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MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor has a keen sense of where things are headed. He sees mobile and social as the two drivers of a world based largely in software. Last year I covered the announcements at the MicroStrategy events in Amsterdam and the vision Saylor put forth in his keynote speech. MicroStategy World 2013 last month finds the company delving into such diverse areas as identity management, marketing services and integrated point-of-sale applications. The uniting factor is mobile intelligence.

At the event, MicroStrategy highlighted three innovative product lines. VR_2012_TechAward_Winner_LogoUsher, announced in 2012, is a mobile identity management system that allows you to issue digital credentials on a mobile device.  Alert provides a mobile shopper experience, including promotions, product locator, transaction capabilities and receipt delivery. Wisdom, winner of the 2012 Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for Social Media, mines social media data from Facebook to help drive brand insight. Along with large investments in cloud and mobile intelligence, these technologies illustrate where the company is headed.

In a breakout session provokingly titled “Beat Amazon and Google with Revolutionary Retail Apps for Your Store Operations,” MicroStrategy Vice President of Retail Frank Andryauskas brought the company’s technologies to life by outlining a typical in-store mobile purchase process. A customer may start by using Alert to engage social media while he looks at items on his phone or tablet and checks prices, sizes or availability within the application. Based on his selection, he may want recommendations through Wisdom for items that his friends like or that appeal to them because of their unique preferences. He could choose to purchase an item with a coupon promotion delivered through Alert, or have the item drop-shipped to his home or to the store.

On the back end, marketers can run purchase path analytics that tie the customer experience to the transaction. This in turn helps with promotional strategies that can influence purchase behavior at the store level. The key for the retailer, as well as for MicroStrategy, is to create customer value through an in-store and online experience that is differentiated from ones in other stores. The tools help retailers move beyond “showrooming” and leverage their physical assets to drive competitive advantage.

The MicroStrategy mobile retail vision gets even more compelling when you look at what’s going on with their customers, including large retailers that are using analytics to drive things such as employee engagement in a brick-and-mortar retail environment, which in turn can improve customer retention and increase share of wallet. The Container Store demonstrated how it uses MicroStrategy mobile BI to allow employees to view their performance as compared to their peers. This taps into a fundamental human need to be on the leading part of a curve and never lag behind. Friendly competition between stores with similar footprints and trade areas can drive best-in-class store performance. It will be interesting to see whether MicroStrategy can leverage this game approach across other industries, such as travel and tourism, government, manufacturing and healthcare.

MicroStrategy has a strong presence and compelling use cases in the pharmaceuticals industry, with solutions aroundvr_sales_mobile_technology mobile sales force enablement where operating smatrtphones and tables is a priority today. This area can show tremendous productivity gains, as in-meeting effectiveness often requires fast and easy access to pricing, distribution and benchmark data. The ability to communicate with other team members in real time during the sales process and to conduct transactions on the spot can reduce sales cycle times. Ancillary benefits include providing an audit trail of the best sales processes and representatives, so that, much like in the retail environment, pharmaceutical companies can develop and replicate a best-in-class approach.

While the company’s long-range vision is solid, MicroStrategy may be too far ahead of the curve. I would argue that the company is on the leading edge of mobile and may have spent more money than it had to in order to catch the mobile wave but is more ready than any other BI provider. With technologies such as Wisdom, Alert and Usher, it may be in a position similar to the one it was in a few years ago with mobile. Wisdom uses “like” data from Facebook to drive analytics, but how far can that data really get a marketer today? This innovation needs to pay more dividends for marketers, and it might in the future as Facebook starts to introduce a categorical verb universe that denotes specific attitudes and purchase intent. Alert could be good for a mid-market retailer, if its value and ease of use is compelling enough for mobile users to download the application and sign up as a store customer. Usher is spot on with its intent to manage digital identity, but uptake may be slow since separating data about the user from data about the phone is challenging.

In sum, MicroStrategy is pressing its advantage in mobileBI_VentanaResearch2012_HotVendor intelligence solutions and is figuring out ways to drive that advantage into the mobile applications market. It is investing heavily in enterprise business intelligence applications in the cloud, where it already has more than 40 customers. It has an industry-leading business intelligence toolkit and was ranked as a hot vendor in our 2012 Business Intelligence Value Index.

MicroStrategy has a lot going for it, but it is also placing a broad set of innovation bets relative to its size. In a recent interview, Saylor said, “If these things play out the way I expect, then we’re a $10 billion revenue company, out 10 years. If they don’t play out the way I expect, then whatever. We’ll muddle along and we’ll do what we’re going to do.” I’m inclined to agree.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

VP & Research Director

With more than 90,000 attendees registered and 100,000 more expected to watch via live stream on Facebook, Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce is the biggest technology event of this year. The conference kicked off yesterday morning with MC Hammer letting the packed house know that it was “Chatter time” and leaving little doubt about the theme of the Marc Benioff’s keynote speech: Social. Citing numbers from McKinsey and IBM, Benioff suggested that social adds $1.3 trillion to the economy and that CEOs see social media as the second most important communication channel of the 21st century, just after the direct sales force. Our own sales benchmark research here at Ventana Research shows similar trends, with 63 percent finding that collaboration is a key trend in sales organizations.

The keynote pronouncements were put in context by a number of clients. Two clients in particular highlighted broad changes occurring in industry.

Rossignol uses Force.com to exploit social and mobile areas for competitive advantage. Rossignol is a winter sports gear retailer, and its target consumers – as well as its dealers, such as REI – are often youthful and cutting-edge.

Saleforce.com allows Rossignol’s sales representatives to adjust offers and sign deals at the point of purchase with mobile devices. It integrates customer social profile information, offers team interaction between the pricing departments and other managers, and lets salespeople revise proposals and sign deals on the spot. With impressive ground game capabilities like these, Rossignol will likely take market share until its competitors can deploy a similar approach.

Salesforce also allows the ski community to be involved with Rossignol’s brand at a visceral level through things like coaching camps and excursions, and provides informal interactions with like-minded skiers. Even more impressive is the involvement of the company’s communities in its two-year product development cycles. This sort of crowdsourcing was unheard-of just a few years ago.

Rossignol represents the impact this type of company and brand is having on the relationships between manufacturers and retailers. Retailers are losing leverage with customers as manufacturers build loyal followings and establish pull-through channel strategies among their end-user customer base. We see similar trends in other markets.

Salesforce also highlighted General Electric, my alma mater. When I was at GE, collaboration consisted of doing things like GE Boundaryless Sales, where reps would share leads across GE Capital as well as with the core divisions. So GE has always been somewhat collaborative, but I was surprised to see how aggressively it is pursuing things such as social collaboration with its sales teams.  In particular, it is rolling out Salesforce.com in the Honeywell division, which in and of itself is a large diversified business. Deal sizes go from a few thousand dollars that may take a couple of weeks, to a seven-year, $100 million deal.

Two interesting things here apply to the broader GE organization, and illustrate how sales is changing as a result of social and mobile. First, the new systems give management a better picture of what is happening and how to manage its sales force. It’s difficult to do forecasting, communication and root-cause analysis with very different buying environments. Internally, these types of diversified organizations are often a Tower of Babel. Social tools provide the equivalent of a common language that can be instituted across the organization.

The second big impact is the inversion of the organizational pyramid. This is not just a GE phenomenon, but is beginning to occur across multiple industries.  The business process used to be about getting information from the sales force into the organization –  for instance, getting pipeline updates to management and rolling them up, or trying to get a salesperson to share his contact information. Now it’s just the opposite; organizations are pushing information down into the hands of the sales folks and empowering them to make deals. This is changing the nature of sales. It used to be that a lone wolf was the ideal salesperson. Now it’s a social collaborator who can act like an orchestra conductor.

As these two companies demonstrate, seismic changes are occurring in organizations and across industries. I strongly encourage companies with medium-sized or large sales forces that haven’t yet moved forward with sales force automation (SFA), or consumer brands that are not actively engaged in community building, to start doing so.

For additional in-depth analysis of the social aspect at Dreamforce as well as the key announcements, read my colleague Mark Smith’s post. Salesforce is helping companies change the way they operate and through the use of social and mobile technology in conjunction with cloud computing which is definitely worth looking at more closely.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

Vice President and Research Director

Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite competes in the open source and broader BI market. Its customer base is mostly in the small and midsized business and OEMs and SaaS providers who can embed Jaspersoft code directly into their offerings. Earlier this summer, the company introduced Jaspersoft 4.7, which features advancements in interactive reporting, big data access and mobile business intelligence for Android. The 4.7 release brings interactive features such as segmenting and filtering, though these are not as user-friendly as those found in some of the other tools in the market. As many of our benchmark research reports show, usability is becoming more important in the tools environment as business users become more proactive in the selection and use of these tools. Interactive reporting is quickly becoming table stakes, but we’re still not seeing the advancements that will lead to mass business user adoption, as my colleague Mark Smith  recently noted.

To handle more big data, Jaspersoft adopted MongoDB, a real-time-oriented NoSQL database. Users can now display log data directly on a dashboard, and developers can build reports.  This addition augments Jaspersoft’s native access to other big-data NoSQL approaches such as Hadoop and Cassandra. Jaspersoft also partners with big-data companies including IBM Netezza, Datastax, HP Vertica, 10Gen and Google BigQuery. The importance of connecting with a variety of data sources is highlighted by our recent big data benchmark research, where companies say customer data (68%) and transactional data (60%) top the list of critical data sources.

Release 4.7 lets users build applications and view reports natively on Android mobile devices, adding to the native support already available for Apple iOS. An SDK for Android allows developers to embed directly at the device level. I went ahead and tried out the mobile version on my Apple iPhone 4S and found that it lacked the auto-sizing and interactivity found in other approaches today.

I also decided to test out the trial version of the cloud version of the software and I was advised that it would take an hour to provision the resources. While I waited I went ahead and downloaded the 64-bit version of Jaspersoft 4.7 for Windows. The install process was relatively seamless with the only challenge being that there was no clear user name and password available. Fortunately, there was a live operator for me to call and resolve the issue immediately. The trial included sample data to play with which was nice, but the tool really lacked many of the features such as search and collaboration that we are seeing from other available tools in the market. I can see how Jaspersoft may be a nice addition to a SaaS offering or for OEM, but as far as a standalone BI tool, Jaspersoft has an uphill climb. When the cloud version arrived as promised, the demo was essentially the same with minor hang times as opposed to the download version.

While Jaspersoft 4.7 helps move the needle in the right direction, I’d like to see further development in ease of use (especially in the mobile area) as well as in areas such search and collaboration. As our NextGen BI benchmark research will reveal, expectations for mobile and collaborative BI systems are high, but actual time-to-value is still wanting. Overall, however, the ability to embed Jaspersoft in OEM applications along with the rise in cloud computing and SaaS should give the company ample space for growth, and the advancements in the latest release in reporting, big data and mobile areas should help it take advantage of the hottest trends. Companies looking for a low cost BI option or looking to embed basic BI functionality into their own applications should consider Jaspersoft.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino – VP and Research Director

On the heels of the release of his new book, The Mobile Wave, Microstrategy’s CEO Michael Saylor delivered an interesting keynote at Microstrategy World in Amsterdam this past week. Unlike other keynotes we’ve seen at various supplier conferences, the presentation was not a sales pitch. There was no reference to the fact that the company was simultaneously launching MicroStrategy 9.3, a major new release of its flagship offer. The presentation focused almost entirely on the rise of mobile computing and its ability to change the world. Saylor sees the Apple iPad at the heart of the mobile revolution, and notes that BI capabilities delivered through the device are displacing paper and people within organizations. The iPad’s 10-inch screen, which can display 90 percent of printed pages, is the key for companies to unlock the shackles of the physical office environment. Between the lines, it’s easy to read that Microstrategy is betting a lot on mobile and on the iPad.

Saylor’s argument against paper is relatively straightforward. For years we’ve been talking about the paperless office, but technology has not yet allowed us to get away from paper, and executives are still using it for all types of reports and data. Business intelligence before mobile was restricted to columnar reporting, and business intelligence before device interactivity was a manual, paper-based process in which an executive asked an analyst to run a report to answer a question, then looked at the report on paper. The results often inspired other questions, sending the executive back to the analyst to run yet another report – and so on.  Finally, once the executive’s questions were answered, he could ask an employee to take action based on his conclusions.

The iPad, Saylor argues, changes all of this, since iOS and the 10-inch screen allow us to look at standard-size documents and interact with company data. Given the revolutionary capabilities of mobile BI systems, an executive can interactively and visually query multiple data sources, get answers immediately, run his own scenarios, and take action, all from the sidelines of his kid’s soccer game. The executive, now doing the job of three people, is much more productive (if a bit lonelier).

How does the Microstrategy iPad-focused BI strategy stack up in the new mobile world that also contains tablets such as Google’s Nexus 7 and Microsoft’s Surface? With his presentation and over the course of the conference, Saylor took aim at the mobile strategy of a number of industry stalwarts, including Google and Microsoft. Microsoft in particular, he suggested, alienated both its customers and its partners with its recent preannouncement of the Surface tablet computer.

The most obvious competitor currently in the enterprise environment is Google’s Android, but the Android development community is focused around the smartphone, not the tablet. Google’s Nexus 7 suggests that the company is not keen to take on the iPad directly in the enterprise market; the 7-inch screen suggests consumer ambitions. One argument that Saylor gives against the Android is that it lacks tight enough integration between the hardware and the software for delivery on a 10-inch device. I’m curious whether this argument will still hold as Google starts to produce larger form-factor devices with tighter hardware and software integration, and as improved content parsing technologies allow for more information to be consumed on different-sized devices.

The more interesting enterprise play is around Microsoft’s Surface tablet running Windows 8 on Intel chips. When it is finally introduced, the Microsoft advantages will be hard to ignore. As it moves away from ARM-based chips, Microsoft will be able to provide full access to entrenched office productivity software, tight integration with other Windows-based hardware and software, and backward compatibility.  Hewlett Packard, in signing with Intel earlier this year, signaled its own move into Windows 8 tablets. HP’s global distribution power could make this an important milestone. The challenge is whether business will engage and consider Microsoft tablet or how many folks will bring this technology into business and expect support for it with business intelligence.

Unlike Google today and Microsoft tomorrow, Apple takes a “walled garden” approach to its operating system and applications, and enterprise IT departments generally do not like this idea, especially as it relates to security. On the other hand, the developer community in this garden is huge, and the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend is really helping drive iPhone and iPad into the corporate market. The most influential businesspeople and cultural icons in our society carry iPads, and corporations, much to the chagrin of IT departments all over the world, are being forced to deal with this phenomenon.

On a practical note, I had an opportunity to test-drive MicroStrategy’s platform for mobile applications. I built a number of interactive mobile dashboards for the iPad, the iPhone, and for my own smartphone running Android. While things worked well with the iPad and the iPhone, the Android applications had a lot of issues. I’m not sure if this was due to the lack of Microstrategy focus on Android, or to Android itself. What I do know is that Microstrategy Mobile works well on iPad; just about any user can create designs with minimal training, and not having to wait for coders is a huge advantage.

Nevertheless, an Apple-focused bet in the enterprise environment is a bit risky as new devices come onto the market. It will be interesting to look at Microstrategy’s tack in the context of our upcoming Next Generation Business Intelligence Benchmark Research, which focuses on mobile and collaboration technologies in the enterprise BI environment.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino – VP & Research Director

On the first morning of the Pitney Bowes (PB) Insights 2012 User Conference in New Orleans I had the opportunity to meet with John O’Hara, president of Pitney Bowes Software, and his management team. Given the staid reputation of the company, I expected to encounter more formal behavior and a highly structured meeting format. Instead I met an engagingly curious and purposeful management team with a fresh perspective and a portfolio of products that puts the company in the middle of the business intelligence (BI) revolution towards enabling analytics and actions into business. PB has been able to use the income from its traditional postage business to acquire a variety of agile, fast-growing software companies. Its products now span customer analytics, unified communications, location intelligence, data quality and information management. Here are some observations on what I saw at the conference.

The Portrait software suite delivers customer analytics and marketing intelligence designed to move us beyond the merchant John Wanamaker’s famous lament to the effect that “half of advertising is wasted; we just don’t know which half.” Mark Smith, SVP of the Portrait group (no relation to our own Mark Smith, though they apparently had an interesting e-mail mix-up once), showed how Portrait is addressing the new challenges of marketers including micromarketing, opt-out management, uplift modeling and contact optimization.

O’Hara mentioned “sleeping dogs” in his keynote address in the context of uplift modeling. This concept is well-known in retention marketing but not so much in acquisition marketing, where it is difficult to implement; Portrait helps address this issue. The idea is that some people react negatively to marketing. Examples include consumers put off by the constant approaches through email or postal mail, or the business buyer who gets multiple calls from other divisions of a company just because he or she started buying from one division. Using campaign management tools and predictive analytics that our benchmark has identified as key benefit in 55 percent of organizations for generating revenue, Portrait is able to assess and score the customer data to ensure that the right messages are delivered to people in ways and at times they prefer.

A second area of innovation for PB is unified communications, delivered through the EngageOne Communication Suite announced in April. Compatible with legacy systems and mainframe environments, the suite enables high-speed processing of transactional documents as well as interactive communications. When used with the Portrait suite, it can address the challenge of marrying cross-channel analysis and strategy with cross-channel execution that our benchmark on customer relationship maturity found is a required step to maturing.

Based on similar technology, the Volley digital mailbox replaces traditional approaches of bill processing by delivering billing documents through a digital mailbox and enabling digital payment. When you think about the traditional infrastructure associated with utility billing, and PBs experience with such systems, you begin to see the compelling nature of this offer.

Yet another exciting technology is the reverse geocoding that will drive Facebook’s own next generation of location-based strategies. Reverse geocoding is the ability to derive a physical location from a geographic coordinate and assign a profile to the surrounding area. Reverse coding was the critical differentiator in the Facebook deal and in other large projects. The technology gives PB opportunities in markets including insurance, telecommunications, healthcare and retail. This location intelligence also makes PB competitive for a variety of predictive geo-modeling use cases such as retail location assessment and placement, asset management, mobile workforce management and government antiterrorism efforts. While it is undisclosed exactly how Facebook will use this technology, it should be able to compete more effectively with Foursquare and the location service strategies of Google and Apple. With 500 million addressable users and 95 countries, Facebook will have the largest implementation of this type in history.

PB’s Spectrum platform is another key driver for deals like the one with Facebook. Spectrum is an enabling technology that addresses issues in data quality and management. Our benchmark research into business analytics reveals that 68% of business analysts spend their time performing data-related tasks, which leaves little time for analysis and action. I see data quality and management as table stakes for the new generation of analytical tools. A company that does not address these issues cannot be competitive. PB has taken this into account and continues serious development in this area.

Moving forward, I’d like to see PB continue to integrate aspects of this diverse portfolio. I am interested in the Portrait Explorer product, which will eventually serve as an interactive control center for the combined PB offerings, including unstructured data sources. Integration with the Spectrum product could create opportunities in areas such as retail and social graph analytics. These will require further focus what our big data benchmark research and enable predictive analytics that 41 percent of organizations do not have this capability today. As the company executes on the vision of combined analytics in the three areas of location, social media and mobility, it should gain a competitive advantage in the market.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino – VP & Research Director

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