Saturday, October 30, 2010

Disappearing Business Intelligence Products

A recent conversation with a Business Intelligence software vendor did not go well for me.  I told them that I knew of close to a dozen local companies who had either already eliminated their BI product or were planning to do so.  I saw it as a disturbing trend and asked how I could help.

They did not deny the facts.  Instead, they took my comment as a personal attack and never want to talk to me again.

I truly feel sorry for sales people working for BI software vendors.  It is a tough job even for the market leaders, much less the underdogs.  Sales people must often sell brand new innovations that nobody else has yet bought, recent technology that may or may not yet have any referenceable accounts, or legacy products that other companies are getting rid of.

By the nature of their jobs, software sales people are forced to ignore reality.  Their sole responsibility is to sell their company's product A, B, or C.  Just figure out how to make people buy it.  If they can't, they are put on the infamous "performance improvement plan" (which is BI vendorspeak for "You have three months to find another job"). 

Software sales reps have to pretend that their product is the right one for the prospect and keep pushing the decision maker for a purchase.  That is a tough job and I sympathize with what they go through.

My personal problem is that sales people who have to ignore facts hate people like me who point out the facts.

Which reminds me of a funny story.  Presenting at a seminar, a vendor rep claimed, "After implementing our software, company ABC saw a 300% decrease in project costs!"  A hand immediately went up in the crowd.  "I'm sorry, but if you eliminate all costs that is a 100% savings.  How is it possible to reduce costs by 300%?"  The perturbed sales rep countered with, "I'll send you the white paper."

Facts get in the way of a good sales pitch.

Sales people do not want to discuss problems customers are having with their software.  They do not want to know about bugs in their products. 

But that's not completely true.  More correctly, sales people do not want their prospects and customers to hear any negatives.  If I have the audacity to point out troubling facts to the BI vendor, they are worried I will pass that along to the market in general.

Sales reps should remember Sun-Tzu's famous saying, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."  I have never heard anybody recommend "Take a hike, jerk" as a life mantra.

The BI software market is consolidating.  The mega-vendors (IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Oracle) purchased the pure BI vendors that will survive into the future.  SAS leads the statistical BI market as a pure BI vendor, but the other BI firms face tough times.

In general, companies are replacing their existing BI products with those from the mega-vendor list.  Legacy reporting tools are being eliminated and replaced with modern technologies.  If a vendor's BI product did not make the jump to the web, it is probably dead.

If that BI tool is not prepared to move onto mobile tablet computing, it might also be headed for the scrap heap. Howard Dresner points out a predictive fact in a recent study on mobile BI.  A third of the people he surveyed said they would move to new technology that supported mobile BI.

Don't you just hate facts?

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About Me

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I am a project-based consultant, helping data-intensive firms use agile methods and automation tools to replace legacy reporting and bring in modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics. For several world-class vendors, I led services teams specializing in providing software implementation and custom application development. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven methodologies and automated software tools.

During twenty years of technical consulting, I have been blessed to work with smart people from some of the world's most respected organizations, including: 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, graduating summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders, the vendor of WebFOCUS BI and iWay enterprise integration products, and for over a dozen years served in branch leadership roles. For several years, I also led technical teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the 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.