Agile BI from the road – reflections of a road warrior

December 14, 2010

Last week was not just the celebration of the anniversary of the Pentaho Agile BI initiative, it was also the conclusion of my detective tour throughout the US to both teach and learn about Agile BI.  I call this a detective tour because we really use these types of events to investigate and better understand just what’s going on in the marketplace and what BI challenges companies are trying to overcome. Over the past 4 months Pentaho has visited over 26 cities worldwide with the Agile BI Tour – Data to Dashboards in Minutes. I was at 15 of the cities across the US presenting on our Agile BI Initiative along with our partners.

These live, free workshops were ideal for attendees to learn because of the depth of demonstrations,  discussion of our Agile BI integration development environment and actual customer implementation examples. I personally found it very rewarding being on the ground and speaking with hundreds of BI users (or soon-to-be users). I had the usual slide presentations and demonstrations, yet found that in the majority of the cities, our time would consist of 70% Q&A and 30% slides. Along with the in-depth conversations I had with companies of all sizes across the US, I was also able to analyze the results of the survey’s we received back from almost every attendee of the Agile BI tour. Drawing from my experience on the road and survey analysis, I have four major observations of the current state of Agile BI:

  1. There remains a crying need for a better BI solution in the marketplace.
  2. In almost all of the cities, the majority of attendees were already users of existing BI solutions, mostly those from the traditional vendors such as SAP/Business Objects, IBM/Cognos, Oracle, Microstrategy and others.  While this was initially was a shock, their answers to the questionnaire revealed the dissatisfaction and challenges with existing solutions, and to a large degree, why they are looking for alternatives.
  3. An overwhelming number of attendees responded that their number one challenge with their existing BI solutions was cost followed closely by the lack of IT resources to get their projects done.  Additional related factors included the complexity of existing BI solutions and the time it takes to get BI reports.
  4. Simply put, most users of BI need better, less expensive solutions that can deliver critical analytic data and reports faster. In spite of all of the BI solutions that are available today from the traditional BI vendors, the market and users still find themselves struggling with the core basics of putting more and better BI in the hands of users.

I can’t wait until January and we are back on the road to more locations and more users with the Agile BI Tour.  And of course, we are not slowing down on the product front either with very exciting product plans in the works for next year.  For Pentaho and our users, 2011 promises to be an exciting year.

Joe Nicholson
VP Product Marketing and Agile BI Road Warrior

Keep it simple

June 9, 2010

Top 5 advances in ETL and BI in the past 15 years:

  1. Near Real-time Data Warehouses
  2. Dashboards
  3. Drag and Drop ETL
  4. Ad hoc Analytics
  5. Metadata Driven ETL

What is missing from the list above? That would be the fact that BI use has not penetrated into everyday business life like we would have expected.  But wasn’t that the point that we were all heading towards, that of BI for the masses?  That goal of information transparency that everyone was looking for seems to have gotten lost by most vendors in the race to have the biggest and baddest feature list.  Very powerful BI technology exists today to get at pretty much any data and slice and dice it in ways that we could have only imagined years ago. Yet, the complexity and disparity of that technology continues to be a major roadblock to getting everyday business managers the information they need to best run their businesses.  Now, add in the ever changing, dynamic nature of business today, we find the chasm between the IT department and business users largely intact with business users seeking more and more self service BI on their own.

That is why we set out on our Agile BI initiative, to solve these obvious problems that other vendors ignore.  The market and competitive response to our Agile BI initiative has been fun to watch.  Suddenly, lots of competitors are talking about how to make their technology more agile and industry analysts are again writing about agile as well.

Unfortunately, competitors miss the point.  Pentaho’s Agile BI initiative looks to make things simpler, not more complex.  This isn’t about adding more technology to the mix, this is about using the technology that we already have in more agile and elegant ways so that we can bridge the chasm between IT and business users.  It’s not about long winded explanations of technology infrastructure that only technology geniuses can understand, it’s about opening up the BI process so that IT and business users can collaborate and deploy business relevant BI application quicker.

Isn’t that the real point of BI, getting at more information quicker?

Keep it simple folks.

Joe Nicholson
VP, Product Marketing
Pentaho Corporation

Former Informatica exec joins Pentaho

May 4, 2010

If you have the world’s most popular open source data integration (DI) offering and want to make it even better, you need the top DI market strategist behind the product. That is why we turned to DI and analytics veteran, Joe Nicholson. With over 25 years of technology and marketing management experience, with companies like Informatica, DecisionPoint and Trintech I asked Joe the same question I did to Tom Leonard when he joined, “What brought you to Pentaho?” Welcome Joe!

Guest Blogger: Joe Nicholson

I have been in DI and analytics in one form or another for most of my career. Whether it was marketing the data integration platform at Informatica or doing business development around packaged finance analytics at DecisionPoint, I am really an analytics guy at heart. Part of my passion no doubt comes from solving the enduring complexity and depth of the BI challenge. A decade ago, our challenges were focused on dealing with the complexity of data sources and providing cost effective information and analytics to the emerging generation of managers and mobile workers. At that time, data volumes and sources were exploding (or so we thought) and our primary customer prospects were those hand-coding their ETL projects or dumping their finance and other data into Excel and wanted a better way. What is particularly intriguing to me is that those challenges haven’t really changed over time. Data volumes and sources continue to grow, now at a rate that was impossible to imagine 10 years ago. And, while the use of BI has certainly increased for the business user, it is nowhere near where I would have expected it to be given all of the hype around Pervasive BI, BI for the Masses, the Democratization of BI or the other terms that were being used at that time. As a technology, it is still too expensive, too complex and too slow.

What has changed is the mindset of the business user. Frankly, the ROI for BI was oversold in the early and middle years and the recent economy has focused end users on TCO like never before as the need for faster, more agile and diverse projects now drive end user requirements.

I had followed Pentaho for several years, both from the technology and business model angles. First, from a technology perspective, they are solving many of the issues faced by end users by producing a complete, integrated BI suite that includes purpose built ETL, data modeling, reporting and analysis, all within a single platform that handles administration, security and the rest of the functions needed for deployment and maintenance of the BI applications.

Second, old way of licensing BI technology (and other software) has run its course. The era of open source and commercial open source has arrived. In today’s cost conscious, business driven climate, why would anyone run a long, extensive procurement process, construct costly prototypes and pay $10,000 to $100,000+ of license plus maintenance fees before you can actually see if the technology works for your purpose.

Enter Pentaho and the open source development and distribution model. Pentaho and its thousands of community members together with its own professional engineering staff have developed the Pentaho Enterprise BI Suite that is on par with all of the major players in the market across ETL, modeling, reporting analysis and data modeling. The game has changed with Pentaho’s recent announcements of the Pentaho Data Integration Version 4.0 and the Agile BI integrated development environment that forever changes how IT developers and business users collaborate to produce relevant BI applications.

It’s an exciting time to be in the DI and BI markets and even more exciting to be at Pentaho.

Joe Nicholson,
Vice President Product Marketing
Pentaho Corporation

Read the press release Pentaho Names Joe Nicholson Vice President of Product Marketing


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