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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 13, 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), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Analytics, Big Data, CIO, Cognitive Computing, Discovery, Exploration, IBM Watson | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
With much fanfare and a rarely seen introduction by CEO Ginni Rometty, IBM launched IBM Watson as a new business unit focused on cognitive computing technology and solutions, now being led by Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin. The announcement is summarized here:. Until now IBM Watson was important but had neither this stature in IBM’s organizational structure nor enough investment to support what the company proclaims is the third phase of computing. As IBM tells it, computing paradigms began with the century-old tabular computing, followed by the age of programmatic computing, in which IBM developed many products and advancements. The third phase is cognitive computing, an area in which the company has invested significantly to advance its technology. IBM has been on this journey for some time, long before the IBM Watson system beat humans on Jeopardy!. Its machine-learning efforts started with the IBM 704 and computer checkers in the 1950s, followed by decades of utilizing the computing power of the IBM 360 mainframe, the IBM AS/400, the IBM RS/6000 and even IBM XT computers in the 1980s. Now IBM Watson is focused on reaching the full potential of cognitive computing.
If IBM is right that cognitive computing will be the next wave of innovation in the industry and a new phase of computing, it has placed itself at the center of a substantial new market opportunity. Even at the most basic level to simplify the process of making information more available is what IBM Watson provides and our information optimization research finds is very important to 65 percent of organization. The company says it has invested $1 billion and placed up to two thousand skilled people in the new business unit. It also is spending $100 million on the incubation of companies that are building on the Watson platform, and has a new and dedicated building in Lower Manhattan, known as Silicon Alley, its focal point for cognitive computing ideas that IBM has unveiled to the public. There is no question that IBM Watson is innovate as we recognized in 2012 as being the recipient of our overall operation innovation technology innovation award.
These recent actions build on IBM’s announcement last fall that it is commercializing IBM Watson to enable developers and partners to innovate on the platform. Its launch of the IBM Watson Developers Cloud marketplace introduces new offerings and content essential to building its ecosystem of resources to meet existing and future demand for applications of cognitive computing. The step is essential in that it will maximize the number of products using IBM Watson and provide IBM with a springboard to exponentially grow its efforts. At the same time, IBM is working with academic institutions
IBM’s announcements included new products to complement the IBM Watson portfolio and give it a broader footprint and value to customers. The first new product announced is IBM Watson Discovery Advisor, a tool that helps pharmaceutical companies plow through massive volumes of big data. This is a good place to start, as harvesting the right information for specific roles and purposes is the foundation of cognitive computing, enabling organizations not just to access information but to synthesize it.
The next announcement was IBM Watson Analytics, a product previously known as Project Neo and introduced to the market last fall, which my colleague Tony Cosentino covered. Incubated in IBM’s business analytics group and using a spectrum of analytic and discovery technology, the product and people who worked on it and other efforts are being transferred to the IBM Watson business unit. Though it was not initially built for IBM Watson today, the discovery and exploratory technology integrates the pillars of analytics, helping facilitate a knowledge discovery process whereby you can explore data through natural language and discover new insights. The move to shift IBM Watson Analytics was unexpected and introduces new pressure to market and sell the product. It has growing potential for line-of-business analysts, who will want to examine this and other tools from IBM’s business analytics group. Only time will tell if IBM will be able to fully monetize the product’s potential through its IBM Watson effort, but the move could be its short-term method to gain customers and revenue. It definitely will be a complement when it interfaces to IBM Watson and utilizes the knowledge that Watson creates.
The next major product announcement was IBM Watson Explorer, a big data analytics tool that enables collaborative discovery, navigation and search across information in applications. Both analytics tools advance the science of big data technologies but focus on more than just the mechanics of what big data does, as described by the “four V’s”: volume, variety, velocity and veracity. Rather, they address the value of what is possible through the so-called W’s, focusing on the who, what, where, when and why. This is what we call information optimization, facilitating the business potential of not just big data but of cognitive computing. For its part, IBM is applying its big data and information management efforts to IBM Watson, categorizing them as IBM Watson foundations. This is critical as our information optimization research finds that organizations do not have enough capabilities to integrate and normalize information from disparate sources as the largest shortcoming of technology in 45 percent of organizations. By integrating and utilizing these big data and business analytics tools as part of IBM Watson, cognitive computing will from a competency perspective be more advanced even if these products are not directly needed for enabling IBM Watson.
With this much at stake IBM was not going to leave customer endorsements to chance, and while it has taken some criticism that customer commitment might not be as high as it has claimed, that question was answered at the IBM Watson event. For one, the medical and healthcare industry was front and center to validate its commitment to IBM, represented by organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Most interesting was an early peek at the potential of mass consumerization of IBM Watson. The first example was presented by e-commerce facilitator Fluid: Its Fluid XPS is focused on changing the digital experience of consumers by gaining access to information about their needs for products and services in a holistic manner. The example it promoted cold weather gear for camping by asking a question as a front end to the North Face website. A second example was the potential to have IBM Watson be the natural language interface for finding a vacation destination, specifying certain criteria like class, price, type and climate of location; today this requires repetitive tasks such as filling out forms and making your own comparisons to determine where you want to go and for what price. The concept was presented by Terry Jones, the former CEO of Sabre and Travelocity and chairman of Kayak. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry and now consults about business innovation through his company, called Essential Ideas. IBM also demonstrated how cognitive computing can provide the next generation of marketing can synthesize the interactions and psychology of individuals to more effectively market to them. These examples point to the potential of enabling natural-language recognition technology to discover relevant responses that guide users’ actions and decisions.
As part of my analysis over the past couple of years, I’ve been following this step forward and wrote about the new category of cognitive computing. In 2013, IBM brought forward IBM Watson Engagement Advisor and focused on smarter customer service through a simpler engagement approach to improving the customer experience, a topic my colleague Richard Snow has assessed. This effort by IBM is as our customer engagement research has found is centered on improving the customer experience as found in 74 percent of organizations. I have also seen IBM demonstrate similar solutions for employees and managers as part of human capital management. More important, these solutions embrace mobile computing whereby devices can be used as input and response tools anywhere, at any time which our research finds smartphones accessible to be used in 73 percent of organizations according to our information optimization research. Intellectually, IBM continues to advance its research and scientific developments to ensure that it can transition its work into products that customers can use. At the launch of the IBM Watson business unit, IBM Research’s Dr. Guruduth Banavar brought forward some of the latest thinking on cognitive science and the ability to teach machines to reason and what is called neurosynaptics, a discussion that is available on IBM Research’s cognitive computing page. The material is fascinating; it provides insight on the future of computing and how it will impact roles and businesses in the next decade.
As it begins to scale its offering, part of IBM’s challenge is to manage the continuous information feeds that effectively make IBM Watson smarter. While IBM does not talk much about the content aspects of what is required, it is clearly more than just loading files, and these efforts are just as important as librarians are to libraries, whereby they are not just stewards to a collection of books but ensure the value and improvement of the library. There is still a level of mystery on the technical mechanics and readiness of the platform that the company needs to address before the natural-language interface is ready to work its magic. In addition, IBM is still using a natural-language form of text and working through how it can make voice mainstream with IBM Watson, as Apple and Google and others have done. IBM has been working on speech in research for some time and more recently with Nuance, who IBM announced a partnership with back in 2011, but it has yet to demonstrate this capability to the mainstream public, which indicates hesitation on how fast it plans to use voice and speech as the interface. While IBM was not able to fully monetize its early efforts in speech technology, it is now becoming mainstream in the consumer market but has yet to evolve significantly in the business markets as part of enterprise software. I am looking forward to seeing more of what it can do in terms of voice and speech input and Watson talking iteratively to help expedite what is truly natural language for humans.
IBM does not often create new business units and elevate them to this level of commitment and investment for the future. While the business goals for IBM Watson are lofty from both revenue and computing perspectives, no other company – not even Microsoft, Oracle or SAP – has both the established technology foundation and the people and financial resources that IBM has to make this a reality. IBM should be congratulated for making the investment in cognitive computing and helping create new jobs and opportunity that will incubate not just in Silicon Alley but across the globe as others realize the full potential. Our technology innovation research finds that increasing the value of an organization is very important to over half (56%) of organizations which is exactly what IBM is hoping will increase its business opportunity. If you want to catch up on the dialogue and resources related to this topic, you can search #IBMWatson on Twitter and follow @IBMWatson. If you want to learn more about IBM Watson and cognitive computing, go to www.ibm.com/watson and you will find more information about the technology, our research on the topic and the value of this new computing paradigm.
CEO & Chief Research Officer