing social media sentiment or monitoring activity across different channels. MicroStrategy can also address these needs through its BI products and through partnership with Clarabridge.

I presented at the conference on best practices in social media intelligence and let me know if you want a copy. To achieve these require organizations to advance their existing efforts in marketing analytics, big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media so they can layer in these new technologies without significant new resources and investments. That in turn requires organizations to be more efficient; for example, our benchmark research on marketing analytic found that marketing personnel spend 53 percent of their time related to analytics on data-related tasks rather than analysis. In addition, our research into social media found that more than one-third (39%) of organizations have a closed social media policy, and more than half actively prohibit use of social media during the workday. This will need to change to get a workforce engaged with its company’s social media-related processes.

To make the most of this opportunity, MicroStrategy needs to address a couple of points that aren’t directly related to its software. First, it needs to hire staff who have experience in the broader aspects of brand, category, consumer and customer marketing. At the conference, it was evident that a large portion of the MicroStrategy team was not personally fully engaged with social media. Its move to shut down electronic communications during their conference keynotes, while many of us wanted to use social media to dialogue and discuss these advancements, left the wrong signal. MicroStrategy also needs to continue to engage with forward-looking marketing organizations and not rely on consulting-centric marketing agencies or other intermediaries. Lastly, MicroStrategy needs to apply its knowledge and early adopting customers to new customer deployments, helping them utilize enterprise systems to energize social media intelligence to improve marketing performance.

MicroStrategy is no longer just a BI technology company but an enterprise software company that can help organizations utilize the cloud, mobile and social media to business advantage. It is good to see MicroStrategy making its applications available to anyone to try without any sales involvement, which is a pleasing aspect of the new generation of enterprise software marketing. MicroStrategy has a unique opportunity to strategically advance companies’ use of social media but must supercharge its own marketing and social media processes to fully influence and engage marketing executives and consumers alike.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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