MicroStrategy touted its mobile, cloud, and social business intelligence initiatives at its user conference last week and offered proof that those initiatives are paying off.
MicroStrategy has been ahead of the mobile BI market, both in terms of customer demand and BI competitors. While many companies are struggling with mobile BI and the shift from RIM dominance to Apple iPads, MicroStrategy was one of the first to have native support for the iPad. BI on the iPad has been a Trojan horse for some BI initiatives, with a number of customers citing mobile as the way they are getting a more direct line to BI decision makers.
MicroStrategy Cloud was released mid 2011, and after only six months in production, the vendor has continued to refine its strategy and build out its infrastructure. I was surprised that MicroStrategy decided to establish its own data centers, in contrast to other SaaS solutions that use public cloud services such as Amazon. MicroStrategy claims that owning the cloud infrastructure enables it to better control performance. Steve Stone, senior vice president of MicroStrategy Cloud, claims that in some cases cloud deployments boast better performance tha on-premise installs. Stone knows all about customer expectations for performance; the former CIO and 19-year veteran of Lowes had 14,000 MicroStrategy users.
MicroStrategy Cloud is a powerhouse of BI partnerships, with Netezza, ParAccel, and Teradata (announced last week) offering cloud-based data warehousing and Informatica adding cloud-based data integration. MicroStrategy also allows customers to leave their data on-premises, and the vendor’s well-established ROLAP engine has always pushed more of the processing to the database than many competing BI products.
MicroStrategy Cloud Professional, announced last week, gives customers three flavors of Cloud: personal, professional, and enterprise. Cloud Personal is primarily MicroStrategy's Visual Insight product (reviewed in-depth here) in the cloud. Cloud Personal is free, but it supports just a single, manually loaded data source. Cloud Professional brings workgroup management and security to the visualizations created with Visual Insight. (MicroStrategy calls them dashboards, but they really aren’t dashboards: there's a just one data visualization per page). The Professional Edition also allows data to be refreshed automatically on a schedule.
MicroStrategy expects its cloud offerings to appeal to lines of business and departments that lack IT resources to install infrastructure on-premises. As a case in point, customer Enova was looking for the best-fit BI tool, not necessarily a cloud solution. A cloud deployment enabled Enova to get a fast time to value, with all the breadth of the MicroStrategy BI platform.
MicroStrategy Social garnered many of the headlines at the conference. The vendor’s approach to social media is drastically different than others. Social movement in the BI industry has been of two flavors: collaboration and sentiment analysis. For example, I didn’t see any moves to bring collaboration to the product, a miss in my view. MicroStrategy is not pursuing sentiment analysis either. Instead, they are focusing on using Facebook data and enabling customers to merge it with their internal customer data via their Gateway product. Another product, Wisdom, allows customers to do customer segmentation based on demographic data in Facebook. MicroStrategy Alert can be used to create targeted, personalized Facebook campaigns using the information discovered with Gateway.
All of this is certainly bleeding edge and compelling. The big “but” comes back to the data quality in Facebook. (Trust me: my 13-year-old son does not have 3 wives and 7 brothers.) As a case in point, MicroStrategy shared an interesting graphic from the New York Post that used Wisdom to explore interests between Patriots and Giants fans. The favorite book for Patriots fans is Harry Potter. For Giants fans it is Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Note: the data set is based on 4 million Facebook Wisdom users). I suspect this finding is not true of the general fan population. I suspect, too, that younger Wisdom users have been more likely than older users to fill out their profile interests, and that they have the more permissive security settings that allow for such data exploration.
The bottom line with all this is not that the apps are useless. Instead, I think there is big potential and clear first-mover advantage for those marketers who exploit Facebook effectively. But any initiative in this area has to be met with a high degree of skepticism.
With more than 3,000 people attending its largest annual conference ever, it was clear this vendor has continued to grow despite a tough economy and fierce competition from mega vendors. Just after the conference, MicroStrategy released 2011 financial results showing a whopping 23% increase over 2010 total revenues. As Gartner estimated 2011 BI growth rates at 9%, it’s clear MicroStrategy is outperforming many of its BI competitors and that the seeds of innovation MicroStrategy has been planting are paying off.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard