Feb 01 2012

MicroStrategy World Day 2, 3

Categories: Conferences, MicroStrategy Dave Rathbun @ 12:26 pm

I missed the keynote on the first day, but I made sure I made it on day two. The four pillars of the conference were cloud, big data, mobility, and social. I get the first three; they’re very similar to the Business Objects themes of cloud, mobility, and in-memory for the past few years. The social aspect bothers me a bit, and not just because I’m not a huge fan of Facebook. They showed off a number of Facebook apps (Usher, Wisdom, and Emma are three names that I remember as I’m finishing up this post). The apps themselves are okay, but I really don’t think they should be the focus of the company. Michael Saylor is apparently very big into the social scene, and he’s betting big that the company efforts in this area are going to pay off. I keep thinking back to what the core competencies are, and how does social fit? Not so well, in my opinion, but as the next few years play out I guess we’ll see how that strategy works out. I recently read another article on CNN that was musing about the future of Facebook, titled, “Will Facebook Be The Next Yahoo?” that sums it up nicely, I think.

Mobility was another subject that was emphasized during the keynote. Various studies were quoted that suggested that within a few years almost every customer will have at least one mobile app, and by 2015 mobile development projects will outweigh desktop projects by a ratio of four to one. I get that, but so does SAP. I believe it was Steve Lucas (or perhaps Vishal Sikka) who said at a recent event that “Mobile is the new desktop.” I found that most folks at this event believe that MicroStrategy is currently ahead of SAP’s mobility offerings. (That’s probably not a surprise, given the venue.) The primary advantage that they have over SAP is the fact that everything has grown organically, so integration is already there. SAP is still trying to work to get Web Intelligence and Xcelsius and other content delivered to the iPad in a seamless fashion. They’re making progress, but it’s not like MicroStrategy is waiting for them to catch up either.

Both vendors (SAP and MicroStrategy) are making a lot of noise about the cloud. I can see where this would be very attractive, especially for a smaller or mid-sized company. The ability to spin up a project with minimal (or no) investment in hardware would save money but more importantly allow faster time to delivery for the project. They did a good job of spinning that advantage during the keynote, but I don’t think it needs that much “spin” to show the advantages. There wasn’t anything super exciting about this that I haven’t also seen from SAP.

After the keynote we had another nice lunch (again, the food and service at this event reminded me of the way things used to work at Business Objects events) and then it was time for some track sessions. Overall I found this event did not have very many deep-dive technical sessions, and I really missed the labs that are available at Business Objects events.

I attended one session on data “mashups” that reminded me a lot of the features provided on the bi.ondemand.com cloud site. I did pick up a few new sites that are interesting sources for public data. For example, we looked at garbage collection statistics from NYCOpenData. :lol: MicroStrategy offers direct interfaces to any URL-enabled data source but also Twitter, FourSquare, and of course Facebook. Another site that provides open data is InfoChimps.

I went to a few other sessions on day 2 and more on the morning of day 3, but nothing that I really want to cover in detail. As I’ve mentioned (more than once) I felt that at least for me this event did not offer enough deep-dive technical content. Even when a talk was interesting (see the notes about the LinkedIn talk from day 1) they often didn’t offer much about MicroStrategy.

But I did get a t-shirt. :P

I have had a couple of people ask me (offline) if I’m leaving Business Objects and working with MicroStrategy now. Rest assured the answer is no, I am not. But I’m excited about the opportunity to get my hands on another tool, especially when both tools have strengths. Ultimately it’s about getting data to end users in a format that they can use to improve the business, so why not have more than one choice? In fact it has been over a year since I renamed my blog from “Adventures in Business Objects” to “Adventures in Business Intelligence” in order to be able to talk about different ideas like this. I’m nowhere near as fluent in MSTR as I am in BOBJ, but I hope to fix that over the coming years. We’ll see how that goes. 8-)

Jan 25 2012

MicroStrategy World Day 1

Categories: Conferences, MicroStrategy Dave Rathbun @ 1:05 pm

I’m at my first MicroStrategy conference this week. It’s interesting to see what is different and what’s the same compared to the Business Objects conferences that I normally attend. For one thing, they don’t hand out survey forms at the sessions. For a BI / data company, that seems surprising. The food here (which I know is a big reason why folks come to conferences, yes? ;-) ) is like the food used to be at Business Objects conferences several years ago, that is to say we sit down for lunch and they bring around plates. Yesterday was chicken, pasta, green beans, and cheesecake for dessert. It was quite good.

That being said, try to find a bottle of water, or even a water cooler, anywhere around the place. It’s nearly impossible. I finally found some water late yesterday afternoon, after asking a number of different conference folks and getting blank looks or, “I think I saw some over there, somewhere…” comments. The wireless has been good, although it ironically dropped out (at least for me) in the room I went to for the mobility track. :lol: That track is all the way on the end of the hotel, so perhaps they need another access point.

Not only are they not handing out survey forms during the sessions, but they’re not scanning our badges as we enter the rooms. Again, for a data company I find that surprising.

But what about the content? Yesterday I attended three sessions. The first was a joint session between Teradata and eBay. The Teradata folks talked about their generic concepts for “big data” and how to let analysts make the best use of it. The eBay gentleman then talked about some specifics around how they work with their large data sources (petabytes of data). It was interesting but I didn’t see a lot of MicroStrategy stuff, just big data stuff. Next I went to a session delivered by LinkedIn. I found it to be more interesting because in this case they talked about data quality issues that I can certainly related to. BOB is nowhere near as big as LinkedIn (they have 135MM users at this point) but we still have consistency issues. For example, the presenter asked the audience how many ways we thought the job title of “Software Engineer” appeared in their database. The majority of the guesses were very low compared to the actual value of over 6,000. They have over 8,000 different iterations of the company name IBM! :shock: As you can imagine, searching is a big challenge for LinkedIn. As I said, the talk was interesting, but at the end the presenter had not talked about MicroStrategy or shown a single product during the entire talk! In fact that was the first question from the audience, “How are you using MicroStrategy in your environment?”

The last session I attended (the aforementioned mobility track) was given by a presenter from Lowes Hardware. Lowes is a big user of MicroStrategy products. (In fact their former CIO is now apparently in charge of the cloud for MicroStrategy.) He was by far the most engaging presenter and he powered through his session even after the failure of the audio equipment in the room. Lowes has purchased over 40,000 iPhones and has apparently bet big on that hardware platform along with the mobile products from MicroStrategy. He gave a great example… every store manager used to spend a few minutes each morning jotting down some notes from a sales report in order to have that information with him or her at any point throughout the day. Just a few minutes a day, but it was something they did essentially every day. The replaced the report delivery (and hand notations) with a mobile app and eliminated those few minutes. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? They estimated that the savings (I assume based on average pay for store managers) at only $6.84. I think I have that number correct, if I’m wrong it’s not by much. When that savings was multiplied by the number of managers across all stores, and then multiplied again by the number of days in a year, the total productivity savings came out to $4.3 million dollars. Per year. Talk about a quick return on investment, yes?

The app was cool, but I wanted to know more about how it was built, what tools were used, and what the process looked like. So far the sessions I’ve attended have been very light on specifics, so I hope I pick better sessions today. Will let you know tomorrow.