Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another BI Vendor Acquired

The big software vendors continue to consolidate the BI market.

Today, IBM announced plans to acquire statistical analysis software vendor SPSS for $1.2 billion in U.S. cash. IBM and SPSS had already been partners to integrate predictive analytics features into the Cognos BI product.

We know that consolidations will continue, so let's just get them over with. Here is some advice on how to move things forward faster.

Which of the original companies are still standing in the weeds after the big boys pushed them off the field to play the BI game?

Information Builders and Actuate both offer BI products oriented toward developers to build BI applications -- Information Builders with its proprietary 4GL and Actuate using Java. MicroStrategy, on the other hand, has an end-user adhoc reporting environment that is popular with companies having large data stores, such as those in retail or insurance.

Because Actuate uses Java and Oracle (after acquiring Sun) is aligned with that technology, let's give Actuate to Oracle. Yes, Oracle already has plenty of BI tools, but they will find a good purpose for Actuate, even if it is only used internally to build BI features into Oracle applications.

IBI and IBM. Over the decades, thousands of receptionists confused IBI reps with IBM when they showed up for sales calls. IBM already resells Information Builders' WebFOCUS product under the name "DB2 Web Query" on the Series i platform. Information Builders has strong mainframe technology and a large client base which IBM can easily leverage. Of course, WebFOCUS competes with Cognos, which IBM acquired and ported to the mainframe. Regardless, each product can be positioned into different niches and made to play nicely together.

For MicroStrategy, let's give them to SAP which earlier partnered with the very-large database vendor Teradata. Many of the MicroStrategy clients already store their data in the Teradata product, so this makes sense. Even though SAP already acquired competitive product Business Objects, they can put BO into an adhoc user niche while they position MicroStrategy as an industry-specific application for organizations with VLDBs.

After these mergers, the only vendors not included will be the open-source BI youngsters jumping up and down shouting, "I wanna play! I wanna play!" The rest of us can take our seats and watch the game.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Trend for Business Intelligence Software Jobs

In a 2009 June issue, Software Development Times wrote on the scarcity of software developers. Using figures from the U.S. Department of Labor and from Evans Data, SDTimes showed a decline not only in the number of individuals working in application development roles, but in the number of companies producing software products.

Fewer software jobs and fewer people to do work is a worldwide trend. While Evans Data had predicted in 2009 there would be 15.2 million developers globally, they reduced their estimate by 4%. They point a finger at the obvious culprit: the economy.

Is it possible that Business Intelligence software products might go against this bigger trend?

Throughout the 2009 year, I have tracked U.S. jobs for the various Business Intelligence software products using Monster. Today, I see a 10% decline in BI job postings from January through June of this year.

Hardest hit was Crystal Reports, which has 35% fewer job postings than at the beginning of the year, dropping from 985 in January to 639 to now. This decline may reflect a shift from desktop to web tools as well as uncertainty in Crystal's future after being acquired by Business Objects and then by SAP. Changes in licensing costs might also drive customers away.

On the other hand, peer Business Objects jobs saw a 2% growth in spite of a general downward trend. While Crystal Reports is a strong tool for building standard production reports, Business Objects offers a more flexible tool for ad-hoc reporting. Companies may be changing from Crystal Reports to Business Objects as a move toward flexible end-user architectures instead of having developers build user reports (especially if there are fewer software people).

The leader in BI job demand continues to be SAS, although their 1195 postings in January declined 4%. Another top BI product is IBM's Cognos, which shed 14% of its open jobs, going from 823 to 706 postings. Openings for Microsoft Reporting Services jobs went down 3%.

Declining demand for Crystal Reports developers is consistent with that for the legacy COBOL programming language (now 50 years old), which also saw a 35% decline. COBOL jobs went from 348 Monster postings in January to 226 now. C++ jobs also went down -- 3759 to 3049 -- for a 19% drop.

Web-based development positions are not exempt from this downward trend. While Monster did not show the actual number of Java jobs in January -- just that fact there were more than 5000 -- today the postings are at 4948. Openings for Microsoft .NET programmers went from 3885 in January down to 3351 now, a decline of about 14%.

In the Top 5 List of BI openings, the landscape is changing. While SAS remains at the top with the most demand for jobs and Microsoft stays at number 5 with Reporting Services, Crystal Reports dropped from number 2 to number 4 on the list. Business Objects took advantage of its peer's decline by moving up two notches in the list, going around Cognos to take the number 2 spot.

At the middle of 2009, the top 5 BI products in demand are:
  1. SAS (increasing as a percentage of overall BI jobs -- now 25% of the BI jobs that I track; was 23% at the beginning of 2009)
  2. Business Objects (increasing -- 16%; was 14%)
  3. Cognos (steady/declining -- 15%; was 16%)
  4. Crystal Reports (declining -- 14%; was 19%)
  5. Reporting Services (steady/increasing -- 11%; was 10%)
In my work, I have seen demand for BI application development in two main areas. First, companies want to save money by eliminating legacy tools. Because of this, companies are consolidating tools and even changing computer platforms in the process.

Also, companies want to build BI applications such as KPI metric dashboards where cost-savings can be visually identified and acted upon.

Either way, it's the economy driving Business Intelligence software jobs. Companies want to save money by supporting fewer software products and employing fewer people.

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.