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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Will Tiered Content Strategies Crack the IT Research PayWall?

There are two content models in the IT research world: the PayWall and the freely available. In the former model, the business assumption is that the firm’s revenue stream is largely driven by content subscriptions.  The latter treats content as the best advertising of the firm’s real value: its people and the advice they can offer. And then there are hybrids: some of the content is out there, but not all.

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SAP – Sybase: Synergies? Suspect So.

SAP announced today that it will acquire Sybase for $65.00 per share, representing an enterprise value of approximately $5.8 billion. The announcement says that “customers will be able to better harness today’s explosion of data and deliver information and insight in real time to business consumers wherever they work so they can make faster, more informed decisions.” But the vision goes beyond that: the combined companies will be able to deliver the ability to act on those decisions, anywhere. The combination of SAP’s substantial share of its customers’ transactional systems with Sybase’s mobile expertise in messaging and application development tools for mobile devices affords extraordinary opportunities that are not lost on management. Following the public press event, I chatted with Vishal Sikka, SAP’s CTO, and Dr. Raj Nathan, EVP and CMO of Sybase. We covered some of the opportunities on the table and SAP’s plans for its new assets. Read more of this post

The State of The Industry Analyst

How’s that for a ridiculous title? This piece is nowhere near as ambitious as that; it’s a response to some typically provocative comments from Gideon Gartner, a founder and arguably the most iconic figure in our industry. In his blog post Advisory Industry, a future redesign: the Payment Model, Gartner challenges his readers to think again about the business model of technology research and advisory firms. I was moved to comment, as many others have been, and after posting my thoughts, I decided to put them up here as well. But before you read on, I encourage you to read Gideon’s post.  Go ahead – I’ll wait here. Read more of this post

AR: Analysts Don’t List Themselves on Social Media

Several AR professionals have recently asked me how to find industry analyst blogs or Twitter addresses. The immediate answer was to send them to Sage Circle, where a pair of excellent directories are maintained. But the fact of the questions made me revisit the issue with a simple test: if I looked up biographies, would the “official sites” list those links for analysts? Astonishingly, the answer was no. Read more of this post

HP Scores Big Win

Perhaps I should have called this piece “Blogger Eats Words.” Hewlett-Packard has landed (pun intended) precisely the kind of strategic partnership win I recently suggested it is not positioned for, based on its recent description of its portfolio in a quarterly earnings call. The victory comes exactly where I suggested it needed to: with a services-led approach, leveraging the formidable assets of EDS. In an-industry-shaking coup, HP has landed a contract to replace Sabre as the proverbial “airline reservation system” – traditionally, a synonym for “really hard IT stuff” – for American Airlines (more precisely, AMR, the parent company). Read more of this post

Captive Analyst Bloggers: Break Free! You Have Everything To Gain In Your Links

I spend a fair amount of my time checking in on the blogs of people whose work I respect. Now that I am no longer an analyst at a big-brand  firm, I do this more than I used to – and I can now recognize there is an insularity “on the inside” that one becomes unaware of as it creeps up  on us over time. And the big firms want it that way – they have designed their blogs to be private islands, disconnected from the rest of us. Read more of this post

PPT Wins Poll on Analysts’ Preferred Soft Copy Briefing Formats

Preliminary votes and comments are in – nearly two-thirds of our 46 respondents as of April 10 prefer Powerpoint format to PDFs, and a small minority is using annotatable PDF format, though several didn’t even know it exists. (Adobe, are you listening? Some work to do here.) Key themes in comments from AR and analysts:

  • Some analysts like to edit PPTs; when they can’t get them, some resort to other methods. Forrester’s Oliver Young told us, “I take screen shots of almost every Webex or Go-To-Meeting session I end up in since so many vendors never bother to send along the slides.” We heard the latter complaint several times; Guy Creese of Burton Group has the numbers: “Half the time (I keep stats on this, since I find it so aggravating), I’m not sent the Powerpoint.”
  • PDF had its champions too. HP’s Gerry Van Zandt noted its broad platform support and backward compatibility; “for those who DO use Office, you have the issue of the older Office 2003 .ppt/.xls/.doc and the Office 2007 .pptx/.xlsx/.docx files. If you don’t have the translators installed, it’s a pain.”
  • Send in advance; preparation makes the meeting more effective. Rick Brusuelas: “allows analysts to prepare better (isn’t the point to get useful feedback?).” It also helps AR do their job better; Duncan Chapple of Lighthouse AR noted, “if the analyst gets the slides, then so does the AR manager, and that helps spokespeople to be more coherent over time.” Jocelyn Eisenberg likes the active role it facilitates for her: “I insist presentation decks be provided to me in PPT format so I can edit them, if necessary, before sending them on to the analysts.”
  • Powerpoint’s file size can be an issue. Sandy Berman says IBM  “sometimes sends PDFs if the PPT file is too big for the firm’s firewall or gateway or whatever it is that returns huge files to me as undeliverable.” Of course, there may be a hint in there about the contents of the file, too…

Finally, the file is not the point; communication is. Curt Monash, for one, doesn’t want slides at all, and rarely looks at them a second time. Last word to Henry Harteveldt of Forrester: “What I CANNOT stand is the briefing organization taking me through slide by deathly slide. I learned to read at a very young age.”

The survey will run through April 20 and then I’ll do a wrapup.

How Should AR Provide Soft Copies of Briefing Content?

I had a couple of quick exchanges today with some analyst colleagues talking about what method we like to take notes during briefings. We all have our own way of storing them, sometimes a company repository, or a personal OneNote archive. I’ve always used a folder for each vendor within which I store content that can be searched with Google Desktop or some other search mechanism.

By far, my favorite way to take notes is inside Powerpoint files that the vendor gives me. I can keep the slides onscreen and make comments relevant to the picture in front of me. If I have to have a separate window for a text editor, I have to go back and forth, and I can’t easily connect the comments to what is being shown.

Some AR people tell me they use PDFs because they don’t want the content re-used, especially if it might be changed or taken out of context. A fair point, but why tell analysts things if not to have it re-told? There are rules we all follow about NDAs and such, and if we don’t – well, you won’t keep talking for long. John Rymer of Forrester offered a good alternative – annotated PDFs. The content can’t be changed, but you can take notes. Fair enough.

So: a poll.
AR: Which method do you use? And why?
Analysts: Which do you prefer? And why?
Please share, and use comments for color, as always. I’ll report on results when we have a reasonable number.

[EDIT: Poll was removed April 24, 2009. If you have comments please do add them to the comments. See later posts for discussion of results.]