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At its annual MicroStrategy World conference, this provider of analytics and business intelligence systems for business and IT introduced a new version of its flagship product, MicroStrategy 9s. Among many advances it adds enterprise grade security with MicroStrategy Usher as part of the maintenance update to its 9.4.1 release. Security is increasingly critical for analytics and BI. Technologies that work intensively with data, including reporting, business intelligence, analytics and data preparation, have access to a range of applications and databases and could leave gaps in access controls and security of essential business data. Already in 2015 the data breach at Anthem put more than 80 million medical records at risk. Our benchmark research in big data analytics finds that integration into security and user access frameworks is a very important capability to 37 percent of organizations.

MicroStrategy has spent years and significant investment of resources on MicroStrategy Usher. On the company’s mobile platform Usher provides multifactor authentication that includes fingerprinting for biometrics, unique identification through smartphone verification and a mobile device pass code to ensure secure access. Further identification security is offered through geo-fencing, which requires a user to be within range of a specified access point such as a building or a computer, by permitting access only during a specific time window or using QR code scanning to rapidly match the individual with authorized access. At the conference MicroStrategy demonstrated VR2014_TechInnovation_AwardWinnerthese security techniques along with AES-128 GCM encryption of data on devices and in transit.

Ventana Research recognized MicroStrategy Usher with a Technology Innovation Award in 2014 for using mobile technology to provide secure access to applications, information and even physical locations; in the last case it has partnered with building companies such as Honeywell. Organizations should realize the risk of having only single sign-on through insecure passwords, which can expose access to all their systems. Usher is available as part of MicroStrategy 9s or as a stand-alone product.

On another advanced technology front, MicroStrategy has advanced its cloud computing offering to embrace Amazon Web Services (AWS). This partnership can provide flexibility for its customers while reducing the effort it must put into building vr_Big_Data_Analytics_15_new_technologies_enhance_analyticsout its own data centers to support its products. Here also the company is addressing security of information and systems. MicroStrategy Secure Cloud includes enterprise security capabilities to ensure authenticated access. This is an important feature: Our big data integration benchmark research finds that security concerns are the most common barrier (in 54% of organizations) to using big data through cloud computing. Many buyers want to reduce the amount of software they have to license and install, but they must have confidence that their data is safe in on-demand cloud systems. Keeping it simple but secure for cloud computing is critical, and our research finds room for improvement here across the technology industry.

Regarding big data MicroStrategy has advanced its computing power through PRIME, its in-memory and parallel processing technology. Our research in big data analytics finds that in-memory systems are the most sought-after innovation in half of organizations seeking to enhance analysis. That research also shows that the number and dispersal of data sources is a major issue. More than one-third (36%) of organizations have six to 15 sources and one-fourth (26%) have 16 or more information sources that need to be integrated for optimum access. And blending data from so many sources raises security concerns; in our research in big data integration security is the fourth-most important data activity, cited by 61 percent of organizations. MicroStrategy continues its efforts to help organizations get access to any data sources. For example, it now supports the Oracle Database 12c with in-memory and databases releases and has embedded its BI software in Oracle appliances that become big data machines. In addition MicroStrategy has embraced Apache Spark to maximize compute potential across Hadoop, NoSQL and RDBMSs and expands its database support every quarter. Earlier in 2014 MicroStrategy announced support for MarkLogic 7 NoSQL technology, which is becoming more relevant in the analytics and BI market. MicroStrategy also has been continuing its efforts to support data preparation tasks performed by analysts rather than administrators as some other vendors do. Our big data analytics research finds that in creating and deploying information and using analytics, almost half (47%) of organizations spend the largest portion of time in data preparation; this is true across customer service, finance, HR and other operational areas.

Like many others MicroStrategy discovered painfully in 2014 that overall the IT market for purchasing software to deploy on-premises has slowed down and specifically that the BI market has reached a saturation point in organizations that have more than US$10 billion in revenue. Even so the company exceeded $579 million in total revenue for 2014. Its investments in cloud computing over the last several years have helped it vr_Big_Data_Analytics_12_benefits_of_visualizing_big_datathrough this transition. To adjust to the market changes it has brought in new executives including CTO Tim Lang, who has decades of experience dating back to Holistic Systems and Crystal Software, and CMO Mark Gambill who has over 18 years’ experience leading marketing teams; these two are streamlining their respective areas to make them more efficient. MicroStrategy continues to get brand-name customers on board with its mobile and analytic offerings, and its focus on security in 2015 should help in these efforts. In the past several years demand has been strong for visualization-related discovery and analytics tools among the lines of business and analysts, and now MicroStrategy has caught up and matched these capabilities. Visualization and presentation of analytics and data remain very important, according to our research: Half (49%) of organizations said it helps those who have the right skills perform analytics faster. Our research also finds that the majority of businesses want analytics to be simpler and easier to understand and available quickly on their mobile devices.

In our 2014 Value Index on Mobile BI, MicroStrategy earned the Hot Vendor rating for its mobile business intelligence VRMobileBIVI_HotVendortechnology across device platforms, primarily for Apple and Android support. But MicroStrategy will have to ante up its support for Microsoft who is making inroads with smartphones and even more so with its Surface 3 tablets and also with new generations of notebooks using Windows Touch, which enables the use of gestures in Windows; Microsoft is finding opportunities in businesses that are phasing out older desktop and laptop computers with new ones running Windows Touch technology. MicroStrategy in 2014 simplified packaging and pricing of MicroStrategy Mobile and its Web products that operate on its MicroStrategy Server platform. MicroStrategy is building on a solid year of technology advancement as I pointed out in 2014 and is poised for innovation. It provided a sneak peek at MicroStrategy World of MicroStrategy 10 (now in beta and early release), which will up the ante with the next generation of in-memory analytics and simpler administration. Developments include further support of Apple Mac OS and iOS and advancing visualization and sophistication of analytics, which may be available fairly early in 2015.

I believe that MicroStrategy should do more with search vr_Customer_Analytics_02_drivers_for_new_customer_analyticsand collaborative capabilities, which our research finds to be a priority for business professionals (less so for IT). All BI vendors must be careful to listen to all audiences and stop paying attention only to IT. They will need to make sure that those in the lines of business understand how they can use analytics within the context of solving problems and opportunities, and make it as easy as possible for them do so on their own. Vendors also must understand their purchasers’ own business priorities. For instance, our next-generation customer analytics benchmark research shows that improving the customer experience and customer service strategy are the top drivers in this analytics segment. The release of MicroStrategy 9s and the upcoming MicroStrategy 10 continue this company’s prominence as an enterprise-class provider. We advise organizations to assess its evolving portfolio to identify missing elements in their existing BI and analytics deployments, with an eye on mobile platforms and security of data.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

Our latest benchmark research into the market for location analytics software finds significant demand for location-related technology that can improve business outcomes and generateVentanaResearch_LocationAnalytics relevant information for various types of users. (Location analytics is an extension of business analytics that can enhance the sophistication of data and processes by adding a geographic context.)  My last analyst perspective on this topic discussed the business value of insights based on geography and what organizations are doing to advance their efforts here. Our research also shows, however, that most still lack satisfaction and confidence in using the technology. Just 12 percent of all participants said they are very satisfied with the location information and analytics available in their organization. Further analysis shows that satisfaction increases with use of a dedicated application for location analytics: 71 percent of those are satisfied or very satisfied, substantially more than those using location analytics within a BI tool (22%); findings are similar for both B2B and B2C use. We find similar levels of confidence in the quality of location information: 15 percent of those using a dedicated application are very confident in their location analytics. Confidence in the reliability of such information is essential to more organizations adopting location analytics.

vr_LA_driving_change_in_location_analyticsOne cause of limited satisfaction and confidence appears to be the difficulty of analyzing information that has a location context. Two-thirds of organizations said doing so requires significant effort or some effort, and 17 percent said that is very difficult or they cannot do it. Thus it is not surprising that about three in fiveorganizations plan to change the way they use location information in the next 12 to 18 months. For more than 40 percent each, that change is driven by efforts to improve processes: a new initiative to improve information and decision-making (51%), a need to improve business-to-business planning and collaboration (50%), the desire to promote operational efficiency (49%) and as part of a wider analytics and business intelligence initiative (44%). Participants with IT titles most often identified as the driver a new initiative improving information and decision-making (61%), as did those from the services (69%) and government (63%) industry sectors; those working in lines of business insisted more on seeking change to improve B2B planning and collaboration (54%). The need for improvement shows that organizations recognize a potentially important role for location analytics in various business processes, from information use to decision-making.

A range of technologies can be used for location analytics, vr_LA_dedicated_technology_provides_satisfactionbut not all options work equally well. Today nearly half (49%) of organizations use spreadsheets heavily for analyzing information that includes location data; significantly fewer use other tools heavily – custom applications (36%), analytic or BI tools (34%) and a geographic information system (GIS, 23%). Many organizations use business applications heavily for analyzing this type of information, most often customer relationship management (CRM, 28%), supply chain management (16%) and enterprise asset management (14%) systems. Yet heavy users of a GIS or a dedicated application are the ones most often very satisfied (49%), and heavy users of spread­sheets are very satisfied least often (16%). Among those saying that the use of location analytics has im­proved their results, spreadsheet users ranked last (35%), far behind users of a GIS (55%) and analytic or BI tools (49%). Organizations that use a dedicated tool for location analytics (49%) are the most satisfied significantly more than those that use only spreadsheets (16%).

A look at the capabilities necessary for effective location analytics indicates why tools designed for the purpose get better results. More than three in five organizations said three basic capabilities are important: geographic representation of data, visual metrics associated with locations on a map, and selecting and analyzing locations on a map. One-half to one-third said interacting with maps and locations for further analysis, determining distance and drive time, and adding layers to maps are important. All of these basic capabilities are the building blocks for conducting specific analytics that can identify or recommend actions from the mashup of data about a location or to provide insights to guide decisions based on location-specific indicators.

Another technology approach used most frequently is business intelligence (BI). These tools are designed for reporting, creating dashboards and general access to analytic information such as metrics. BI tools and processes are established in both IT departments and lines of business, and location information can further enhance BI efforts. Nearly half (48%) of participants in this research ranked business intelligence interfaces as the most important to integrate with other enterprise software; custom interfaces was a distant second at only 13 percent. IT participants (55%) put BI first more often than did those in business (44%), and manufacturing (55%) ranked it higher than other industries. BI also is the application most often integrated with location analytics (45%), even more so in the largest companies by number of employees (56%) and by annual revenue (65%). In terms of planning and developing a strategy to use location analytics with other systems, most intend to integrate it with marketing automation (33%), sales force automation (30%) and enterprise content management (also 30%).

However, the research also finds impediments in using BI and location analytics together. Almost half  (46%) of participating organizations said that integrating the two requires significant effort; another 16 percent said doing that is very difficult and requires substantial time or that they have no practical way to do it. On a positive note, integration of these two technologies has advanced significantly in the last several years, and it is easier to exchange data and add it to presentations. In addition, organizations that use business intelligence to conduct location analytics reported benefits, particularly improving the customer experience (21%) and gaining competitive advantage (20%). More than three in five companies that use BI with location analytics are very satisfied (17%) or satisfied (44%) with theinformation and analytics they have available. Thus the research clearly shows that integrating location information into business intelligence can deliver value.

Looking at location information in a broader sense we find many organizations using consumer mapping to plot data quickly, predominantly free software such as from Google (which 45% use) and Microsoft (31%). The research also reveals that while almost one-third (31%) have used these for enterprise needs, only 8 percent are very satisfied with them. Like personal productivity tools, these tools can help in individual tasks like driving instructions and plotting locations for quick geographic placement, but they lack task support and operational or specific analytical context that requires secure, integrated access to enterprise systems. Free and easy access makes them attractive, but they do not provide enough capabilities for skilled workers to use in complex business tasks.

As deployments grow, so does the need to integrate and adapt location analytics to other technologies. For example, one in five research participants said mobile technology is critical for improving location analytics, as did smaller numbers for cloud computing (15%), big data (15%) and collaboration (8%). Ways of deploying location analytics also are changing, as more organizations realize that buying and installing the software on-premises (which 35% prefer) is not the only approach; nearly as many (33%) want to access it on demand through software as a service (SaaS). Very large companies by number of employees (44%) and annual revenue (39%) have the strongest bias for on-demand deployment, as does manufacturing (43%) among industry sectors. Exploiting the full potential of big data investments, whether representing machine data or customer locations, is a prime example of where location analytics can help use data effectively. The research strongly suggests that location analytics will have a place in evolving business technology environments and that broader use of innovative technology will extend the value of this investment also.

vr_LA_location_analytics_requires_experiencesHowever an organization deploys location analytics, the research shows that experience in using it is critical to success. Half of participating organizations have deployed location-focused technology, and the percentage is highest among very large companies by number of employees (56%) and annual revenue (67%). Almost two-thirds (62%) of all companies that have the most experience said location analytics has helped improve results significantly; among those who are somewhat experienced just 23 percent said this.

Organizations of course expect to realize important benefits from software investments. The top five benefits being sought from location analytics are to improve the customer experience and customer satisfaction; gain competitive advantage; improve access to and value of existing information; improve organizational alignment and coordination; and deliver products and services faster. Organizations that use a dedicated technology focus most on gaining competitive advantage (21%) and delivering products and services faster (16%). Investment in a dedicated tool for location analytics can increase the value of an organization’s information and analytics, which improves with experience in using the technology. We recommend that organizations develop a location-specific component in their agenda for analytics. If you want to learn more on the value and potential of technology in location analytics our community is available to help with more depth in best practices and insights on this topic.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

Ventana Research

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