Does Being 'the Best' in BI Matter? - InformationWeek

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1/16/2009
09:31 AM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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Does Being 'the Best' in BI Matter?

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.

Just over 1,000 MicroStrategy customers convened here in Las Vegas this week for its annual user conference. Given how travel budgets have been slashed in recent months, I was surprised to see that attendance is only slightly lower than last year's. No doubt high attendance was driven in part by interest in the company's introduction of MicroStrategy 9.

The general session kicked off with a Tina Turner look alike singing "we're simply the best." VP of Products Mark Larow described MicroStrategy 9 as the biggest release since version 7, perhaps the biggest release ever, packing in more than 8,000 enhancements. The most noteworthy are multi-source ROLAP and in-memory.Multi-source ROLAP allows MicroStrategy customers to access data in any relational database - whether SQL Server, Teradata, DB2 - transparently. In the past, a project (the business meta data layer) was constrained to a single data source. So this is big news for existing customers. From a competitive viewpoint, other vendors have had this capability for awhile, and it's one reason why MicroStrategy would lose deals to them. Even though some competitors have had this capability, only time (as in my further testing and production customer references) will tell if MicroStrategy's approach is better, as they claim. The key differences are in ease of implementation and performance because joins are pushed down to the data source versus being performed on the BI mid-tier, as competitors do.

The in-memory ROLAP is a breakthrough and clear differentiator. While there are some in-memory solutions on the market, they lack the seamless navigation for users and the enterprise architecture MicroStrategy has. With MicroStrategy 9, a user can be drilling in-memory and then seamlessly drill into the relational details; an administrator does not have to manually define mappings that can be broken. An intuitive Cube Advisor also makes recommendations for what data and queries should be a cube to offload database queries, all based on analyzing usage statistics. Despite my enthusiasm for this new capability, some customers were confused about its value and the difference with the product's current caching approach.

CEO Mike Saylor described MicroStrategy 9, saying "I'm convinced this is the best BI product created by anyone in the marketplace... ever." For my in-depth, fact-based assessment, read the BIScorecard product summary here. But I would counter that the best product doesn't always win. For a recent example, take a look at Blue Ray vs HD DVD, or betamax vs VHS (if you were around then)!

MicroStrategy is both profitable and total revenues are growing, license revenues are not. This is in contrast to competitors' growth. This shows that what also matters is the degree to which competitors are BI incumbents, have account control through other products (ERP or database), or have greater mindshare. Whether MicroStrategy "gets" and addresses these issues will make for an interesting 2009!

I welcome your feedback below on how much weight your company is giving to product features and capabilities versus larger, strategic-supplier issues.

Sincerely, Cindi Howson, Founder, BIScorecardVP 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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