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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 31, 2014 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media | Tags: Compensation, forecasting, Sales, Sales Performance Management, SFA | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
It should be no surprise for those who work in sales that increasing outcomes collectively is not always easy. Sales teams and individuals work under pressure to perform at high levels, selling more than they did in the previous period or more than the person who previously had responsibility for a territory. Today’s economic and competitive environments demand that everyone work not just faster but smarter in their sales efforts. To excel in this environment requires not just wise use of time but prioritization of the activities and tasks that contribute to achieving the quota and forecast. In the past, sales organizations often resisted adopting new technology, but it’s time for them to realize that tools are available to facilitate better sales performance. As I outlined in the overview of our business and technology research agenda for this year, the sales department has a ripe opportunity to get smarter in how it operates. This is the essential point of our research practice in sales applications and technology: Our methodical benchmark research examines applications and technology best practices and benefits for sales organizations, and we assess the vendors and products in this market through our Value Index ratings. We will start 2014 with the latest release of our Value Index on Sales Performance Management, which will help sales management evaluate products to assist in improving performance of the organization.
Technology advances in sales applications and technology in the last several years have given those who use them an advantage. For example, mobile technology enables sales organizations to quickly access metrics from sales analytics; these can be shared to help the whole team meet their objectives. But these improvements first require willingness to change, to go beyond the conventional wisdom of using sales force automation (SFA) for more than defining and tracking accounts, contacts and opportunities. Those who continue to use spreadsheets to manage sales performance will be even less efficient and fall further behind those who use more capable tools. Our latest benchmark research in sales forecasting shows that more than half (59%) still use spreadsheets to manage sales forecasts; doing so wastes time and prevents immediate access to critical information. It also finds that the process is not reliable and data is not accurate in more than half of organizations.
The imperative to provide the best possible customer experience, which my colleague Richard Snow outlines in his customer engagement agenda, indirectly impacts sales. Both require high-quality and relevant product information whether it comes from sales interactions, e-commerce or websites. Both customer service and sales can benefit from the organization creating a single repository of all product information managed centrally. Tools for product information management (PIM) utilize master data management methods that enable product teams in businesses to define, administer and publish this critical information to those who need it, including Sales. Our research shows that the use of dedicated PIM technology has helped almost half (47%) of organizations eliminate errors and mistakes and that 90 percent of those that use a single system gain competitive advantage through faster time to market. This year a significant transformation of where PIM and commerce software will converge further to help provide the information in the shape and form required even as it is required across smartphones and tablets. Our new Value Index on Product Information Management for 2014 will assess progress of vendors and their investments in products to help you determine which ones can best meet your needs.
Just as quality information is critical, so is the ability to use analytics to build metrics that can provide immediate visibility into the progress of sales. Depending on periodic reports and dashboards doesn’t work in the accelerated pace of business today. Mature organizations are using predictive analytics and data mining of big data repositories to extract previously inaccessible insights; this can be critical for large sales organizations that sell large volumes of products. We will assess the advances in sales analytics in a new benchmark to determine how they have facilitated change in sales operations and increased efficiency in their processes. We already found in 2013 through our benchmark research in location analytics are helping provide a competitive edge on the ability to sell effectively in a territory but also how they are designed and optimized to achieve specific quotas. A new generation of sales analytics are advancing and accessible through mobile technology. In addition our 2014 Value Index in Mobile Business Intelligence assessed 16 vendors of business intelligence tools on their ability to provide best in class accessibility through across smartphones and tablets.
These advances and others provide for sales organizations a variety of applications and tools that can be used by sales executives, management, operations managers and account representatives. Sales organizations also need improvement in other areas including learning and coaching, compensation and incentives, forecasting, setting objectives, activity tracking, recognition and rewards. In 2014 we will conduct new research on next-generation technologies such as social collaboration for coaching and improving skills and on mobile devices to track and assess sales efforts. Better use of coaching and playbooks can help everyone in sales find and apply best practices or the right sales assets to use in communicating with prospects. On another front, industry pundits and vendors are buzzing about gamification in motivating sales, this is nothing new, and there are practical ways of having contests and leader boards for the sales team or individual quotas.
Our new benchmark research coming out in 2014 examines the automation of compensation plans and incentives for sales. New tools make them readily accessible at any time to help sales reps and managers determine progress toward targets; these offer an automated way to escape the silos of spreadsheets and documents. We will also assess the state of vendors and products in the Value Index for Sales Compensation in 2014. In a related area it is also critical to optimize the effectiveness of sales quotas and align them to territory management, which can help maximize the potential of sales organizations. Also marketing and sales can align their efforts through use of demand generation to ensure the tracking of inbound and outbound marketing feeds into business processes through nurturing of dialogue and interactions. And in 2013 we saw significant improvement to integrate configuration, pricing and quote (CPQ) management into the deal process and the SFA aspects of opportunities.
I’ll say again that all of this change means we cannot depend on conventional wisdom that says you can just use SFA and personal productivity tools to understand and improve sales performance. Our research has found that impediments such as inconsistent execution (53%), scattered information (48%) and limited visibility (42%) are motivating technology investments. Analytics help to develop metrics for performance and planning, and the use of big data to mine and harvest information assets, can help. Moving to applications that automate interaction among sales teams can help achieve a common set of goals.
Our benchmark research in various aspects of sales continues to find significant opportunities for organizational improvement through better tools. Applications are easier to access and use from the cloud or on mobile technology. Dedicated software can help interconnect sales with the other lines of business. For example, a dedicated approach to sales and operations planning can help ensure that the forecast and planning process connects sales, operations and finance. In the area of talent management that my colleague covers that can enhance the range of key employees activities for sales including recruiting, onboarding to learning, performance and career planning, which can be done more effectively through collaboration between sales and HR. Many providers of sales applications are beginning to advance in this area to directly help sales be as efficient as possible.
Making sales people and processes more efficient and effective in using technology built for its particular purposes is critical to ensure the best outcomes. Sales will need to think beyond conventional wisdom and examine what is needed to be effective from sales management, manager and operations but also down to how help every account manager be as efficient as possible. Sales should also explore building alliances with finance and IT to see where faster investments can accelerate the potential to achieve the sales targets and revenue expectations of the organization. Use our sales-related research and assessments of applications and technology across vendors to learn where your opportunities may lie.
CEO & Chief Research Officer