The Cognos 10 Launch And My Key Takeaways From IBM IOD

Boris Evelson

I don’t know when, but at some point in the not too distant future, the world of enterprise software and applications will become simpler. We will only have four to six vendors and platforms to choose from, as compared to the hundreds of options we have today. I know many of you will argue with me on this point, but if you consider the speed at which IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft are acquiring software companies, that’s just inevitable. While this future state may not happen for another 10 years, when it does, IBM will most likely be best positioned (with Oracle a close runner-up) to provide that one-stop shopping for everything from hardware to desktop applications to consulting services (the only big missing piece is ERP, and therefore I am convinced IBM will sooner or later acquire an ERP vendor).

This is precisely my key takeaway from IBM's IOD event in Vegas (#iodgc) — a sheer breadth of IBM software and services offering. Front and center of the announcements made at the IOD was the launch of Cognos 10. Here are my key takeaways from this new major release. As always, there's some good news and some not-so-good news (but then our lives and BI jobs will become too boring, right?)

I like:

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Results Of Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2010

Boris Evelson

As I was doing research for our Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2010, I couldn’t help but remember a dear old friend of mine, who was/is one of the nicest and smartest people, but often a bit naïve and too idealistic. At one point when we were watching the Olympic Games on TV, she shed a tear and asked, “Why can’t they all win?” Unlike the Olympic Games, though, it’s good news all around for all of the vendors covered in our latest evaluation. Here’s it is in a nutshell.

In Forrester's 145-criteria evaluation of enterprise business intelligence (BI) platform vendors, we found that IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Oracle, Information Builders, SAS, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy led the pack because of completeness of not just BI, but overall information management functionality. Actuate came out as a Strong Performer on the heels of the Leaders offering equal — or in some cases superior — BI functionality, but it mostly relies on partners for the rest of its information management capabilities. TIBCO Spotfire also came out as a Strong Performer offering top choices for analytics, even surpassing other Strong Performers in the overall information management arena based on its traditional strength in middleware and application integration. Last but not least, QlikTech and Panorama Software moved up from Contenders and into the Strong Performers category based on the continuous improvements in their analytical capabilities.

Our evaluation uncovered a market in which:

  • IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Oracle, and SAS continue to lead the pack.
  • Information Builders, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy move into the Leaders category.
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Not All In-Memory Analytics Tools Are Created Equal

Boris Evelson

I get many questions from clients interested in evaluating different in-memory technologies. My first advice is not to mix apples and oranges and clearly understand the differences between in-memory indexes, in-memory OLAP, in-memory ROLAP, in-memory spreadsheets, and other approaches. See more details in my recent blog entry "I forget: what's in-memory?" to understand the differences. Then once you zero in on a particular segment, you can indeed do an apples-to-apples comparison. Let's say we pick the category of in-memory associative indexes, which would include Microsoft PowerPivot, QlikTech, and TIBCO Spotfire. We also sometimes run across Advizor Solutions, but typically in smaller clients (and we do not include them in The Forrester Wave™ process). I recommend a three-step approach to compare these four tools:

  1. First, compare all of the commodity features of the vendors and tools like data integration and portal integration, operational features like administration, security, and others. You can leverage the detailed evaluation behind our slightly outdated 2008 BI Forrester Wave, if you are in a hurry, or you can wait for another month or so and the 2010 update will be published (it's in the last stages of editing at this point). Or if you are a Forrester IT client — not a vendor — client, send me a note and I'll share a draft preview with you.
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Results Of The Forrester Wave™: Open Source Business Intelligence (BI), Q3 2010

Boris Evelson

Open source software (OSS) and business intelligence (BI) are two related market segments where Forrester sees continually increasing interest and adoption levels. BI specifically continues to be one of the top priorities on everyone's mind. The main reason? Enterprises that do not squeeze the last ounce of information out of their data stores and applications, and do not focus on getting strategic, tactical, and operational insight into their customers, products, and operations, risk falling behind competition. And when it comes to open source, 2009 could best be described as "the year IT professionals realized that open source runs their business." The reason is simple: Over the past few years, we've seen that developers adopt open source products tactically without the explicit approval of their managers. This has shown up in numerous surveys where the actual adoption of open source ranks higher than what IT managers report. Well no longer: Forrester's Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009 shows that management has caught on to the fact that developers increasingly use open source to run key parts of their IT infrastructure. And management has grown increasingly comfortable with it. In fact, throughout 2009, most client inquiries Forrester received regarding open source were focused on how to move from tactical adoption to strategic exploitation.

Yet, when you put the 2 and 2 together (OSS and BI), you mostly get a mixed market, where one unfortunately has to compare apples to oranges. Why? Before plunging into a tool evaluation and selection process, ask yourself the following questions, and make sure you are doing a like-to-like comparison:

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Decision Management, Possibly The Last Frontier In BI

Boris Evelson

Just read an excellent article on the subject by Tom Davenport. We at Forrester Research indeed see the same trend, where more advanced enterprises are starting to venture into combining reporting and analytics with decision management.  In my point of view, this breaks down into at least two categories:

  • Automated (machine) vs. non automated (human) decisions, and
  • Decisions that involve structured (rules and workflows) and unstructured (collaboration) processes
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Why I Don't Want To Research BI Market Size

Boris Evelson

I know, I know, this is what analysts do. But I personally would never want to get involved in doing a BI market size – it’s open game for serious critique. Here are some of the reasons, but the main one is a good old “garbage in garbage out.” I am not aware of any BI market size study that took into account the following questions:

  • What portion of the DBMS market (DW, DBMS OLAP) do you attribute to BI?
  • What portion of the BPM market (BAM, process dashboards, etc.) do you attribute to BI?
  • What portion of the ERP market (with built-in BI apps, such as Lawson, Infor, etc.) do you attribute to BI?
  • What portion of the portal market (SharePoint is the best example) do you attribute to BI?
  • What portion of the search market (Endeca, Google Analytics, etc.) do you attribute to BI?
  • What is the market size of custom developed BI applications?
  • What is the market size of self built BI apps using Excel, Access, etc?
  • On the other side, what is the % of licenses sold that are shelfware and should not be counted?

Plus many more unknowns. But, if someone indeed did do such a rough estimate, my bet is that the actual BI market size is probably 3x to 4x larger than any current estimate.

Use A Four-Step Approach To Select The Right BI Services Provider

Boris Evelson

BI projects are never short, and, alas, many of them don't end since a fast-paced business environment often introduces new requirements, enhancements, and updates before you're even done with your first implementation. Therefore, we typically recommend doing sufficient due diligence upfront when selecting a BI services provider — as you may be stuck with them for a long time. We recommend the following key steps in your selection process:

  1. Map BI project requirements to potential providers. Firms should use Forrester's "BI Services Provider Short-Listing Tool" to create a shortlist of potential providers. With the tool you can input details about your geographic scope, technology needs, and the type of third-party support you need (i.e., consulting versus implementation versus hosting/outsourcing).  The tool then outputs a list of potential providers that meet the criteria. For each potential fit, the tool also generates a provider profile summary that offers key details around practice size, characteristics, and areas of expertise.
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Join Me For A BI Strategy Workshop In Cambridge, Mass., On October 19, 2010

Boris Evelson

Business intelligence (BI) continues to be front and center on the agendas of businesses of all sizes and in all industries and geographies. Ever-increasing data volumes, complexity of global operations, and demanding regulatory reporting requirements are just some of the reasons. But also, more and more businesses realize that BI is not just a tool but rather a key corporate asset that they can use to survive, compete, and succeed in an otherwise increasingly commoditized global economy.

However, we consistently find that many BI initiatives fail and even more are less than successful. Well, maybe we can help. Even if just a little bit. Come to our interactive one-day BI Strategy Workshop to learn the fundamentals and best practices for building effective and efficient BI platforms and applications. The Workshop will also include hands-on exercises with tangible deliverables that you can take back to your teams to help you jump-start or adjust the course of your BI initiatives.

Why attend? Because hundreds of organizations have already benefited from reading Forrester research and working with Forrester analysts on the topics covered in this Workshop. I plan to present Forrester’s most recent research on:

  • Why are BI initiatives at the top of everyone's agenda, while many of them still fail?
  • What are some of the best practices necessary to achieve successful BI implementations?
  • What are some of the next-generation BI technologies and trends that you can't overlook, such as Agile BI and self-service BI?
  • How do you assess your BI maturity so that you can get a solid starting point on the way to your BI vision and target BI state?
  • How do you assess whether your organization has a solid BI strategy?
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Where Do You Draw The Lines Between Business And IT Ownership Of Data And Information?

Boris Evelson

I get many questions on this subject and it often turns into almost a religious debate. Let's throw some structure into it. Here's a decision-to-raw-data stack.

  1. Decisions
  2. Strategy
  3. Policies
  4. Objectives (e.g., clear understanding of what is driving revenue performance)
  5. Goals (e.g., achieve x% income growth)
  6. Calculated metrics (any combination, variation of the standard metrics or KPIs)
  7. KPIs (e.g., profitability, liquidity, shareholders value)
  8. KPMs (e.g., enterprise value, trailing/forward price/earnings)
  9. Metrics (e.g., fee income growth %, non-fee income growth %)
  10. Dimensions (part of MDM, e.g., customers, customer segments, products, time, region)
  11. Pre-calculated attributes (standard, cross-enterprise metrics, KPIs, and KPMs)
  12. Pre-built aggregates (used to speed up reports and queries)
  13. Analytical data (DW, DM)
  14. Operational data (ERP, CRM, financials, HR)

Obviously, it's never a clear-cut, binary decision, but in my humble opinion:

  • 1-6 should emphasize business ownership
  • 10-14 should emphasize IT ownership
  • 7-9 is where it gets murky, and ownership depends on whether metric/KPI/KPM is: 1) standard and fixed, 2) fluid and changes frequently, 3) different by product, line of business, or region.

What did I miss? Thoughts?

Best practices for using spreadsheets as BI tools

Boris Evelson

By Boris Evelson

We all know that the war of fighting the proliferation of spreadsheets (as BI or as any other applications) in enterprises has been fought and lost. Gone are the days when BI and performance management vendors web sites had “let us come in and help you get rid of your spreadsheets” message in big bold letters on front pages. In my personal experience – implementing hundreds of BI platforms and solutions – the more BI apps you deliver, the more spreadsheets you end up with. Rolling out a BI application often just means an easier way for someone to access and export data to a spreadsheet. Even though some of the in memory analytics tools are beginning to chip away at the main reasons why spreadsheets in BI are so ubiquitous  (self service BI with no modeling or analysis constraints, and little to no reliance on IT), the spreadsheets for BI are here to stay for a long, long, long time.

With that in mind, let me offer a few best practices for controlling and managing (not getting rid of !) spreadsheets as a BI tool:

  1. Create a spreadsheet governance policy. Make it flexible – if it’s not, people will fight it. Here are a few examples of such policies:
    • - Spreadsheets can be used for reporting and analysis that support processes that do not go beyond individuals or small work groups vs. cross functional, cross enterprise processes  
    • - Spreadsheets can be used for reporting and analysis that are not part of mission critical processes
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