I get this request almost on a weekly basis: "Boris, my BI vendor is offering me the following discount, is it a good deal or not?" The first question is what are you comparing it to? It reminds me of an old joke: Q. How much is 5 times 5. A. Depends on whether you're buying or selling. Many of the vendors do not publish or reveal list prices, or even if they do, they are revealed only under NDA to each client, so good luck comparing what the vendor told you and what they told another client. So what ARE you comparing it to?
Another problem, IMHO, is that many of the vendors muddy the waters with CPU based prices, clock speed based prices, etc. Yes, CPU, server, core based prices make sense if you are growing and want to lock in a good deal now, before you grow and expand. But in the end, you, the buyer, still need to figure out how much the software costs you per seat, per user. So with both of these challenges in mind I looked through my 20+ years of notes on BI contracts and per seat license costs and came up with the following. Notice, an interesting X-factor (obviously, I fixed the numbers a bit to have it look nicely like that):
BI output consumer, no interactivity $300
BI output consumer, with light (sort, filter, rank) interactivity $600 (or 2x)
BI output consumer with heavy interactivity (interactive dashboards, search, etc.) $1,200 (or 4x)
One of my favorite research coverage areas is the evolving world of open source software. I like it because innovation is the watchword for the space – evolving technology, evolving business models, and evolving developer culture are fascinating to watch (if you don’t have the opportunity to write code yourself, watching other bright people figure out the best ways to do it is the next best thing). One of my favorite descriptions of the space from the early days of free software is Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend doing so.
For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about the evolution of the Cathedral/Bazaar model, and its eventual end state. If we stick with the commercial analogies through time, we move past guilds and exchanges, and we find ourselves at today’s commercial masterpiece – the shopping mall. In the shopping mall, the landlords provides common conveniences like plumbing, heating, and free parking, and tenets hawk their wares. Small startups might rent pushcarts in the center atriums, while anchor stores like Macy’s and Sears get big hunks of display space at the ends of the mall.
I think we’re beginning to see the development of the Mall as an alternative to the Cathedral/Bazaar model. The Eclipse Foundation is a good example of mixed source development, with anchor stores like IBM and Oracle. Now after spending time at Google I/O this week I think it’s pretty clear we have another mall forming – “The Mall of Google.”
Over the past three months, I've been heads down working on our upcoming "Forrester Wave™ For Human-Centric BPM Suites, Q3 2010" report. I've also been on the road over the past five weeks attending and presenting at different BPM vendor conferences - gotta love Vegas! I must admit I have barely had time to keep tabs on my different BPM tribes - blog sites, Twitter conversations, and LinkedIn discussions. I've been checking in here and there around different camp fires and adding a little spark occasionally when something interesting caught my eye.
But today, I ran across a simmering debate around social BPM on different blog sites, here and here. Seems like this is fast becoming the hottest topic in BPM. Guess I shouldn't be surprised since I helped drive the conversation around social BPM over the last year. It's very good to see the conversation evolve and also good to see different perspectives on how social can help improve all aspects of BPM initiatives.
Earlier this month I delivered a presentation on social BPM at IBM's Impact 2010 event. This presentation provided the most up to date perspective on how we see customers using and applying social techniques and methodologies to BPM initiatives. During the session, we framed social BPM in the following way:
As someone who has been covering cloud computing since the dawn of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) I’m constantly in education mode about what is and isn’t cloud computing. To borrow an analogy from my Forrester colleague Ted Schadler’s keynote at last year’s IT Forum, the challenge is a lot like helping blind men discern an elephant through just the parts of the animal they can reach. One feels the trunk and declares it a cylindrical, yet hairy and warm snake. The other calls it a strong, tough and deeply rooted tree upon feeling its hind leg. Each examiner brings their own experience and context to the challenge as well as their own judgments, then leaps to the conclusion that best fits their desires.
Here I sit finally getting a chance to reflect on my 30 hours in Saudi Arabia. Yes, just a little more than one day. But one day was enough to change any preconception that I might have had, and spark my interest to learn more. My “day” started with the VIP treatment through passport control – which I must say was much appreciated. The airport in Riyadh is certainly not Dubai International – far from it. But if there were any disappointment at the inauspicious first impression, it stopped there. Although to set the stage, I was invited to Saudi Arabia by IBM to participate in an analyst event showcasing “Smarter Cities” initiatives in the Kingdom. So admittedly, I was only presented the “smart” side of Riyadh. I am eager to see more.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
My friend and highly respected colleague, Wayne Eckerson from TDWI, posted a great article called “Purple BI People”. In the article he described some of the best practices for business and IT alignment, and cross-functional skills sets needed for successful and effective BI professionals. Wayne, I loved the blue cow analogy, you know that I always think in metaphors, analogies, similies and associations. But, while I completely agree with Wayne in his near term assessment, best practices and recommendations, I would like to suggest another long term point of view.
Can business and IT ever align on BI? Can business ever be satisfied with IT for delivering successful and effective BI applications? Is there such a thing as BT (Business Technology, the phrase that Forrester coined and promotes) in BI?
I used to think we could deliver on that promise. Not so sure it’s that straightforward now. Just look at some of the hopelessly diametrically opposing business and IT priorities. I hear the following complaints from my clients day in and day out:
Business is all about revenue generation. While IT can support that, much more often cost cutting is IT's highest priority.
Business wants solutions now. Not tomorrow. IT needs to go through due diligence of testing and approving BI applications. Right now, on demand does not sit well with IT.
Business wants to react to constantly changing BI requirements. IT has to plan.
Business sometimes is willing to do something “quick and dirty” – even at the expense of potentially jeopardizing accuracy and adherence, compliance with standards. IT is all about compliance and sticking with standards.
There’s an old adage that the worst running car in the neighborhood belongs to the auto mechanic. Why? Because they like to tinker with it. We as IT pros love building and tinkering with things, too, and at one point we all built our own PC and it probably ran about as well as the mechanic's car down the street.
While the mechanic’s car never ran that well, it wasn’t a reflection on the quality of his work on your car because he drew the line between what he can tinker with and what can sink him as a professional (well, most of the time). IT pros do the same thing. We try not to tinker with computers that will affect our clients or risk the service level agreement we have with them. Yet there is a tinkerer’s mentality in all of us. This mentality is evidenced in our data centers, where the desire to configure our own infrastructure and build out our own best-of-breed solutions has resulted in an overly complex mish-mash of technologies, products and management tools. There’s lots of history behind this mess and lots of good intentions, but nearly everyone wants a cleaner way forward.
In the vendors’ minds, this way forward is clearly one that has more of their stuff inside and the latest thinking here is the new converged infrastructure solutions they are marketing, such as HP’s BladeSystem Matrix and IBM’s CloudBurst. Each of these products is the vendor’s vision of a cleaner, more integrated and more efficient data center. And there’s a lot of truth to this in what they have engineered. The big question is whether you should buy into this vision.
Yesterday I attended the first day of SuccessFactors’ California customer conference at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Efficiency, speed, and good orchestration were evident throughout the day. The CEO, Lars Dalgaard, is a high-energy person who exudes confidence in the growth of his company. He is a real showman, and rather than giving a high-level company overview, his 90-minute presentation focused on product demos with touchscreen projections that worked fairly well. He clearly knows the products, has market momentum, and is driving the company forward. Lars would say, “We are about ‘Execution!’” The SuccessFactors slogan is “Success = Strategy + Execution.” The touted “new” offerings include recruiting (it’s been out for two years); a core HR data management app called Employee Central; calibration; goal execution; and the brand-new offerings through acquisitions -- Inform for workforce planning and analytics, and CubeTree for social collaboration. Acquisitions are new for SuccessFactors, so it hasn’t had experience in bringing together different company cultures and technologies, but my bet is that they’ll be successful.
I have long resisted and will continue to resist for the foreseeable future any notions that the BI market is commoditizing. A single simple look at the BI maturity in enterprises and next gen BI technologies is a simple proof that we are far, very far, from any kinds of commoditization. Consolidation is quite a different story. Last week's SAP acquisition of Sybase and my roaming the exhibitor / partner floor at SAPPHIRE in Orlando are two more proofs. On a huge SAPPHIRE exhibition floor I could count software partners by the number of the fingers on my hands. Why? Because everyone who matters has been acquired by a competitor! Most of the exhibitors were management consultancies, systems integrators and other SAP implementation partners. Hence, a lesson to independent BI vendors: offer your own full BI stack or position yourself for an acquisition. No other long-term options in my mind.
But as always I welcome all and any comments and opposing views.