Thursday, March 31, 2011

Press Release: New Strategic Relationship with WebFOCUS Vendor

NEW YORK, NY – March 30, 2011 – Information Builders, an independent leader in operational business intelligence (BI) solutions today announced that Partner Intelligence, a full service BI and data warehouse solutions company, is expanding its role as an Information Builders' Solution partner. Partner Intelligence will continue recommending and implementing WebFOCUS, Information Builders' comprehensive business analytics platform, in customer situations while also tapping the solution to help organizations modernize their existing BI applications.
Information Builders and Partner Intelligence began working together four years ago. Partner Intelligence was already successful, implementing WebFOCUS to Information Builders' new customers while expanding the platform's use with existing customers. Under the terms of this new agreement, Partner Intelligence will now market WebFOCUS to its customer base to dramatically reduce the time, cost, and risk of implementing web-based business intelligence. Partner Intelligence selected WebFOCUS as its BI tool of choice because of its vast experience with the platform and successful joint implementations at organizations like Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc., where it used WebFOCUS to implement an enterprise dashboard, and the State of Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), where the company had automated a legacy reporting system conversion into WebFOCUS.
"When I engaged Partner Intelligence to do a major project to convert hundreds of production jobs into WebFOCUS, it seemed like an unattainable undertaking," explained Richard Smith, IT manager at OKDHS. "Not only was I wrong, but it was one of the smoothest projects on which I have had the pleasure of working in years. If you need to convert code, then Partner Intelligence is the company you need to work with!"
"Partner Intelligence provided expertise and skill to get our enterprise dashboard up and running quickly, enhancing functionality and giving our management a clear line of sight into the company's metrics," said Dave Ascah, vice president, IT Enterprise Solutions at Wendy's/Arby's Group.
Doug Lautzenheiser, general manager of Partner Intelligence, said: "We are excited to expand our relationship with Information Builders and the range of capabilities we can offer around WebFOCUS. Organizations looking to replace legacy reporting systems or implement enterprise BI dashboards will benefit from this new partnership."
"Partner Intelligence has had success automating complex conversions of legacy technologies into WebFOCUS," said Gerald Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders. "Our customers are quite happy with Partner Intelligence's capabilities and we are pleased with the partnership. With our new agreement, we're making it even easier for Partner Intelligence's clients to implement web-based, enterprise business intelligence."
About Partner Intelligence
Partner Intelligence is the BI practice of Partner Professional Staffing. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Partner Professional Staffing is a full-service professional services firm, offering a variety of recruiting, staff augmentation, and project-based consulting services. Partner Intelligence provides clients with consultative services, specializing in strategic BI advice, BI application development, and automated BI system conversions.
About Information Builders
Information Builders provides software and services that bring smarter decision-making and streamlined processes to leading organizations in business, government, and education worldwide. The company's software is installed in tens of thousands of locations, servicing millions of users. Its WebFOCUS business intelligence (BI) platform delivers massively scalable information applications, analytics, and customer-facing portals to the new generation of information users to deliver game-changing business results. Its iWay Software integration platform allows enterprises to leverage all of their information resources to streamline internal and business-to-business processes while escalating the overall accessibility and integrity of information regardless of environmental complexity. Headquartered in New York City with 60 offices worldwide, the company employs 1,350 people and has established significant industry partnerships. Visit Information Builders at For ongoing news, go to or follow Information Builders at @infobldrs.

Friday, March 25, 2011

BI: That was Then, This is Now

In his blog titled "BI Market Evolution," Wayne Eckerson says:

With an endless wave of new companies pushing innovative new technologies, the BI market has been one of the most dynamic in the software industry during the past 20 years.
...[T]he plethora of advertisements about BI capabilities that appear on television (e.g., IBM's Smarter Planet campaign) and major consumer magazines (e.g. SAP and SAS Institute ads) reinforce the maturity of BI as a mainstream market. BI is now front and center on the radar screen of most CIOs, if not CEOs, who want to better leverage information to make smarter decisions and gain a lasting competitive advantage. 

To prove this point, Wayne created a great timeline of the Business Intelligence industry mapping the changes in Users against those of the Vendors.

Prior to 1990, Wayne tells of how companies used 3GL (COBOL, PL/1, etc.) and 4GL (NOMAD, RAMIS, and FOCUS) computer programming languages to handle reporting needs.

He sees 1990 as the point where software vendors began offering tools built specifically for Business Intelligence. Around 2000, the vendors started offering BI applications for managing corporate performance.

Wayne maps out the following key time periods in the BI market's evolution:

  • 1990: Get the Data (data warehousing and BI "suites")
  • 1995: Use the Data (business intelligence platforms)
  • 2000: Optimize Performance (performance management)
  • 2007: BI Goes Mainstream (consolidation; Oracle, SAP, and IBM get in) 
  • 2010: Drive Processes (analytics) 

What's left in the future? Wayne talks about continued changes:
At this point, some might wonder if there is much headroom left in the BI market. The last 20 years have witnessed a dizzying array of technology innovations, products, and methodologies. It can't continue at this pace, right? Yes and no. The BI market has surprised us in the past. Even in recent years as the BI market consolidated--with big software vendors acquiring nimble innovators--we've seen a tremendous explosion of innovation. BI entrepreneurs see a host of opportunities, from better self-service BI tools that are more visual and intuitive to use to mobile and cloud-based BI offerings that are faster, better, and cheaper than current offerings. Search vendors are making a play for BI as well as platform vendors that promise data center scalability and availability for increasingly mission-critical BI loads. And we still need better tools and approaches for querying and analyzing unstructured content (e.g., documents, email, clickstream data, Web pages) and deliver data faster as our businesses increasingly compete on velocity and as our data volumes become too large to fit inside shrinking batch windows.

Sounds like lots of fun is still to come. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

HP in the BI Space

Might HP become one of the BI mega-vendors? Christopher Baum at Software Advice suggests that it might happen.  He posted a great analysis of merger and acquisition choices for HP. 

Baum plotted a timeline from 2000 to the present showing HP's acquisitions in five major categories:
  • Enterprise Infrastructure
  • Services
  • Personal Systems
  • Software
  • Imaging and Printing 

Two of their really big buys were EDS and Compaq, providing HP with more corporate services capabilities and hardware platforms. Many of its recent software acquisitions deal with corporate IT application management. Let's also not forget that last year HP acquired the struggling handheld maker Palm.

Could HP get into more corporate computer applications? Baum suggests that HP might acquire the ERP giant SAP. Now that would be a really big purchase.

Like EDS, SAP is a large services organization (accounting for around 21% of its total $12.5 billion euro revenues in 2010). Of course, buying SAP would also propel HP into the hot Business Intelligence software space since SAP had earlier acquired Business Objects (which had acquired Crystal Reports and others).

Baum also recommends some other choices from the BI vendor menu.

Take SAS for example. Owner Jim Goodnight has been going strong since starting this software company based on a college project. Now that he is about 70 years old, he might want to celebrate his amazing success and retire. HP could offer Jim a few billion dollars as a retirement gift and SAS would be a great analytical tool for HP.

A similar situation exists at Information Builders. In business since the mid-1970s, Gerry Cohen might also be interested in winding down his time in the software industry. Gerry's WebFOCUS is a good fit for HP's platforms all the way down to the Palm handheld. With WebFOCUS, HP might even have a play for mobile BI.

Baum also suggests that HP might acquire MicroStrategy, one of the few remaining pure-play BI software vendors. Because MicroStrategy does a great job with very large database systems such as Teradata, HP might want to consider acquiring both as complementary BI offerings. MicroStrategy is also one of the emerging leaders in the mobile BI space, which could be of value combined with Palm handhelds.

Baum goes on to list all sorts of different purchases for HP. He says:
With all of these components, HP becomes the only firm that can supply end to end enterprise IT, including hardware and software, either on premises or under the Infrastructure as a Service model. HP could supply all of the IT hardware, including smart phones, handhelds, desktops, workstations, and servers. The expanded BTO offerings allow complete control and situational awareness of the enterprise’s computing and communications systems. The enterprise business software would track, well, all of the business stuff. HP can leverage its existing business continuity sites to jump start an Infrastructure as a Service offering. Adobe technology would allow enterprises to encapsulate business processes within documents and 10gen would store it all. Autodesk, Hermes, and Corel would drop directly into their respective business units.

Software Advice asks for your opinion. Go to their website to read the entire article and to answer a survey on which companies you think HP will acquire.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Three Threes of BI Dashboards

Wayne Eckerson likes the number three. At least, he uses it alot in his book, "Performance Dashboards."

Wayne, research director at TechTarget in Boston, writes:
One of the most salient features of performance dashboards are the "three threes": three applications, three layers, and three types. The "three threes" provide a convenient way to describe the major characteristics of performance dashboards and a litmus test to differentiate imposters from bona fide performance dashboards.

Wayne breaks a performance dashboard into three integrated application components:

  • Monitoring application for conveying information at a glance (dashboards for operational processes and scorecards for strategic goals) 
  • Analysis application for exposing exception conditions and allowing the user to drill into details
  • Management application for improving alignment, coordination, and collaboration 

A dashboard can also be segregated into three different informational layers:

  • Monitoring information utilizing graphical, metrics data for executives 
  • Analysis information utilizing summarized, dimensional data for analysts 
  • Detail information utilizing transactional data for workers 

Lastly, Wayne outlines three types of dashboards:

  • Strategic dashboards for executives (often using the Balanced Scorecard methodology)
  • Tactical dashboards for departmental processes and projects 
  • Operational dashboards for front-line workers utilizing detail transactional 

There is plenty of overlap between Wayne's three informational layers and three types of dashboards. We mess up his "three" paradigm, but we might combine things into a summary such as:

  • Strategic Monitoring Dashboard for executives (highly graphical representative of metrics)
  • Tactical Analysis Dashboard for departments and projects (summary with drill-to details)
  • Operational Detail Dashboards for front-line workers (very current transactional data) 

For more information, see Wayne's book on Amazon.

By the way, if you are considering using WebFOCUS to build BI dashboards, be sure to see my other blog posting.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mega-Vendors Unable to do Visual BI Analytics?

Stephen Few in his Visual Business Intelligence blog does not seem to have much faith in the mega-vendors to perform in the visual analytics space. 

Stephen says:
Big, old, traditional BI companies are good at producing technologies that enhance the infrastructure of business intelligence—more and faster—but not the actual use of data in ways that lead to greater intelligence. Being big, focused primarily on technology from an engineering perspective, and devoutly sales driven makes it difficult for companies like SAP to develop useful tools for activities that support decision making: data exploration, sensemaking, and communication. To meet this challenge, they must shift their focus from technology to the humans who use it—our needs and abilities—and expand their perspective to embrace design. They must commit their efforts to what actually works, rather than silly, shiny features that fill their existing products with smoke and mirrors.

In particular, Stephen singles out SAP Business Objects as lacking "expertise" in providing visual analytics. Basically, all they have is the dashboard product BO acquired long ago. By adding their new HANA in-memory database capabilities, Stephen says SAP just might "enable a faster trip to nowhere." 

See the rest of Stephen's comments here

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dynamos, Cruisers, and Losers

In his book "True Professionalism," David Maister writes that service professionals, at any point in time, are in one of three categories: Dynamos, Cruisers, and Losers.

Maister defines "Dynamo" as:
You are a Dynamo when you are acting as if you are still in the middle of a career (not a job) and on your way to somewhere.  As a Dynamo, you always have a personal strategic plan that you are enthusiastically working towards.  Dynamos are always working to learn something new, and are continually adding to their skills and knowledge.  They are actively building their practice in new and challenging areas.

At the other end of the spectrum would be the "Loser":
You are a Loser if, for whatever reason, you do not meet the basic standards of quality, client service, and hard work.  This slate, whether temporary or permanent, can be caused by any of many possible things: disruptions in one's personal life, a loss of energy, a dying practice area, and so on.

If you are somewhere between "Dynamo" and "Loser", you are a "Cruiser":
You are by definition, not a Loser.  Cruisers are fully competent, successful professionals who work hard, do good work, and take care of their clients.  They show up each week and "make the sausages."  Then they come in the next week, and, again, make the sausages.  Most likely theirs are good, high-quality "sausages."  In fact, everybody in the firm knows that if you've got a sausage job, you should go to that person.  Those people are terrific at making sausages!  However, Cruisers certainly are not Dynamos.  They are not going anywhere.  Rather than working to learn new things, Cruisers do well for the time being by living off their existing skills.  They are not working to expand their abilities.  They have a job, not a career.

Note that being categorized as a Cruiser doesn't imply that one is a bad worker or a bad person.  Quite the opposite: Cruising translates to dedicated, high-quality work.  We all cruise some of the time; the temptation to do so is huge. Cruising means working at what you are already good at, and in consequence usually means a low-stress, comfortable work life.  Furthermore, it is easier to get hired for what you already know how to do then it is to generate work that "moves you forward." 

However, it is equally clear that a professional cannot cruise forever.  If all you work on is what you already know how to do, you'll eventually be overtaken by someone younger who will learn how to do what you do, and will probably be willing to do it for less than you get paid.  A key to success is to find a way to only cruise (if at all) occasionally and for short periods.

Maister believes that if you view your work as a job, you cannot be in the Dynamo category.  When you come in for the 8-to-5 stuff, you do it well and work hard.  You focus for 40 hours on making good sausages, because that is your job.  Beyond those 40 hours, however, you are not engaged, because you see yourself as being "off the job."  With that attitude, you do not qualify as a Dynamo candidate.

Losers and Cruisers have jobs.  If you do not see yourself in a long-term professional career, then you cannot be a Dynamo.  Maister suggests that the difference between being a Dynamo and a Cruiser is passion.  He also points out the manager's responsibility for leading professionals.
More than anything else, a leader of professionals must help his or her colleagues to find the fun in being a Dynamo.  Leaders must be intolerant of cruising, and demand (and help create) true achievement.

If you are a Business Intelligence software consultant, you have plenty of opportunities to shine as a Dynamo--you just need to supply the passion.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

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.