Sunday, December 7, 2008

Free BI for Higher Ed

For over five years, Microstrategy has been part of an educational service from Teradata allowing universities free access to an online learning portal focused on business intelligence and data warehousing technology. In November of 2008, Microstrategy expanded this offering and announced a new program to give BI software and courseware, free of charge, for use in university curriculum.

MicroStrategy has provided its software for teaching BI courses to numerous universities in the U.S. and Europe, including University of Colorado Denver Business School, RWTH Aachen, University of Bamberg, and HTWK Leipzig.

Universities can build or augment their business intelligence course offerings with MicroStrategy and teach students about BI in a tangible way, providing hands-on experience that students can take directly into the workplace. By incorporating MicroStrategy software into a BI curriculum, students can learn valuable skills, such as designing business intelligence reports, performing data analyses, and monitoring business metrics.

Barbara Wixom, Associate Professor and Director MSMIT at the University of Virginia commented, “Companies want to hire students who can hit the ground running – they want students with an understanding of both foundational skills and contemporary tools that exist in the workplace. Having the ability to teach my students business intelligence using software like MicroStrategy is incredible. It means students experience business intelligence in a relevant, real-world way. And, it means that my students can be productive as soon as their careers begin.”

Microstrategy is making a smart move. Companies that have already implemented a BI product often struggle to find knowledgeable resources; being able to employ college students with formal BI training reduces the hiring challenge. That is good for Microstrategy as well - they are planting seeds in organizations that may not have their products yet. Plus, it is difficult to sell products that nobody knows how to use.

An Indiana company selected WebFOCUS as their BI product. However, before buying and implementing it, they wanted to hire a BI developer. Unfortunately for Information Builders, the software vendor, the would-be customer searched unsuccessfully for months trying to find a local professional with the right skills.

The two parties found themselves in an old-fashioned barter stand-off: "I'd give you that wagon wheel if you had a cow to trade fer it." Except it was: "I'll give you money for your BI software if you can introduce me to an experienced WebFOCUS developer." Yikes -- there were no available BI Hoosiers to be found.

Eventually, the organization settled on a quality person experienced with a different web-based BI tool and invested time and money training him in WebFOCUS. While Information Builders was able to make the sale, they should have also recognized the red flag being waved in their face. It is worth repeating -- it is difficult to sell products that nobody knows how to use.

If you are attending higher-education courses, ask your university if they offer business intelligence topics -- important skills needed by today's information-intensive firms. If you work for a software vendor, make sure that you are developing talent pools for your client base (sorry, offering $3K-per-day vendor consultants does not count). If you are a customer in the market for BI products, make sure one of your selection criteria is being able to easily hire technical resources.

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About Me

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.