Friday, April 30, 2010

iPad USA Today Provides Glimpse into Future

USA Today's iPad application provides a glimpse into the future of mobile user interfaces.

The content is always fresh.  The app knows your geolocation and customizes information such as the weather.

USA Today went so far as to put jagged paper ridges at the top and multiple page edges along the side to make the "newspaper" feel familiar. 

You can easily navigate between the main page and the different sections of Money, Sports, and Life.  Inside each section, you tap your finger to open an article and swipe to go to the next page.

Unlike a web browser, the app has a fixed-sized iPad screen so it knows exactly how to format the page you are reading, putting content breaks in the right place.

While staying in hotels, I had already stopped picking up the paper version of the USA Today and instead read the electronic version on my iPhone.  This new iPad version is just the next step toward eliminating the paper newspaper.

Your future Business Intelligence applications may or may not run on an Apple iPad.  However, it is a very good bet that your BI consumers will want those apps to run on a high-quality mobile device.

Don't think this is still far in the future.  See what Business Objects is already doing with RoamBI.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SAP Business Objects doing iPad BI with RoamBI

See Timo Elliott's 2010 April 16th blog showing the iPad in all its glory for mobile Business Intelligence applications.  Timo calls RoamBI's application "beautiful" -- see for yourself.

Excellent User Interface for Online Magazine

The people at Contemporary Media have done a great job publishing an online version of its magazines, such as the Memphis Business Quarterly.  The print edition is classy, but the online version is,!

See the latest Spring 2010 version in your browser -- switch to the full screen and flip through the pages with your mouse.  From the Layout option, you can change to either Magazine, Presentation, or Paper view.  Using the Index option, you can visually see the entire magazine and quickly jump to any particular page.

In the cover of this issue of MBQ is Bill Rhodes, the CEO of AutoZone.  It is obvious from the article that Memphis loves AutoZone, which employs 1,300 people there.  AutoZone has grown into the leading auto parts supplier in the world with 60,000 employees overall and 4,400 stores throughout the U.S. and Mexico.  In the last five years, their stock price has doubled to $166.

For Business Intelligence, AutoZone is using BI tools such as WebFOCUS, SAS, and Actuate.  Focused mostly on Memphis, the MBQ article does not dig into any BI questions.  However, Bill does mention the importance of historical information in making decisions.

Take a look at how a simple web browser can be used as a high-quality magazine reader.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fewer BI Tools in Your Future

According to a July 2009 survey conducted by InformationWeek Analytics and Intelligent Enterprise, organizations are continuing to reduce the number of BI tools and many are moving to a single standard.

When an earlier version of the survey was conducted in 2007, a third of the business technology professionals said that their company had standardized on one or a few BI tools deployed throughout the company. Two years later, the response to that question went up to almost half.

Here are some other findings:

  • Deploying BI tools on a project-by-project basic dropped from 22% to 19%
  • Having many BI tools scatttered through departments, operations, and locations dropped from 25% to 18%
  • Deploying BI tools as part of other technology initiatives dropped from 17% to 14%

That indicates that it is harder for a business fiefdom to buy its own reporting solution.  It is also harder to sneak in a new reporting tool with another software purchase (like in the past when Crystal Reports was bundled with Microsoft Visual BASIC and third-party applications).

Doug Henschen, editor in chief, says that while BI tool consolidation and standardization is not just marketing hype, no software vendor produces a single stack of technology that can meet all of the BI needs of an organization. That makes picking a single vendor's product as a BI standard difficult.

Doug adds that companies are also interested in "BI 2.0" technologies:
"Another key trend revealed in our survey is that businesses are forging new BI agendas. Yes, the longstanding challenges of accessing data and developing reports are still there, as is the push to share BI more broadly across the enterprise. But there's growing interest behind analytics, embedded BI, and search-style querying.
New business requirements and new vendor capabilities make it unlikely an organization will settle on a single BI vendor. But consolidating around two or three vendors can help meet requirements and get the resource- and time-savings of standardization."

Of course, identifying a BI tool or two as your standard might actually be the easy step. Actually replacing all of the existing report writers in your organization is the hard part.

When you look at the amount of work, several obstacles stand in your way of actually converting to the approved technology: 
  • There are thousands of legacy programs!
  • We don't have the resources to convert these programs! 
  • There are hundreds of users impacted!
  • There are some power users who don't want to change!
  • There are years of work effort involved!
  • We would have to spend millions of dollars!

It is easy to argue that moving to the new standard is an "undue burden" and therefore something you should not be forced to do. Yet smart companies are doing it because reducing the number of BI tools (especially legacy ones) can: 
  • Reduce license costs
  • Reduce internal support costs  
  • Reduce human resource challenge of scarce skillsets
  • Reduce the number of vendors with whom you must work
  • Improve productivity (e.g., no disputes about or research into BI tool selection)
  • Improve BI project success (consistent usage of the approved product)
  • Modernize to web-based and Microsoft Office-integrated technology

More companies will standardize their BI products and reduce the number of reporting tools they support -- it is a natural progression (like the movement toward supporting single versions of spreadsheets, word processing, e-mail packages, and databases).

For a limited time, you can get a free copy of this BI report at InformationWeek.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Extra Value from Your iPad

I know you have lots of practical reasons for buying an Apple iPad--mobile computing, games, e-mail, web surfing, book reading, etc.--but if you run out of ideas, here are some more.

When you don't have the iPad in your hands (how often would that be?), you can use it as a digital photo frame.  See The iFrame Dock for more information on a $50 accessory to get the most of your iPad.

Plus, if you sit the iFrame Dock next to your bed, you can turn off the photo displays when you are ready to sleep and switch to a sound machine app.  Or download one of the many clock applications in the Apple App Store and display the time on your giant iPad screen.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

AT&T Misses the Point on iPad

PC Today magazine (April 2010 Volume 8 Issue 4) quotes AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson as saying he doesn't think many iPad customers will actually pay for his AT&T 3G network services.  Instead, they will just use the iPad's WiFi feature.

Stephenson says,
"My expectation is that there's not going to be a lot of people out there looking for another subscription."

That is true, especially for those iPad customers who are iPhone/AT&T users.  I already pay AT&T monthly charges for 3G services for my iPhone.  I am not going to use my iPad and iPhone at the same time, so why should AT&T charge me for two different plans?

Last year, Apple sold nearly 25 million iPhones, mostly with AT&T plans since consumers did not have a choice (other than hacking the phone to use another carrier).  A study at Stanford University students found that 10% of their iPhone-carrying students considered themselves fully addicted to the device and 32% were worried they would become addicted (give it up, college students -- everybody is doing it!). 

So how many of these 25 million AT&T customers does Stephenson think will also buy an iPad? I am guessing at least 2.5 million "fully addicted" iPhone fans.

Just on principle, I refuse to pay AT&T twice each month for what is basically a single data plan.  AT&T is acting like my friends at Delta Air Lines: big bullies picking on their existing customers who have nobody to protect them.  There is little we puny consumers can do to ward off the abuse of the big bullies within airlines and telecommunications companies (let's include oil and financial services firms on the bad-boy list for good measure).

Instead of being bullies, AT&T should admit they understand that their existing customers do not want to be cheated and charged double.  If AT&T does not want to make the second device's data plan free, they could at least make it cheaper (like Sirius/XM Radio does for my multiple satellite radios).

I don't foresee AT&T dropping its bully ways, so buy the iPad with only WiFi services and let Stephenson's prediction about nobody paying for his 3G network be self-fulfilling.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lack of Intelligence at Delta Air Lines

Alright, this has nothing to do with Business Intelligence.  I just feel like ranting and raving while sitting in an Oklahoma City hotel room. 

My schedule changed while at a client site here, so I thought I would catch an earlier Delta flight home tomorrow morning.  In about 12 hours, there are several Delta flights with empty seats going to the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport.  I decided to grab one of those unused seats.

I had initially paid $535 for the roundtrip Delta ticket but then changed my plans to arrive a couple of days earlier.  Delta promptly hit me with an additional fee of $352 ($150 penalty for making the change plus any difference in the "value" of my original ticket). 

So when I considered also making a switch on the way home, I fully expected to be hit with yet another $150 fee, bringing the roundtrip ticket price to over one grand.

I tried to change my flight on, but their online reservation system wasn't working.  Instead, I had to call the 800 number shown on the screen. 

The Delta representative quietly listened to my shock when she told me that I would have to pay an additional fee of $675, raising the total cost of my roundtrip ticket to about $1600 (not to mention the checked baggage fees for $50).  I politely declined Delta's offer to rape and pillage a long-time SkyMile customer (who by the way had just shelled out to Delta Air Lines another $400 for the privilege of sitting in their SkyClub room).

After hanging up the phone, I decided to see what other airlines charged for a one-way ticket from OKC to CVG in the morning.  I checked Travelport's and was surprised to see that I could get on tomorrow's Delta flight for $500. 

If that was true, I could just not show up for my scheduled flight, buy a new ticket for an earlier flight, and save money (sort of). 

Yet something didn't sound right.  My first call to Delta had been through a general 800 number with a person who seemed to struggle understanding what I wanted, so perhaps she gave me the wrong figures.  I decided to try again with the SkyMiles phone number.

I heard the same comment: "Tomorrow morning's flight will cost an additional $675; is that something you would like to do?"

Jim Borgman at Cincinnati Enquirer is one of the best cartoonists!

If I were a new customer wanting that Delta seat, I could have gotten the flight cheaper.  But because I was an existing SkyMiles customer already scheduled on one of their flights, they put the screws to me.

Back home in Cincinnati, Delta Air Lines is getting ready to pull out of one of their major terminals.  Not long ago, Delta shut down the CVG Comair commuter flight concourse.  They dropped my direct flight to OKC.  Poor flight times force me to travel to OKC on Sunday nights and leave on Saturday mornings.

Despite having loyally flown Delta for about 20 years, I am now ready to say, "Good riddance, Delta." 

If Delta Air Lines has such tough financial issues that they must resort to cheating their regular customers, then it is time for them to go out of business.  Or at least leave Cincinnati, where consumers expect companies to behave decently.

(Do you think Delta employees read blogs?  I'll let you know if my luggage mysteriously disappears on the flight home.)

Sunday (04/25/2010) note: In case you are wondering, yes, I had a rough time traveling home, but I'm not saying this blog or Delta Air Lines had anything to do with it.

Thunderstorms forced my incoming OKC flight to remain on the Memphis tarmac for close to an hour.  When I finally got off that plane and walked through the rain into the airport, the 9AM Cincinnati connecting flight was announcing final boarding. 

While waiting for the 2PM Cincinnati flight, another storm blew in and Delta diverted that plane to Little Rock; it arrived a couple of hours later.  When I arrived in Cincinnati, it took me a while to track down my luggage which had managed to catch the connecting morning flight without me.

Having left OKC at 6:30AM Central, I finally made it home around 8PM Eastern.

But if I have to be stuck in an airport, Memphis International is as good as it gets.  Nice people and plenty of things to do (for example, impressive Delta SkyClub, book stores, restaurants, and five different Starbucks).  If you have an extra hour in the Memphis airport, go to the Sun Studios Cafe and have the Lime Infused Chicken Breast with Brie Cheese and Grilled Onions on Ciabatta.  This is definitely not your typical airport food; it is more like a Memphis version of the Hard Rock Cafe.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Apple iPad and iPhone News

For Apple iPad news, check out All Things Digital (better yet, download it from the Apple Store and read it on your mobile device).

In addition to the iPad, All Things Digital covered the latest scoop on Apple's announcement for iPhone OS 4.0.  Several key developments are coming:
  • Will allow non-Apple application multi-tasking
  • New Game Center, a social network for iPhone game players
  • iAds advertising for iPhone apps (Steve Jobs says they "won't suck" and will make iPhone app developer lots of money)
  • iBooks--the iPad book reader--will be available for the iPhone

And while you are there, don't miss the Nitrozac and Snaggy comics.

Of course, it is a little ironic for ATD's iPhone app to have one article about Apple not supporting Flash on the iPhone followed by their own news article that actually tries to use Flash.

Friday, April 9, 2010

MicroStrategy Announces iPhone BI Plans

MicroStrategy is ready for mobile BI applications on the iPhone. 

On April 8th, they announced a new integrated development environment designed for mobile BI applications.  MicroStrategy claims a "no-code" app dev model where iPhone developers merely assemble mobile components.

MicroStrategy's technology is well positioned for this new mobile BI marketspace.  Their server-based architecture could be used effectively to provide web-based BI documents to handheld devices.

MicroStrategy is reaching out to iPhone developers to create these new mobile BI applications.  To learn more about their beta developer program, see their webpage.

If you happen to be in Cannes in July, you can learn more about this at the MicroStrategy World 2010 event.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Amen, Brother with the Apple iPhone!

David Frum, weekly writer for CNN, conveys my feelings perfectly when he tells Apple what he wants from them. 

See his full article here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Glassdoor Offers View inside Software Vendors is an interesting website where employees post anonymous reviews of their organizations. If you are willing to share your own inside scoop, Glassdoor lets you see others' personal opinions as well as anonymous disclosures of salaries and interview experiences.

Even if you don't post any comments (I did not), you can still see company summaries. Glassdoor also includes job postings aggregated from the job boards.

As you scan through Glassdoor for the general software industry, some clear darlings pop out. For example, employees sing praises for Apple (where Steve Jobs gets a 97% approval rating) and Google (Eric Schmidt has a 96% rating).

So what do the workers within the BI software vendors have to say in private?

Well, it seems that many of these BI vendor employees are less than thrilled with their work situations. I took a look at nine of the top BI vendors and found only two where employees were satisfied with the company overall.

The clear winner for BI software vendor employee satisfaction is SAS, where happy employees awarded CEO Jim Goodnight a 79% approval rating. Microsoft employees are also satisfied, but they are not as chummy with Steve Ballmer, whom they gave only a 54% approval rating.

Actuate won the dubious honor of being the only BI vendor where its employees are openly "dissatisfied" with the company. Of course, when I looked at Glassdoor only three Actuate employees had bothered to take time to vote and only one chimed in on the top boss (luckily for Pete Cittadini, that person gave him a thumbs up).

Employees were "neutral" about working for BI software employers such as IBM, Cognos, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Business Objects, and Oracle. In fact, half of these companies' executives got 50% or less approval ratings. Employees at SAP, the parent organization of Business Objects, were satisfied and gave Leo Apotheker a 60% approval rating.

Personally, I do not think that anonymous people behave appropriately -- just look at the rude comments of postings on major sites such as Amazon or CNN.

Being non-anonymous might have some benefits. For example, I bet if we put our names and phone numbers on automobile license plates, most of us would drive better.

Regardless, while some of the Glassdoor postings are obviously from disgruntled employees and are biased, they still convey something about a company's culture and possibly its future.

If only a few people contribute information, Glassdoor will not show a fair representation of any company. To help resolve this, read your own organization's reviews on Glassdoor and provide additional comments so that others can have a more accurate view into your firm.

About Me

My photo

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.