Thursday, September 22, 2011

BI Vendors use Communities to Serve Customers

BI vendors tend to primarily follow a software production business model and shy away from too much services. One reason is financial as they are often evaluated by a metric calculated using dollars divided by the number of employees. Because of high margins for software, this "revenue per employee" or "profit per employee" metric is much higher when a vendor focuses on selling software and not services.

For a nice visualization of this, see Pingdom blog from earlier in 2011 showing Apple with profits of about $420K per employee (almost tripled since 2008 when it was just $151K). Google ranked next with $336K in profits for each headcount; Microsoft followed with a measly $245K.

With that said, software customers still need help. At a minimum, software vendors must provide documentation and training services. They also need to offer a customer service desk to call when clients are in a pinch. Sometimes, customers do need onsite consulting services.

Some BI vendors have found a way to provide services without having lots of people on staff: they enable their customers to help themselves.

Qlik Technologies has a "QlikCommunity" of more than 62,000 QlikView BI users from around the globe. They report having one hundred new users sign up each business day.

Doug Laird, the VP of Global Marketing at Qlik Technologies, says:
“Today’s business users need to make quicker decisions backed by clean, relevant information. This means that queuing up and waiting for IT to generate a report just doesn’t cut it anymore. This is why QlikView’s self-service Business Discovery solution – backed by QlikCommunity – is providing a boost to these users by enabling them to quickly react to changing market conditions. This combination has taken our support to the next level, and is a true testament to the compelling content and engaging experiences enabled through QlikCommunity today.”

Information Builders, the vendor of WebFOCUS, has a similar service called "Focal Point." Their community web page states there are 5000 developers posting 88,000 messages on 13,000 different topics. Information Builders employs some individuals who watch over the postings, engage when necessary, but ensure that solutions are clearly documented for future searchers.

With this type of self-service question and answer forum, BI software customers can search for existing answers to their questions and interact with peers instead of opening a ticket with a support representative. This frees the software vendor to focus on what it does best--building software--and to be more profitable in the process. 


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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.