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.
Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer