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February 18, 2014 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Information Applications (IA), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social Media | Tags: Analytics, Business Intelligence, Customer Engagement, MicroStrategy, mobile, Smartphone, Tablet | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
At its recent MicroStrategy World 2014 conference, the enterprise software company introduced a portfolio of products to make it easier to perform analytics and make them easier to access through the cloud and mobile forms of computing. These announcements accelerate MicroStrategy’s transition to approaching corporate business users of analytics from its past focus on business intelligence, which typically is purchased by IT. This is a subtle but strategic shift that recognizes where growth opportunities lie and that analytics must be available on any device at any time. MicroStrategy made it clear that advances in the cloud, mobility and big data were integral to its product releases last year and is continuing in this direction in 2014 with the products in its MicroStrategy 9.4 suite.
A little recap from the end of 2013 will illustrate the trend. MicroStrategy launched a product called Analytics Desktop that is freely available to download and use. The product runs locally and provides capabilities for data and visual discovery, the building of dashboards and standard business intelligence. This is part of an update to MicroStrategy Analytics Enterprise and also runs in the cloud to support MicroStrategy Analytics Express for self-service analytics. MicroStrategy Analytics Desktop and Analytics Express generate a local data file that securely contains the data and related information for analysis and presentation. This new MicroStrategy file format can be used to import data to both the cloud and on-premises applications. MicroStrategy emphasizes its advantages in analyzing a range of databases and secure Web and mobile publishing, which are freely available in its products while competitors charge for them. In the past some customers and observers perceived MicroStrategy as making it difficult to try out its technology without having to deal with its sales team; now anyone can try it at any time and use it afterward.
At the conference MicroStrategy unveiled release 9.4.1 of its platform, in which ESRI Maps is embedded. It supports a range of location analytics, which our research shows is important to three out of four organizations. This capability can be a competitive differentiator for MicroStrategy that other BI providers lack. MicroStrategy 9.4.1 provides location analytics capabilities most important to organizations according to our location analytics benchmark research.
In addition new advances in data blending will appeal to analysts; our information optimization benchmark research finds nearly half (45%) of organizations still spend more of their time on data-related tasks than analysis and recommendations. And there are advances in the platform’s computing power: Now it can handle 10 times more data in memory and has a 40 times performance gain in multisource analytics. MicroStrategy has significant depth in its analytics capability from historical to predictive that most do not realize is more sophisticated than many others in the analytics and BI software market.
Other advances enhance the data performance and scalability of the platform. MicroStrategy Parallel Relational In-Memory Engine (PRIME) is a re-engineering of its OLAP Services and can handle in-memory computing on a massive scale. It has a load rate of more than 7 terabytes per hour and does not require a star schema; clearly this is designed for big data analytics. The CIO of Facebook, Tim Campos, took the stage at MicroStrategy World to discuss his company’s use of PRIME and testified that it can analyze the large volumes of data from activity of Facebook’s billion members. Through PRIME and broader support for big data sources MicroStrategy is able to provide big data analytics that can exploit the span of sources including Hadoop, in-memory processing, appliances, non-SQL data, columnar databases and RDBMSs. MicroStrategy has made significant investments to support any source of data including the very long list of new ones in the big data and noSQL environments such as Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR, MarkLogic, mongoDB and many others. I was impressed by how widely the company has expanded in embracing these sources. MicroStrategy also has been certified to access data from SAP HANA, which has a rapidly growing ecosystem. MicroStrategy should continue to market into the big data ecosystems, each of which has its own community.
In mobile technology MicroStrategy made a series of announcements for new products now available. For example, MicroStrategy Analytics App for iPad furthers its ability to provide best-in-class mobile capabilities as does the self-service application MicroStrategy Analytics Express for iPad. Both are available in the Apple App Store, where you can download and try them. Probably more important is significant improvement to the computing experience of MicroStrategy’s native support for Apple iOS 7; it also supports transactional computing through widgets in the application. MicroStrategy Usher offers full support for identity management and secure access to applications, making this one of the most secure platforms for analytics and applications. MicroStrategy also will make technical support available on mobile platforms in an application coming soon through iTunes App Store.
Our analysis of business intelligence for mobile technology confirms MicroStrategy’s leading position in this market. Our recently released 2014 Value Index on Mobile Business Intelligence rates MicroStrategy the top Hot vendor among the 16 we assessed. Mobile capabilities for using business intelligence are important to 69 percent of organizations according to our next-generation business intelligence research. Operating on Apple and Android devices while supporting Web browser-based support for Microsoft Surface devices puts MicroStrategy in position to gain a return from its mobile investments.
In cloud computing, MicroStrategy ranks highly in adoption by very large corporations. But many organizations do not know much about its cloud offering compared to its on-premises and mobile approaches. Yet this is increasingly important: Our research finds in enterprise business intelligence 47 percent of organizations prefer on-demand access or applications hosted by the supplier. MicroStrategy needs to make its cloud presence known, and PRIME for large scale in-memory computing will be available exclusively in the cloud, which should highlight its efforts. To be more successful with its cloud offering the company will need to focus on the lines of business: sales, marketing, human resources, customer service, finance and others where cloud computing has advanced rapidly where business has used its operational expense budget to acquire applications and tools on the Internet.
At MicroStrategy World a variety of speakers from customer companies discussed not only what they are doing in analytics and business intelligence but also how mobile technology is enabling a new class of applications for internal use and in relating directly to consumers; examples were fashion retailer GUESS and Gucci, which demonstrated its new mobile application for customer engagement. Also present was the CIO of McCain Foods, Roman Coba, who was the recipient of our 2011 CIO Leadership Award. The many presenters showed MicroStrategy does not lack customer validation of the use of its tools.
For enterprise management of its technology the MicroStrategy Health Center continues to advance in diagnosing problems and suggesting fixes. Through diagnostics and alerts from the center, administrators can take action to resolve issues. For those serious about enterprise deployment of analytics for business and business intelligence in IT, this approach to support is essential.
In addition, MicroStrategy is advancing in information optimization, which is about providing relevant and timely information to business users on any device at any time. Our research on the topic finds that analytics is the top driver in two-thirds of organizations and that information access in general is critical to more than half. Also MicroStrategy’s investments in Usher for identity management and applications like Alert are critical for interactions with customers; our latest customer engagement research finds that mobility and analytics are the top technologies companies will apply to this business priority.
MicroStrategy is off to a great start this year with a solid portfolio of products and has made strong progress since my colleague Tony Cosentino analyzed its efforts. To realize its potential the company will have to market the portfolio of possibilities better, as the products are ready to help organizations. The only area that it has not invested is providing online collaboration among business users and analysts to streamline analytics and business processes and reduce the encumbrances of email and meetings. Generating more awareness on its support for discovery and exploration across big data both visually and interactively on data will help it grow even faster to meet the demand for analytics by business. If you have not examined MicroStrategy lately, try out its free products for cloud, mobile and Web environments.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
January 27, 2014 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Big Data, CIO, Information Optimization | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
Businesses are always looking for ways to grow and to streamline their operations. These two goals can come into conflict because as organizations become larger it becomes more complicated to be agile and efficient. To help them understand and modify their processes, businesses can derive insights from analytics applied to their data. Today that data is available not only in the enterprise and cloud computing environments but also from the Internet. To collect, process and analyze it all is a challenge, one that an increasing number of organizations are meeting through the use of big data technologies. The resulting insights can help them make strategic business decisions such as where to focus efforts and how to engage with customers. At Ventana Research we have been working hard to understand the advancing technology that supports big data and its value through information optimization and bring clarity to the industry through our research and analysis of trends and products. There are many opinions about big data and fixation on the attributes of it through the V’s (volume, variety and velocity) and how to use it, often biased toward one technology or vendor; our research and analysis of the entire market cuts through the noise to provide not just facts but insights on best practices and methods to apply this technology to business problems.
There’s no doubt that big data can help organizations turn their information assets into insights that are critical for achieving growth and interacting more successfully with customers. It can help them access and integrate information for business use in ways that were not possible before. Among these new methods are simpler ways to access and consume information, including search based on natural language and cognitive computing, which is bringing forward advanced science to the processing of information. Big data also enables more effective visualization to support discovery and exploratory analytics. Machine data can be used to gain insights into the workings of technology that directly impacts the operations of the organization. We assert that big data drives operational efficiency through effective processing technology that expands the use of information though analytics and these innovative computing methods. The importance of these advances is shown in our recent benchmark research on information optimization, in which two-thirds (67%) of organizations said that improving operational efficiency is the leading reason to change how they make information available.
In 2013, large steps forward were made in big data technology. We saw the beginning of convergence among technological approaches as Hadoop, in-memory processing and data appliances intersect with specialized and traditional database systems. Users are learning how to gain value through insights from these technology investments. While we saw advances in visualization as shown in our predictive analytics research, using most of these tools requires advanced skills to ensure that the data is interpreted properly for facilitating actions, let alone decisions. Many organizations lack these skills in-house, our research shows.
Thus one challenge for 2014 is to acquire the competencies needed to get the best possible information from big data. Another is to improve processes for information optimization so that data, even about real-time events, can flow to business users and reduce the time it takes for them to use it effectively. New platforms and services can help make more types of information easier to understand and interact with. This is complemented by collaboration tools that can operate across mobile devices and get more information to more people wherever they are. We note also that unstructured data such as documents, images and text now is part of the information requirements for more than half of organizations that could use big data technology.
All of these tools and efforts towards information optimization can be useful as organizations try to improve the consistency and governance of their business-related information assets in key areas such as product information management and reduce duplication and conflicts in information about customers and employees along with focus on governance, risk and compliance (GRC). Failing to address these issues can lead to lost revenue, dissatisfied customers and decreased efficiency, all of which impact profitability. Our focus on product information management will continue as it is in high demand: We will release a new Value Index on the topic in 2014 to assess vendors and products and guide potential purchasers. There also have been advances in applications to help businesses manage information; for example, the use of master data management and data governance can help increase accuracy and outcomes from related business processes. In 2014 we will assess the current market for master data management as it impacts both business and IT through new benchmark research and continued coverage of technology developments. Because data no longer resides only in the enterprise, we will continue to track advances in using cloud computing for business applications and accessing and integrating the large amounts of data there. Cloud data is now a major factor in many organizations, and we will reassess the challenges with data in the cloud benchmark research to determine where investments and processes have progressed and where they still need to be improved.
Mainstream use of big data is leading organizations to invest in creating a new stream of information processes that can meet a variety of business needs. We have a whole line of new next-generation analytics research in the specific lines of business; the first are for finance, customer and human capital, and other areas planned for 2014 are in sales and marketing, which are still in the early adoption phase of big data but have generated significant interest about its potential.
Organizations have several options in the types of big data technology they choose. Some are using Hadoop and commercial versions of it from a variety of providers, others are using big data appliances, and still others are using in-memory computing and specialized databases. Our latest research finds that in 2014 more organizations plan to use Hadoop (24%), in-memory tools (23%) and appliances (15%) than will use an RDBMS (10%). This variety of technologies is generating new best practices in big data and how to use the resulting information. Big data is a critical innovative technology now important to 41 percent of organizations. Please consult my colleague Tony Cosentino’s research agenda in business analytics and big data, which outlines new methods to discover and explore big data effectively; he also has new research coming on big data analytics.
It is now possible for organizations to learn and apply best practices in using big data effectively across business and IT. Once that is accomplished users can examine how to make information flow easily into applications and optimize their use, too. At this point, however, many have yet to focus on integration of data and sources to ensure an efficient flow both in the enterprise and throughout cloud computing. This challenge we call big data integration, and we are conducting new research to identity the issues, methods and best practices here. Our research shows that for more than four out of five organizations that have 16 or more sources of data it is important to simplify access and use of it all and integration will help address this challenge. This year we will also have our annual Value Index on vendors and products in data integration and will expand to include the requirements for big data and cloud computing. The availability of technology for data integration is fueling new efforts in what I call integration optimization, which even includes handling of real-time event streams in complex event processing to produce operational intelligence. We have research on this and an upcoming Value Index. Use of this real-time information and analytics is helping organizations respond to issues more quickly than waiting for historical analysis to take place.
We expect significant advances in big data and information optimization in 2014. In this market, however, most organizations lack experience and skilled resources. We warn them not to investigate big data just because “everyone is doing it.” That is not necessarily true, so we recommend first reviewing the processes in your organization in which it can provide value, and then look at the architectural and technological approaches that best fit your needs and available resources.
CEO & Chief Research Officer