Oracle Leapfrogs BI Competitors By Acquiring Endeca

Boris Evelson

This is a very smart move by Oracle. Until the Siebel and Hyperion acquisitions, Oracle was not a leader in the BI and analytics space. Those acquisitions put them squarely in the top three together with IBM and SAP. However, until this morning, Oracle played mostly in the traditional BI space: reporting, querying, and analytics based on relational databases. But these mainstream relational databases are an awkward fit for BI. You can use them, but it requires lots of tuning and customization and constant optimization — which is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. Unfortunately, row-based RDBMSes like IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and Sybase ASE were originally designed and architected for transaction processing, not reporting and analysis. In order to tune such a RDBMS for BI usage, specifically data warehousing, architects usually:

  • Denormalize data models to optimize reporting and analysis.
  • Build indexes to optimize queries.
  • Build aggregate tables to optimize summary queries.
  • Build OLAP cubes to further optimize analytic queries.
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How Do You Sell BI To The Business Executives?

Boris Evelson

Whoa! Hold your horses. If this is indeed a key challenge that you’ve tried to address in the past without much success, consider switching jobs. This is not a joke. Business intelligence (BI) is an employee market right now; a key challenge for most BI employers is finding, recruiting, and retaining top — or actually any, for that matter — BI talent. Consider that IBM BAO alone added more than 4,000 (!) BI positions in just over a year! Every other major, midsize, and boutique BI consultancy I talk to is struggling to find BI resources. So if you’ve been fighting this uphill Sisyphean battle for a while, consider new channels for your noble efforts.

Now, some more practical advice — albeit not as exciting. Start from the top down. In a few minutes I am getting ready to talk to yet another large client whose CEO does not “get” BI. Can you rightfully blame him/her? Yes and no. Yes, because how can you manage any business without measurement and insight into your internal and external processes? So if your CEO didn’t learn that in his/her MBA 101, suggest that he/she look for another job. And if you’re still standing after that and have suffered only a mild concussion, consider that many BI projects have been less than successful, and ROI on BI — one of the most expensive enterprise apps — is extremely difficult to show. So can you really blame your CEO?

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Question On BI Total Cost Of Ownership

Boris Evelson

I need your help. I am conducting research into business intelligence (BI) software prices: averages, differences between license and subscription deals, differences between small and large vendor offerings, etc. In order to help our clients look beyond just the software pricese and consider the fully loaded total cost of ownership, I also want to throw in service and hardware costs (I already have data on annual maintenance and initial training costs). I’ve been in this market long enough to understand that the only correct answer is “It depends” — on the levels of data complexity, data cleanliness, use cases, and many other factors. But, if I could pin you down to a ballpark formula for budgeting and estimation purposes, what would that be? Here are my initial thoughts — based on experience, other relevant research, etc.

  • Initial hardware as a percentage of software cost = 33% to 50%
  • Ongoing hardware maintenance = 20% of the initial hardware cost
  • Initial design, build, implementation of services. Our rule of thumb has always been 300% to 700%, but that obviously varies by deal sizes. So here’s what I came up with:
    • Less than $100,000 in software = 100% in services
    • $100,000 to $500,000 in software = 300% in services
    • $500,000 to $2 million in software = 200% in services
    • $2 million to $10 million in software = 50% in services
    • More than $10 million in software = 25% in services
  • Then 20% of the initial software cost for ongoing maintenance, enhancements, and support

Thoughts? Again, I am  not looking for “it depends” answers, but rather for some numbers and ranges based on your experience.

Agile Business Intelligence Solution Centers Are More Than Just Competency Centers

Boris Evelson

By Boris Evelson and Rob Karel

Our latest BI solution center (BISC, which in our definition is more than a BICC/BI COE) report is now live on the Forrester website. Here’s a brief summary.

Forrester firmly believes that tried and true best practices for enterprise software development and support just don’t work for business intelligence (BI). Earlier-generation BI support centers — organized along the same lines as support centers for all other enterprise software — fall short when it comes to taking BI’s peculiarities into account. These unique BI requirements include less reliance on the traditional software development life cycle (SDLC) and project planning and more emphasis on reacting to the constant change of business requirements. Forrester recommends structuring your BISC along somewhat different lines than traditional technical support organizations.

Earlier-generation BI support organizations are less than effective because they often

  • Put IT in charge
  • Remain IT-centric
  • Continue to be mostly project-based
  • Focus too much on functional reporting capabilities but ignore the data
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RFQ For BI Software Pricing Research

Boris Evelson

On my Q3 research agenda is a document reviewing typical BI software pricing configurations. Unfortunately, I find that just asking vendors whether they have this or that pricing policy (by number of named users, number of concurrent users, server type, etc.) usually just gets me “Yes, we have it all” or “It depends” answers. Not really useful. So this time I plan to nail down the vendors to three specific quotes given three very specific configurations. Here’s my first cut at the RFQ. I plan to send it out to:

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It's The Dawning Of The Age Of BI DBMS

Boris Evelson

Over the years we’ve learned how to address the key business intelligence (BI) challenges of the past 20 years, such as stability, robustness, and rich functionality. Agility and flexibility challenges now represent BI’s next big opportunity. BI pros now realize that earlier-generation BI technologies and architecture, while still useful for more stable BI applications, fall short in the ever-faster race of changing business requirements. Forrester recommends embracing Agile BI methodology, best practices, and technologies (which we’ve covered in previous research)  to tackle agility and flexibility opportunities. Alternative database management system (DBMS) engines architected specifically for Agile BI will emerge as one of the compelling Agile BI technologies BI pros should closely evaluate and consider for specific use cases.

Why? Because fitting BI into a row-oriented RDBMS is often like putting a square peg into a round hole. In order to tune such a RDBMS for BI usage, specifically data warehousing, BI pros usually:

  • Denormalize data models to optimize reporting and analysis.
  • Build indexes to optimize queries.
  • Build aggregate tables to optimize summary queries.
  • Build OLAP cubes to further optimize analytic queries.
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Big Data Survey

Boris Evelson

Forrester is in the middle of a major research effort on various Big Data-related topics. As part of this research, we’ll be kicking off a client survey shortly. I’d like to solicit everyone’s input on the survey questions and answer options. Here’s the first draft. What am I missing?

  1. Scope. What is the scope of your Big Data initiative?
    1. Enterprise
    2. LOB
    3. Departmental
    4. Regional
    5. Project-based
  2. Status. What is the status of your Big Data initiative?
    1. In production
    2. Piloting
    3. Testing
    4. Evaluating
  3. Industry. Are the questions you are trying to address with your Big Data initiative general or industry-specific?
    1. General
    2. Industry-specific
    3. Both
  4. Domains. What enterprise areas does your Big Data initiative address?
    1. Sales
    2. Marketing
    3. Customer service
    4. Finance
    5. HR
    6. Product development
    7. Operations
    8. Logistics
    9. Brand management
    10. IT analytics
    11. Risk management
  5. Why BigData? What are the main business requirements or inadequacies of earlier-generation BI/DW/ET technologies, applications, and architecture that are causing you to consider or implement Big Data?
    1. Data volume
      1. <10Tb
      2. 10-100Tb
      3. 100Tb-1Pb
      4. >1Pb
    2. Velocity of change and scope/requirements unpredictability
    3. Data diversity
    4. Analysis-driven requirements (Big Data) vs. requirements-driven analysis (traditional BI/DW)
    5. Cost. Big Data solutions are less expensive than traditional ETL/DW/BI solutions
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Continuation Of The BI Software Plus Services Convergence Trend

Boris Evelson

As we predicted more than three years ago, BI software and services are converging. Today, Deloitte announced its acquisition of the assets of the BI SaaS vendor Oco.  This is a great confirmation of several trends:

  • BI is hot. All of the leading management consultancies and systems integrators are putting BI at the top of their priority lists.
  • BI is all about software plus services. There’s no such thing as  “plug-and-play” BI. One always needs to bundle it with services to integrate data, customize metrics and applications, etc.
  • BI is a perfect fit for any firm with a software-plus-services offering, as demonstrated by
    • IBM acquisition of PWC, Cognos, and SPSS
    • HP acquisition of Knightsbridge and Vertica
    • SAS acquisition of Baseline Consulting
    • EMC acquisition of Conchango and Greenplum.
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Is SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Worth The Wait?

Boris Evelson

SAP BusinessObjects (BO) 4.0 suite is here. It’s been in the ramp-up phase since last fall; according to our sources, SAP plans to announce its general availability sometime in May, possibly at Sapphire. It’s about a year late (SAP first told Forrester that it planned to roll it out in the spring of 2010, so I wanted to include it in the latest edition of the Forrester Wave™ for enterprise BI platforms but couldn’t), and the big question is: Was it worth the wait? In my humble opinion, yes, it was! Here are seven major reasons to upgrade or to consider SAP BI if you haven’t done so before:

  1. BO Universe (semantic layer) can now be sourced from multiple databases, overcoming a major obstacle of previous versions.
  2. Universe can now access MOLAP (cubes from Microsoft Analysis Services, Essbase, Mondrian, etc.) data sources directly via MDX without having to “flatten them out” first. In prior versions, Universe could only access SQL sources.
  3. There’s now a more common look and feel to individual BI products, including Crystal, WebI, Explorer, and Analysis (former BEx). This is another step in the right direction to unify SAP BI products, but it’s still not a complete solution. It will be a while before all SAP BI products are fully and seamlessly integrated, as well as other BI tools/platforms that grew more organically.
  4. All SAP BI tools, including Xcelsius (Dashboards in 4.0), that did not have access to BO Universe now do.
  5. There’s now a tighter integration with BW via direct exposure of BW metadata (BEx queries and InfoProviders) to all BO tools.
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Trends 2011 And Beyond: Business Intelligence

Boris Evelson

Forrester continues to see ever-increasing levels of interest in and adoption of business intelligence (BI) platforms, applications, and processes. But while BI maturity in enterprises continues to grow, and BI tools have become more function-rich and robust, the promise of efficient and effective BI solutions remains challenging at best and elusive at worst. Why? Two main reasons: First, BI is all about best practices and lessons learned, which only come with years of experience; and second, earlier-generation BI approaches cannot easily keep up with ever-changing business and regulatory requirements. In the attached research document, Forrester reviews the top best practices for BI and predicts what the next-generation BI technologies will be. We summarize all of this in a single über-trend and best practice: agility. IT and business pros should adopt Agile BI processes, technologies, and architectures to improve their chances of delivering successful BI initiatives.

Business intelligence (BI) software has emerged as a hot topic in the past few years; in 2011, most companies will again focus their software investment plans on BI. More than 49% of the companies that responded to our most recent Forrsights Software Survey have concrete plans to implement or expand their use of BI software within the next 24 months. But being interested in BI software and spending money to adopt BI tools and processes do not necessarily translate into successful implementations: Forrester’s most recent BI maturity survey indicated that enterprise BI maturity levels are still below average (2.75 on a scale of 5, a modest 6% increase over 2009). Why are BI maturity levels so low, given the amount of money firms spend on it? Three factors contribute to this rift and can lead to less-than-successful BI initiatives:

  1. Implementing BI requires using best practices and building upon lessons learned.
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