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 Cindi Howson
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Profile of Cindi Howson

Founder, BI Scorecard
News & Commentary Posts: 155
Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard, a resource for in-depth BI product reviews based on exclusive hands-on testing. She has been advising clients on BI tool strategies and selections for more than 20 years. She is the author of Successful Business Intelligence: Unlock the Value of BI and Big Data and SAP Business Objects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference. She is a faculty member of The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) and a contributing expert to InformationWeek. Before founding BI Scorecard, she was a manager at Deloitte & Touche and a BI standards leader for a Fortune 500 company. She has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Irish Times, Forbes, and Business Week. She has an MBA from Rice University.
Articles by Cindi Howson

Manage The Mayhem Of Mobile BI

5/9/2011
Some business intelligence vendors rely on device-native mobile apps while others count on browser-based viewing of reports and dashboards. Here are the tradeoffs of each approach.

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Make Peace In The BI-Versus-Excel Battle

4/11/2011
Managers fear Microsoft Excel undermines business intelligence, but sometimes, it's the best solution in a fast-paced business environment. Here's how to support spreadsheets without sacrificing data integrity.

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SAS Talks Up BI Improvements

3/9/2011
It's a vendor is known for its high-end analytics, but it's also planning improvements to its business intelligence tools and interfaces. Here's where SAS falls short and where it deserves more credit.

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5 Big Themes in BI for 2011

1/17/2011
Business intelligence will become more visual, mobile and social in 2011. But how should you balance central vs. departmental control, and does it make sense to upgrade?

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IBM Cognos 10 Impresses at IoD

10/28/2010
I was at IBM's Information on Demand (IoD) and Cognos Business Analytics Forum this week in Las Vegas where Cognos launched its next-generation BI platform: IBM Cognos 10. Some of the improvements put the vendor in a stronger competitive position, but new collaboration features have the potential to be a significant competitive differentiator...

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SAP BusinessObjects Announces 4.0 at ASUG

10/13/2010
Last week I attended the ASUG (America's SAP User Group) Business Objects user conference in Orlando, where SAP announced BusinessObjects 4.0. While SAP had briefed me late last year under NDA, the ASUG conference marked the worldwide customer preview of the company's next-generation business intelligence capabilities.

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SAS' Answer to Pervasive BI: Microsoft Outlook

9/28/2010
I recently attended the SAS BI User Connect Conference to learn about new product capabilities. One of the improvements I was most excited about is a new version of the SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office that offers tight integration with Outlook... SAS appears to be ahead of the market in leveraging Outlook as a way of making BI more pervasive...

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SAP's New Analytic Apps

9/21/2010
Much of what SAP has historically delivered has focused only on data stored in the SAP systems and then using SAP front-end technologies, whether the BW warehouse or Visual Composer, for example. The solutions announced last week take advantage of the BusinessObjects tools, Explorer, Web Intelligence, Xcelsius.

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SAS Takes Predictive Analytics Mainstream

9/7/2010
In another move reflecting the shift to "mainstream analytics" -- the predictive kind -- SAS just announced the release of SAS Rapid Predictive Modeler, which allows less-sophisticated users to create a basic model from within an Excel interface.

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Advanced Visualization Is Top of Mind at TDWI

8/23/2010
I'm back from last week's TDWI conference in sunny San Diego... I briefly visited the Executive Summit to hear about what trends CIOs and VPs of business intelligence think will have the biggest impact over the next three years.

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Oracle BIEE 11g: Worth the Wait

7/7/2010
After three years of waiting, Oracle is launching Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g this week... OBIEE 11g is a big improvement, with capabilities that go far beyond improving core BI.

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BI Platforms: Differences Remain

6/15/2010
BI Scorecard has published its latest Product and Vendor Summary. The results show that BI vendors may have narrowed some gaps in product offerings but continue to have profound differences in strategy and detailed capabilities.

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SAP and In-Memory: Take Three

5/19/2010
It has taken multiple briefings, presentations, and well, time, for SAP to convince me that their just-announced in-memory solutions will be game changing. My 'ah ha' moment came only after seeing a prototype.

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SAS Exudes Confidence at Analyst Summit

3/3/2010
I'm just back from the SAS 19th annual analyst summit... With IBM having acquired SPSS, SAS's closest (but distant) competitor in advanced analytics, I thought there would be more attention on how this acquisition will affect SAS's strategy and market dynamics. And yet, it sounded almost like a nonevent...

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MicroStrategy Says It's Time for Mobile BI

1/28/2010
"We are on the verge of a new era that will result in a new class of applications that will change the way we think about our business," says MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor. That era will be driven largely by mobile... Yes, mobile.

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Coming Soon from SAP BusinessObjects

12/23/2009
The tricky thing about events like the recent SAP Influencer Summit in Boston is that some attendees want broad, high-level insight, and others, like me (and readers like you) want much more detail... The company did share some of the most noteworthy improvements due in future releases of SAP Business Objects software.

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Mainstream BI: Are We There Yet?

12/6/2009
BI Scorecard has just published the 2009 Successful BI Survey results. Unfortunately, usage and success rates haven't improved since 2007, when we first ran the survey, though the survey did uncover some bright spots...

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SAP Gets Microsoft Nod on Performance Management

11/19/2009
SAP announced yesterday that Microsoft supports SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (formerly known as OutlookSoft) as a "preferred solution"... It makes sense that Microsoft would prefer SAP BusinessObjects' product over others in that it runs on the Microsoft platform...

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Open Source vs Commercial BI

11/12/2009
One of the challenging aspects in evaluating open source is in assessing what is in the free community editions versus in the premium, supported editions... But even the premium editions from open source vendors are priced significantly lower than suites from conventional BI vendors.

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Visualization and SaaS Shine at TDWI

11/5/2009
I'm just back from sunny, warm Florida, venue for TDWI's conference. The brightest spot from this conference is that it was one of the best attended of the year... But here are a few insights from my "Cool BI" course...

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Can BI Help Battle Swine Flu?

9/9/2009
If you have school-bound children, as I do, no doubt you are reading the headlines about swine flu wondering how you, your children, your company will battle this year's flu season now that school is back in session... Business intelligence is helping monitor swine flu in a number of ways.

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Is Oracle BIEE 'Plus' Really a Benefit?

8/11/2009
There is little question that since Oracle's acquisitions of Hyperion and Siebel, the vendor has evolved into a major BI player. Its core BI revenues grew 17% last year, and it has gone from a second-tier player three years ago to now a solid number three... While everything would seem to look rosy in Oracle's BI world, two blemishes are its complex BI tool portfolio and a delay in OBIEE 11g...

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On SPSS and IBM's 'Time to Value' Promise

7/29/2009
Building good predictive models requires a high degree of expertise and is not something that will become main stream any time soon... As for the IBM Smart Analytics System, the vision is enticing, but I'm skeptical customers will have the degree of flexibility they currently have.

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Move Over Idol: It's the BI Bake Off

7/22/2009
Standard procedure in BI tool selections are bake offs. Customers provide a list of, oh, 100 to 200 requirements, and vendors must prove they can support them. Only a lucky few make it to the final-round, proof-of-concept stage. It's a grueling process for customers and vendors alike, as fraught with tension as the American Idol elimination process.

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What's Your Secret to Success?

6/23/2009
Is the economy helping or hurting your BI efforts? Maybe a down economy is forcing you to work smarter, or maybe layoffs and budget cuts are putting a dent in your BI strategy. Two years ago, 42% of you had standardized on a BI platform. Have industry consolidation or the economy changed that? And if so, which vendors are you standardizing on?

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Who Needs BI When There's Active PDF?

6/10/2009
Information Builders kicked off its annual user conference in Nashville, Tenn., this week... The most intriguing part was Daniel Ortolani's demo of a new feature of Active Reports called Active PDF, which supports sorting, filtering, charting and other modes of data exploration from within a PDF document.

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IBM Cognos Forum: The Secrets and the Sizzle

5/27/2009
Much of what I learned and got excited about at IBM Cognos Forum I can't yet write about. So I will stick to the practical, the here and now, about two things in IBM Cognos 8.4 that caught my attention. First are the new metadata features: Business Glossary and Data Lineage.

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Explorer Splash Shows BI Matters to SAP

5/13/2009
The SAP BusinessObjects Explorer accelerated version is cool and disruptive, but with the attention it is getting in all the keynotes, my bigger takeaway is that BI matters a lot in the SAP world. The vendor is viewing information holistically, from process (source systems) to insight (BI)...

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Free MicroStrategy 9: Can You Believe It?

4/20/2009
When MicroStrategy first floated the idea of a free version of its software several months ago, my gut reaction was not positive. I kept looking for the catch... So far, I can't find the catch. Given the product's capabilities, migration path, and support, it seems like a deal too good to be true...

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Take Advantage of In-Memory Analytics

4/20/2009
Fast analysis, better insight and rapid deployment with minimal IT involvement: these are among the benefits of in-memory analytics, but different products are appropriate for different environments. Read our in-depth report on in-memory technologies.

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SAP BusinessObjects Changes BI Pricing

4/16/2009
SAP BusinessObjects is trying to simplify its pricing model to more closely match SAP's ERP engine-plus-users pricing model. The change only applies to enterprise BI customers... SAP does not publish its price list, so what's not at all clear is how sweet, or sour, a deal this is.

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BI from the SAP Customer Viewpoint

3/31/2009
It struck me that the SAP Netweaver BI & Portals conference keynote was perhaps too visionary for where attending SAP customers are today in terms of their BI initiatives. Many are primarily writing ABAPs for reporting... Even Business Objects Web Intelligence is a major leap forward for them...

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Self-Service BI: Let Users Get on the (Soccer) Ball

3/12/2009
Users don't want "ad hoc," as in starting at a blank screen with 1,000 possible data elements to choose from. No. Most information consumers want to interact with an existing report or dashboard as a starting point. Self-service BI means users don't have to go to IT for a relatively simple enhancement request to get a sort, filter, chart or new calculation added to the report.

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The Answer to Pervasive BI: the Fed

2/20/2009
"Mainstream BI," "pervasive BI" and "BI for the masses" have been the rallying cry for BI vendors for nearly a decade now. Some thought Microsoft could do it with an Excel interface. Others think Google will be part of the answer. I am looking to the Fed.

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Microsoft's Big Change on Performance Management (and BI)

1/23/2009
What's the quickest way to grow your market share in an economic down turn? Change your licensing policy! That's exactly what Microsoft has done with the dashboard and scorecard capabilities that were initially part of PerformancePoint Server. Effective today, Microsoft is now making it easier for customers to get these by including them in the SharePoint Enterprise license.

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Does Being 'the Best' in BI Matter?

1/16/2009
VP Mark Larow described MicroStrategy 9 as the biggest release since version 7, perhaps the biggest release ever, packing in more than 8,000 enhancements... CEO Mike Saylor described it as "...the best BI product created by anyone in the marketplace, ever." I would counter that the best product doesn't always win.

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Microsoft's Big BI Ads... and About Those Editors' Choice Awards

1/13/2009
It seems Microsoft has launched a new advertising campaign where business intelligence gets top billing. You and your business users will be seeing the ads in print and TV. That's great for business people who need to be the driving force behind BI. It's also great news for IT people who need the business to care about BI. Take a look!

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Happy Post-Vacation Procrastination!

1/9/2009
It's the end of the first post-holiday work week, and if you are like me, you are struggling to get back into the swing of things. The first week after the holidays reminds me of what USA Today writer Craig Wilson calls "post vacation procrastination." With the winter skies bleak and gray, and NJ calling for yet another snow storm, it seems there's not much to look forward to... but indeed there is!...

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Try This Fun BI Holiday Shopping App

12/9/2008
To celebrate the holiday season, visualization and analytic vendor TIBCO Spotfire has created an in-memory-powered holiday gift finder. I love these viral marketing apps from BI vendors that are not only fun to test drive but also informative! The data in the gift finder is from Amazon and includes prices, popularity rankings, and product ratings...

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On Thanksgiving, Freedom for Some, Fear for Foreigners

11/26/2008
I hope you will excuse a departure from my BI-focused blogs to a more personal one, but on this Thanksgiving eve, I find myself thinking more about freedom and how fragile it is right now. If you are one of the many foreign-born BI product managers, software developers, or BI specialists I have met over the years, then you will want to read this story...

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Cool BI from TDWI in New Orleans

11/12/2008
TDWI hosted its first conference in New Orleans (post Hurricane Katrina) last week... I taught a new course at the event, the theme of which is highlighted in this week's In-Depth article, "Cool BI: Rating the Innovations."... Here's what course attendees chose as their top-three innovation investment priorities for next year.

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Cool BI: Rating the Latest Innovations

11/10/2008
Rich, interactive reporting interfaces, in-memory analytics and social networking may be cool, but how much value do they add to business intelligence. This article examines the maturity, value and mainstream appeal of leading innovations.

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Support Tops Priorities for Czech BI Market

10/8/2008
While many of my peers headed to Seattle for Microsoft's BI Conference this week, I headed in the opposite direction to Prague, Czech Republic, to speak at IDC's annual BI Roadshow... Interesting to me is how highly BI expertise, support, and pricing are rated here. In part, this is because not all the BI vendors have an equal presence in the Czech Republic.

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Looking for 'Front-and-Center-ware' at Oracle Open World

9/26/2008
I attended my first Oracle Open World this week with a degree of trepidation when a colleague told me 60,000 people attend... I was a little worried about the BI sessions and customers getting lost among larger lines... and I'm not thrilled that the BI products reside in the middleware group. BI should be front-and-center-ware - the payback for all that data warehouse and middleware plumbing!

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TDWI Roundup: BI Bake Off on the Beach?

8/27/2008
Back from sunny San Diego, place of TDWI's annual world conference. I kicked off my week with a birds-of-a-feather networking event. The most popular table? The business-IT partnership, which also happens to be one of the top barriers/enablers to BI success. The different perspectives - and just how polar opposites they could be - bordered on amusing.

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Business Objects Says 'Look Beyond BI'

8/13/2008
"It's a case where 1+1=3." Speaking at the first-ever Business Objects Influencer Summit in Boston this week, this is how Sanjay Poonen, SVP and GM of Performance Optimization Applications, explained a recent increase in BI revenues at the company since it became a unit of SAP... A key message was not to think of Business Objects as only a BI vendor, but rather, as a vendor that provides everything to help companies link strategy to execution.

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Business Objects, SAP Support Lessons Learned

7/23/2008
One week later it seems the support situation at Business Objects is settling down... The main reasons for moving ahead aggressively with the migration to the SAP support platform are partially cost related but are primarily because it's "light years ahead of the support capabilities Business Objects had in place."

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The SAP/Business Objects Support Blunder

7/15/2008
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that support is one of my hot buttons in evaluating BI vendors... You also know that support has been Business Objects' Achilles heal, yet the vendor has made significant improvements over the last two years... All of that fell apart last week when SAP abruptly switched Business Objects customers to the SAP support site.

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New Tools, New Rules

6/16/2008
BIScorecard just posted an evaluation of QlikTech's QlikView, and I confess, this review has befuddled me more than others. The challenge with new technologies is in trying to figure out where they fit and whether or not they really are that different... So does "in-memory" BI make criteria like SQL-generation less relevant?

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Cognos Gets 'Flashier'

5/19/2008
Close to 4,000 customers and partners convened in Las Vegas last week for the annual Cognos Forum, making it Cognos' largest conference ever. While some time was given to synergies with IBM's product line, more air time was devoted to what's new in Cognos 8.3... A future interactive viewer capability was the flashiest - literally, as it leverages Adobe Flash to provide an appealing interface.

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BI Goes Green(er)

4/29/2008
This week, SAS is announcing SAS for Sustainability Management. It uses the BI platform and performance management applications to provide companies with a way of measuring sustainability goals and performance against them. Using predictive analytics, customers can even model changes in energy consumption or emissions to see the impact on sustainability goals.

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Is BI a Commodity?

4/10/2008
Are forces at work to give buyers the wrong impression? A commodity is anything for which there is supply but without much differentiation... Perhaps some vendors want you to think BI is a commodity so you'll buy from whoever already has a foothold in your company.

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Crystal Shines... For Some

3/11/2008
Last November, Business Objects officially released Crystal Reports 2008. It's the product's flashiest release in recent years - and I do mean that literally. One of the most noteworthy enhancements is the ability to embed Flash files within a report. The use of Flash brings reports to life in a way that make them more like mini applications - rich, interactive, and visually appealing... There is the inevitable "BUT," and that is in the product's timing and dependencies.

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The Road To Pervasive BI

2/22/2008
If you're not using business intelligence tools throughout your workforce, it's time to start--or get left behind in your competitors' dust

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TDWI in Vegas: Bigger than Ever

2/22/2008
This week's TDWI World Conference turned out to be one of the biggest, with more than 1,000 attendees and another 200 executives at the BI summit. The highlights for me included...

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Big Blue's BI in a Box

2/7/2008
With IBM's acquisition of Cognos completed last week, the merged companies were quick to tout their joint product offerings and future plans at a press and analyst conference yesterday. Given IBM's role as both a data warehouse platform and a services power house, the acquisition clearly impacts existing partnerships in which IBM moves from partner to competitor. The question in this new landscape: who wins, who loses?

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Cognos 8.3: The Good, the Bad, the Reality

1/25/2008
Last week Cognos announced the release of Cognos 8.3, its flagship business intelligence platform. The latest release includes a number of improvements both for end users and administrators. Although it is a point release, I'd venture to say it's the biggest since Cognos 8 first shipped in November 2005. Here's my take on highlights and gaps…

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