Friday, August 13, 2010

Apple in the BI Space?

Earlier today, Lizette Chapman at Fast Company wrote about Apple's $46 billion in cash reserves.

Investors are asking the company to use that to pay out dividends, but Steve Jobs wants to keep sitting on the dough.  Steve says:
We know if we need to acquire something--a piece of the puzzle to make something big and bold--we can write a check for it and not borrow a lot of money and put our whole company at risk.  The cash in the bank gives us tremendous security and flexibility.

If Steve wanted, he could take a small chunk of that money--not much, perhaps just a billion or two--and buy one of the few remaining pure Business Intelligence software vendors.  Apple could then leverage the acquired BI infrastructure and and build a nice BI front-end for the iPad.

That would classify as "big and bold."  Today, the BI software space is dominated by four mega-vendors: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP.  All of these big companies acquired BI vendors.  Why not Apple?

My blog gets hit constantly by people looking for information about BI on the iPad and other mobile devices.  People want it.  Apple could buy it.  It would work.

Apple already has a Business Intelligence webpage showing other vendors' BI apps on the iPhone and iPad.  Using some of its cash, Apple could be a winner in the BI space.

Candidates for Steve to buy include Actuate, MicroStrategy, and Information Builders.  Personally, I would suggest that Apple acquire privately-held Information Builders' for their BI product WebFOCUS and their enterprise integration technology called iWay Software.

The WebFOCUS architecture works well as a powerful BI engine for Safari-based web applications.  So it already works today on the iPad.  Just to take things to that "big and bold" level, however, Apple could implement a beautiful touchscreen BI application to sit on top of WebFOCUS.

Of course, the product name WebFOCUS is right up there with "horseless carriage."  Apple will surely change that to something snappy like iBI (which is what most people call it today because of the vendor's initials), Apple Info, or Apple Knowledge. 

The iWay Software already has the Apple "i" at the beginning!  Still, I would make a name change recommendation--since enterprise integration is plumbing, the glue that holds things together, etc.--I would go with Apple Sauce.

With $46 billion in cash, Steve should have no problem becoming one of the BI software mega-vendors if he wants.

Are You in the Steven Slater Fan Club?

On this Friday the 13th, our celebrity du jour is Steven Slater, a disgruntled jetBlue flight attendant who earlier this week gave a memorable job notice over the loud speaker and slid down the airplane's emergency chute with two beers.

Depending on your point of view, Steven Slater is either a hero, a jerk, or a criminal.

So which is it? Are you in the "Steven Slater Fan Club?"

Since a blog should contain personal opinions, here is mine. Every day, each of us plays a societal role. We are each a professional in a chosen profession. Steven Slater professes he loves the airline industry and this is the role he has chosen to play.  He just decided to stop playing that role on that particular flight.

In the excellent book "The Reflective Practitioner," Donald Schön wrote:
In the traditional professional-client contract, the professional acts as though he agreed to deliver his services to the client to the limits of his special competence, to respect the confidences granted him, and not to misuse for his own benefit the special powers given him within the boundaries of the relationship. The client acts as though he agreed, in turn, to accept the professional’s authority in his special field, to submit to the professional’s ministrations, and to pay for services rendered. In a familiar psychological extension of the informal contract, the client agrees to show deference to the professional. He agrees not to challenge the professional’s judgment or to demand explanations beyond the professional’s willingness to give them. In short, he agrees to behave as though he respected the professional’s autonomy as an expert.

Here is a summary of Schön's points. As a professional, each of us is expected to deliver our services in an agreed-upon way, respect the confidences given to us by the client, and not misuse our power. In exchange, we expect clients to render some type of compensation for our services, respect our authority, and follow the advice that we give.

The jetBlue story is still being sorted out, but initial indications pointed to an unruly foul-mouthed passenger who disrespected Steven's professional role. Responding in a likewise unprofessional fashion, Steven called it quits in a way that will be recorded forever in Internet History.

There was misuse of professional power; by deploying the emergency chute, Slater basically grounded the plane until everything was put back to normal (reports say three hours minimum).  Because of this, he probably delayed jetBlue passengers on several flights.

We might find that story erroneous and discover that Steven created the mess with no assistance (if so, he should have waited until Friday the 13th for more impact!).

Personally, I see an issue in our American culture where we have pushed the concept of individualism to a point where we have lost our personal humility (and I am speaking as an expert in lifelong humility issues).

It is one thing to have individual freedom, but quite another to go to an extreme where we become totally self-centered and lose compassion for other individuals. At that point, we lose sight of our personal role in society and behave inappropriately. We demand respect while dishing out disrespect on everybody else around us.

Lots of people might join the "Steven Slater Fan Club," but in the "I'm the Only Important Person Fan Club," there is room for just one member.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Amazon and Apple Will Not Kill Each Other

When Farhad Manjoo is not battling angry tweeters over his allegedly racist Slate article on "blacktags," he is writing interesting material about hot technology topics.

In the most recent September 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine, Farhad wrote a Tech Edge article called "The End of Winner-Take-All."  Farhad predicts that certain tech markets will result in stalemates instead of one company wiping out all other contenders.

As examples of two potential market dominators, Farhad points out the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. Rather than be enemies, Amazon and Apple might just have reasons to play nicely. 

I use Amazon's Kindle app and think it is the best e-reader for the iPad -- better than Kobo, Stanza, eReader, or even Apple's iBook.  Thanks to this app, my iPad becomes a front-end to the Amazon bookstore, which I prefer to those from competitors such as Borders or Barnes & Nobles.

Farhad writes:
Speaking to investors, [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos pointed out that because Kindle books are delivered across the Internet to a range of devices--including the iPad--Amazon might actually benefit from the Apple tablet's popularity.  The more iPads Apple sells, the more potential Amazon customers.  Bezos is wise to ignore the calls for Amazon to make the Kindle more like the iPad.  The Kindle will be a gadget whose only purpose is to read books.  Bezos concedes that such a device isn't for everyone, but 'serious readers' will always prefer a dedicated e-reader.

This cooperative thinking is foreign to the BI software market where each mega-vendor wants to supply the entire "technology stack" for a company's architecture.

Personally, I hope that Farhad is correct and Amazon and Apple will be buddies in the competitive e-reader market space (I love them both!).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

U.S. Taxpayers Fund IT Offshoring in Sri Lanka

When your August 9th issue of the InformationWeek magazine comes in the mail, be sure to turn to page 18 and read the short article on IT Outsourcing. If you do not have a subscription, here is what Paul McDougall wrote:
The U.S. Agency for International Development will contribute $10 million to $36 million to train workers, including 3,000 IT specialists, in Sri Lanka.

The federal agency will partner with private outsourcers in that country to teach workers advanced IT skills such as Enterprise Java programming, business process outsourcing, and call center support. USAID will also help the trainees brush up on their English.

Following their training, the workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT services to U.S. companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs.

The outsourcing program is part of a larger effort to create 10,000 jobs in Sri Lanka in IT, construction, and the garment industry. But it's the outsourcing program that's drawing fire from critics. President Obama has pledged to retain more high-tech jobs in the U.S. in IT, biological sciences, and green energy.

I wonder who convinced the U.S. government to chose Sri Lanka as a new source of cheap IT workers (perhaps programmers in Tamil Nadu are getting too pricey)?  Evidently, the $60 billion offshoring industry could always use some assistance from American taxpayers.

A key phrase in the article might be "U.S. companies looking to take advantage of…"

We have come to accept the business fact that U.S. companies do not want to hire American workers because we are too expensive. Instead, highly-paid executives at those firms make a financial case for their wise decision to pay a fraction of U.S. salaries to individuals on the other side of the planet.

Perhaps here is a good place for President Obama to introduce some of his Change. For example, why not send some federal IT training money to low-wage workers in Jonesboro, Arkansas or Van Wert, Ohio?

It's an idea that many Americans are pushing. If you have not heard of "rural outsourcing," and how Arkansas might be able to compete with India, see the 2010 July CNNMoney article.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The UI for which You Will Shave Your Head

Researchers from down under in Australia want to bring the user interface up on top -- the top of your head, that is.

While it evokes images of Star Trek Borgs and jacked-in softies from William Gibson's matrix stories, a new "brain-reading" headset may just change the way we work with computers.  The tagline for the Emotiv EPOC brain-computer interface is "you think, therefore, you can."

Because each brain is different, Emotiv EPOC comes with software for calibrating each individual's thoughts.  You select a mental activity (e.g., pull, push, go left, go right, or disappear) and think about doing it for a few seconds while the application listens in on your brain's neural snaps, crackles, and pops.  Using EEG signals from the headset, the software records your brain-wave patterns. 

When you use other software, the headset watchs your EEG for similar activities, decides on your mental objective, and passes that command to your computer application ("Hey, WoW!  The gamer is thinking about moving to the right!").

In addition to capturing brainwaves, the headset watches for head tilting and facial movements that can be passed along as commands to an application.  One practical example of use would be for an individual in a wheelchair who is unable to use a joystick to control movement.  Instead, he or she can command the wheelchair to go left, right, straight, or back mentally and/or through head and facial movements.

While the technology's capabilities seem out of this world, its price is realistic -- just $299 for the headset and then some extra expenses for software that knows what to do with your brainwaves.  For developers and researchers, Emotiv offers a variety of software options, from a "lite" SDK for free download, all the way up to an "enterprise plus" development license for $7500.

You can watch a recorded live demonstration of the headset at the TED website.

If this really takes off, be prepared to see technology innovators with unique haircuts!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Our Future App Society

Here in the United States, we believe that each person has the right to own a house, a car, and a variety of sundry items. Thanks to our consumer mentality, we have a sophisticated advertising industry, a financial crisis, a government-sponsored "Cash for Clunkers" program, a burgeoning storage unit industry, and very few stay-at-home parents.

In the not-too-distant past, Americans had public pay-phones and party-line rotary telephones.  Today, even children have their own pocket-sized mobile phones.  Most American families have at least one television and computer.

Of course, America is not like the rest of the world.  About 93% of the world's population does not own an automobile.  If you make over $50K, you are in the top 1% of the world's wealthiest people.

How far will America go?  I'm predicting that each American will soon have....

His or her own App.  Musicians like Madonna have their own apps. NFL players like Chad Ocho Cinco are also blazing the path for personal apps, partnering with others for their app software development firm.  See Chad's app (wait, don't just see it -- buy it!) on his webpage or in the Apple app store. 

Also emerging with their own personal apps are our elected officials.  See the American Congress personal apps at Sympatico's webpage.

When will you have your own personal app?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Q2 Results Make MicroStrategy Giddy -- Giving Away Their BI Software!

After announcing 2010 Q2 results of a 41% year-over-year increase in license revenue, MicroStrategy is giddy.  So much, in fact, that they are giving away BI software!

Russell Lantier, a Business Development Manager for MicroStrategy, let me know about these two great offers:

MicroStrategy Free Reporting Suite:

MicroStrategy Free Mobile BI Suite:

For the Free Reporting Suite, MicroStrategy is giving you a one-CPU server license, 100 named user licenses, two developer licenses, and two licenses for the "full end-user experience."

MicroStrategy claims that their BI offering for iPhone/iPad and BlackBerry is 100x more impactful than using BI on your desktop.  Check out their offer and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

IBM Continues Buying Spree

IBM just completed its purchase of web analytics company Coremetrics, right after buying Sterling Commerce, SPSS, and dozens of other software vendors.

Here is what KMWorld had to say about the deal:
IBM reports the Coremetrics acquisition will enhance its ability to help businesses rapidly gain intelligence into social networks and online media sources through a cloud-based delivery model, and use this insight to create smarter, more effective marketing campaigns.

Further, it explains, Coremetrics’ offerings can provide real-time intelligence on what consumers are saying about the products and services being offered to them and allow clients to make fact-based, accurate decisions on marketing expenditures. As a result, IBM claims, marketing teams can gain deeper insight about their consumers and present personalized recommendations, promotions and other sales incentives across a variety of channels where consumers interact with their brands. These channels span traditional outlets such as storefronts and catalogs and newer outlets including all forms of e-commerce and social media.

This is secret, so please do not repeat it, but my inside source at IBM says that next on their checklist of acquisitions are Smuckers, The Ohio State University Stadium, the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, and North Carolina.

Note: just a week later IBM acquired Datacap, a document capture  and management software vendor based in Tarryton, NY.

QlikTech meeting Consumer Expectations of BI with QlikView

Erica Driver at QlikTech just blogged about the difference between the technologies we use at home (such as the Apple iPad) and those at work (such as a Windows workstation). 

Wait...should there be any difference?

Why would your employer force on you a user interface that you wouldn't accept at home?

See how the BI product QlikView meets the "consumer" expectation of Business Intelligence software.

IBM Cognos offers Mid-Market Cost Busters

IBM partners reselling Cognos solutions have a new weapon in their arsenal: tailored financing from IBM Global Financing.

The "Cost Buster" option helps IBM partners overcome small-to-medium prospects' objections that they cannot afford the solution. 

For example, the IBM partner can offer a total solutions bundle consisting of Cognos BI and performance management software, SPSS predictive analytics software, and System x hardware and software, along with special financing (which can start at zero percent with terms ranging from monthly to 12 or 18 months).  The customer can finance everything except the partner's services.

IBM understands that their mid-market clients have three main concerns when purchasing a BI solution:
  • Return on Investment
  • Financial impact 
  • Time to Value 

The Cost Buster is designed to address all three issues.  And guess what?  IBM pays the channel partner a bonus for including these financial services.

This is just another example of IBM intelligently and aggressively pushing their Cognos and SPSS products to remain a strong leader in the hot BI software marketspace.

See ITChannelPlanet for more information.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Free Advice -- How to Replace Your Legacy 4GL!

For a limited time, Partner Intelligence will help your organization--FREE OF COST--analyze its current legacy 4GL environment.  Common 4GL products still installed at organizations include FOCUS, NOMAD, and RAMIS. 

It's the 21st century and time to retire old technologies. Your company may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually supporting out-dated software products.  The original developers have retired and your modern technologists want nothing to do with hand-me-down applications.

Partner Intelligence has a suite of software applications that can automatically scan, inventory, and analyze your 4GL applications.  FREE OF COST, we will provide you with a summarized and detailed inventory of everything your FOCUS, NOMAD, or RAMIS programs do, along with suggestions on how to replace them with modern products such as IBM Cognos or IBI WebFOCUS. 

(For more information on our DAPPER methodology and automated BI Modernization Workbench suite, see my earlier blogs. Did I mention this is FREE OF COST?)

Contact us immediately if you are interested in ridding your organization of these legacy technologies.w

2013 Note: this offer has ended but please contact us if you need to convert legacy 4GL products. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vendor Uses Friends to Kill Enemies

Longfellow told a story about a crafty crow who dropped a string of golden beads near a snake.  A man passing by saw the beads and, in order to retrieve them, killed the snake.  As the moral of the story, Longfellow wrote:
Method is more important than strength when you wish to control your enemies.

Sandy Carter, a VP for IBM, is applying Longfellow's story to the competitve world of BI software.  Not that IBM doesn't have strength that it could use, but this approach is classier than just banging together the heads of the other vendor's sales team.

She has promised incentives to IBM partners to go after other mega-vendors such as SAP, Oracle, HP, and Sun Microsystems.  In her "Up to Double Software Value Incentives (SVI)" campaign, Sandy will pay partners a bonus of up to 40% of the contract's value (twice what they would normally get) when they knock off a competitor's product.

In particular Sandy wants IBM Cognos partners to eliminate the following products from customers' shops:
  • Oracle Discover
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher
  • Hyperion Enterprise
  • Pillar
  • Brio
  • Essbase

On the database side, Sandy placed a bounty on the head of SAP's Sybase to any partners who replace it with IBM's DB2.

(See my earlier blog about Boris Evelson's observations that everybody in the BI marketspace is now a competitor.)

Consolidation of the BI software market is going to happen naturally, but Sandy is using her creative side to speed it up and make things interesting.

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.