Oracle’s High BI Bar: Managed, Multifaceted and Actionable

Oracle’s newest BI release is massive, spans multiple product categories, and raises the bar for competitors in dramatic fashion. In my prior post I focused on its rollout and competitive posture. The market has waited a long time as the reconciliation of many moving parts was accomplished – most notably the convergence of the Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) offering and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). Hyperion integration with its Essbase acquisition was not complete. In 2007, OBI’s newest release (10.1.3) was most notable in many eyes for its new Microsoft Office support. PeopleSoft and Siebel had been acquired some two years before that, and Master Data Management was already a topic of discussion then (2005). There was a long way to go. And analysts? Well, think of us as the kids in the back: “Are we there yet?”

Oracle has used its time, and its $3B per year investment in R&D, well. OBIEE 11g delivers a strong base for its customers to build upon, and for its own teams to continue fleshing out a very coherent vision of ready-to-consume, actionable analytics suitable for multiple roles, on multiple platforms, across the breadth of information available. Although there is much left to do, Oracle has laid out a clear path and articulated a differentiated message that offers ample reasons for anyone on other platforms to consider OBIEE, whether or not they are an Oracle customer. For this analyst, the big wins are the Common Enterprise Information Model, The Action Framework, the strong manageability focus, unified and enhanced user interaction for report and other forms of design and delivery, and BI applications.

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Oracle Sets Sights on BI Leadership. Has it Picked the Right Target?

Oracle is not first in BI, and wants to change that – that was the clear message of a well executed, multi-site “real plus virtual” event with top executives showing off the result of a multi-year effort to rationalize and integrate a set of leading but overlapping components into a seamless suite. Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g (OBIEE) deserves the accolades it has already received from analysts who welcomed its announcement – it makes bold and serious bets on effective centralized metadata administration, data integration/ unification and optimized analytic architecture, collaboration, globalization, mobile device support, and a powerful link to action that will be most effective (unsurprisingly) with its own business applications. While it misses some pieces – fully integrated in-memory processing, SaaS and cloud support among them – these will be forthcoming, and Oracle is clearly committed to a quicker release cycle now that the thorny internal politics around legacy products seem to be resolved. But its competitive focus may be misdirected; while SAP is still ahead in market share, IBM is the bigger threat in the marketplace.

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IBM Shows Broad Mobile Portfolio at Largest Lab

IBM employs 45,000 software engineers worldwide, and like all large firms, has been greatly expanding its overseas contingent, leading some in the US to complain that not enough is being done “back home.” In mid-June, IBM provided an answer with the opening of a new lab facility in the Boston suburb of Littleton, Massachusetts, one of 70 IBM Software Labs around the globe, and its largest in North America.  It has “more square footage than Boston’s Fenway Park or the TD Garden,” IBM noted, and employs fully 10% of the firm’s software engineers. Since 2003, IBM said, it has acquired 14 Massachusetts-based companies, partnered with more than 100 VC-backed small firms, and has more than 1,600 business partners in New England. This investment was not lost on the Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, who joined IBM SVP and Group Executive Steve Mills for the lab opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. In a bid to demonstrate the breadth of his portfolio, Mills assembled the heads of several of his software brands to discuss mobility, a primary focus of the Littleton lab. Read more of this post

IBM Gets Feisty — Mobilizes Analytics for Oracle Battle

In July 2009, IBM announced the Smart Analytics System 7600, a workload-optimized, pre-integrated bundle of hardware and software targeted at the business analytics market. Included in that package are an IBM POWER 550 running AIX, storage, plus InfoSphere Warehouse Enterprise Edition (which consists of DB2, Warehouse design and management tools + Cubing, Data Mining and Text Analytics services), and Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, configured and tuned, and “health check” features. Accommodations are made if the customer already has licensed some of the software and wants to use it on the platform; in this sense, the software is described as “optional.” This month, IBM broadened the story and upped the ante, making Smart Analytics System a key weapon in its widening battle with Oracle.

This post is a slightly updated version of a piece that appeared in the PUND-IT newsletter. Read more of this post

Cognos Showcases Strong Momentum, Ambitious Plans

IBM’s Cognos analyst event this week in lovely Ottawa, Canada showcased strong evidence of progress and continuing momentum for one of the  largest software acquisitions of recent years. An international group of analysts listened to a series of discussions that highlighted key developments:

  • The launch of Cognos Express, aimed at mid-market buyers
  • New Analytic Applications that continue to expand the portfolio and IBM’s increasing commitment to this new form of applications
  • Internal integration of Cognos within IBM proceeding and gaining momentum
  • New Performance Blueprints continuing to roll out
  • Upcoming product plans, with numerous launches planned at the Information on Demand conference in October
  • The planned SPSS acquisition, pointing the way to new opportunities  Read more of this post

IBM Acquires Exeros – Information Agenda Gets A Boost

IBM has taken another key step in its Information Agenda strategy, improving customers’ ability to analyze, understand and remediate existing data by acquiring Exeros. There is a fundamental business problem that grows with data volume: an understanding gap. As new development, acquisition and integration of multiple systems takes place, meaning and process understanding are often obscured or lost entirely. At the edge, this is manifested when new BI efforts attempt to find data and its meaning. Exeros Discovery is a leading solution to that problem. My good friend Jim Kobielus of Forrester has provided some excellent background in his blog here. Some other firms are also pursuing this kind of BI-related analysis; Balanced Insight comes to mind, and I’ll blog about them soon. IBM’s ambition is broader than that, and acquiring Exeros is a key enabler of its vision. Read more of this post

IBM’s BAO Initiative Will Change the Landscape, But More Is Needed

IBM Global Business Services (GBS) has added its first new service line since IBM acquired PWC and launched itself into the services business. GBS generated nearly $20B in revenue in 2008, a few hundred million more than the hardware side of IBM. Two other units, the software group and IBM Research,  have joined with GBS to create the Business Analysis and Optimization line, intended to make IBM the dominant player in advanced analytics focused on optimizing business outcomes.  GBS has pursued the capture and reusable packaging of intellectual property and methodologies in its engagements for some time, encapsulating business processes and industry requirements, standards and regulations. IBM proposes to combine those assets with software components and advanced work done in IBM Research to deliver a “predict and prescribe” approach to its customers’ business challenges.

This is a formidable array of assets, aligned into a 4000-person organization, and pursuing a carefully targeted set of competencies:

  • BI and Performance Management
  • Advanced Analytics and Optimization
  • Enterprise Information Management
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) Strategy

All the contributors bring substantial skin to the game. Ambuj Goyal, who heads the information management portfolio for IBM Software Group (SWG), has assembled an array of data management and data warehousing tools, BI, content management, and other components, and told me, “We’re harnessing everything we’ve built.” He’s been hammering on the notion of an information agenda as part of IBM’s Information on Demand strategy, and driving awareness of the need for data quality and stewardship to attack the need for executives to feel they can trust the data they get. One in three today say they don’t, even for the relatively mundane types of reporting that are commonplace.

In IBM Research, Brenda Dietrich heads a team of 150 mathematics PhDs, many of whom have been working directly with customers to build predictive models in numerous industry contexts that will underpin some of the early projects. Three key plays are in the first round: risk and fraud analytics; analytics and data optimization; and advanced customer insight, which draws upon BAO head Fred Balboni’s recent successes driving GBS business in the retail sector.

The new organization model, in typical IBM fashion, will be rolled out on a massive scale. Of course, most of the people in the organization are being “re-badged;” they aren’t new, dedicated assets just yet, but they are experienced in many facets of the problems to be tackled and are in an accelerated program designed to bring them up to speed to meet an expected demand curve that IBM believes will be very steep. I would not bet against them.

Still, this new effort is only a step on a journey the information technology industry needs to travel. “Predict and prescribe” is necessary but not sufficient to achieving true analytics-based automation, where the “prescription” is applied to operations within policy- and rules-based guidelines, reserving the delivery of guidance to decision makers for the exceptional cases. Some advanced organizations have already built such applications, and they will have a leg up. If you are among them, IT Market Strategy would like to hear your story. Please contact us – leave a comment here, or email merv@itmarketstrategy.com.