The New, Game-Changing Rules of Enterprise Software

July 11, 2011

The rules of the game have changed for enterprise software. In Aaron Levie’s recent article on TechCruch, “Building An Enterprise Software Company That Doesn’t Suck”, he breaks down the changes in enterprise software business into three categories. Levie details how differently enterprise software is developed, sold, and supported today versus just a few years ago.

I found Levie’s perspective interesting – especially because it matches the model that we have followed at Pentaho to achieve great success.

1. How enterprise software is developed today.

It’s no longer about products that are feature-bloated merely to get into RFP wars and win multi-year, large contracts. Those days are over – all they produced were complex technologies that had no real usage.

Now what drives demand is the real business application of software. Success is in user adoption, not in feature checklists.

This is exactly why an open source business model has been successful for enterprise software. The products are developed because there was a real business need for them. Many features are implemented and submitted by the community members, because real users need these capabilities in their business applications. This is a true outside-in, end user focus.

2. How enterprise software is sold today.

Long gone are the days of interruption marketing and trying to sell to every poor soul who happens to pass by. The buying process is much more bottoms up today. As Levie puts it, “With web-delivered, freemium or open source solutions, we’re seeing viral, bottom-up adoption of technology across organizations of all sizes.”

The open source model allows users to buy into the software (aka use it) before actually paying for it. Rather than knocking on every door to find an interested buyer, which is the model many enterprise software companies still follow, our sales organization is focused on actually helping customers navigate their options, providing consultative support and knowledgeable market advice.

3. How enterprise software is supported today.

In a traditional software licensing model, the customer pays a hefty upfront fee, just to get entitled to use the software. In addition, the customer has to pay for an annual subscription and support.

Luckily, buyers have realized that there are better options out there. As Levie rightfully notes, “The unstoppable trend toward ‘renting’ vs. ‘buying’ software, means the vendor gets paid only as the software continues to solve problems for its customer.”

At Pentaho we are committed to our customers’ success and our high customer retention numbers speak to this.

Interested to find out more about our software? Download it now.

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing
Pentaho Corporation


Analyst Insights: How Pentaho BI 4 is changing the game for SMB companies

July 7, 2011

Recently I had the pleasure to speak with Albert Pang, a veteran of the application market space with more than 25 years of experience and the founder of Apps Run The World. In our conversation, centered on Pentaho BI 4, we discussed the use of business intelligence by the casual business user – something that in the past has been impossible due to the highly technical nature of business intelligence deployments.

In his recent blog, Business Analytics for the Masses, Pang depicts this problem and describes how it has impacted the SMB market. He explains how highly technical BI tools worked as a roadblock for SMB companies that did not have intensive IT resources to allocate to BI projects — something that independent BI vendors in the market (Pentaho, Tableau, and Qliktech) have realized and leveraged as an opportunity to improve the BI market.  

Pang goes further by saying “Pentaho, which has made its name in the open-source BI marketplace, introduced Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition in June. One of the key targets is non-technical business users who can use the new product to create highly formatted, interactive reports with zero training or involvement from the IT department.”

Part of our mission at Pentaho is to make it easy and cost effective for SMB companies to reap the same benefits historically only obtainable by blue-chip companies. With Pentaho BI 4, we’ve extended this mission to encompass the casual business users too.  As this “New wave of BI” becomes more pervasive, more users than ever before will look to harness BI for their everyday business use. Pentaho is already seeing this effect with our customers including Loma Linda University Healthcare, SpecSavers, Centro, and others.

I encourage you to read the blog post, Business Analytics for the Masses by Albert Pang, and let us know your thoughts.

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing
Pentaho Corporation


User stories behind user-driven BI

June 28, 2011

Can BI be so simple to use that it becomes the daily productivity tool for even the most casual user? Here at Pentaho, we are certainly seeing this side of BI in our customers. Here are their stories in their own words…

Boyne Resorts, the largest family run four-season resort in North America, is using Pentaho everyday to better understand its customer behavior and loyalty. Their Pentaho Dashboards show Boyne’s top 50 customers grouped by city and state. These color-coded dashboards show the concentration of customers in a given city, allowing Marketing Managers to gain immediate visibility into local market activities such as customer’s time spent in resorts. This information helps Boyne design a better mix of resort offers and loyalty points for its customers. Boyne also allows Resort Managers to optimize their operational excellence by using Pentaho Dashboards to assess profits from food and beverage, lift tickets, and lodging. Noah Meister, BI Director of Boyne Resorts, highlights Boyne’s transformation to this user-driven BI approach, in his remarks:

“We’ve advanced a major step forward for our business users by leveraging Pentaho. Boyne has a long history of being first and pursuing innovative ideas and implementing a fully functioning business intelligence application across our network of resorts follows that tradition.”

Delta Dental of Virginia, a member company of Delta Dental Plans Association, the nation’s largest dental benefit carrier, is using Pentaho BI to enable its 4,000+ knowledge workers to become a truly data-driven organization. Pentaho Reporting is integrated into company’s web site, and is a key component of DDVA’s customer service program. The web site tightly integrates claim processing systems and allows Knowledge Workers and Claim Managers to pull up accurate reports and claim status information on a daily basis. In addition, Pentaho Dashboards provide Underwriters with insight into fraudulent behavior. This new user-driven BI paradigm has been so successful that other Delta Dental member companies have asked for the same software. John Sheffield, Director of Software Development at Delta Dental of VA, marks this achievement by saying:  

“Pentaho has precipitated a cultural shift at Delta Dental of Virginia toward a knowledge worker paradigm. Once we had a BI platform that everyone could use and people understood its capabilities, they were transformed into knowledge workers who can look to data to answer their questions. As a result, people rely on data, not anecdotes to drive the business.”

ControlPay, world’s leader in freight auditing with presence in Netherlands, Ukraine, and USA, is using Pentaho to provide its customers deep insight into the most cost-effective logistics and transportation options. With Pentaho BI, this true B2B company is now able to provide an e-platform to its clients, some of which include world’s largest manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Proctor & Gamble and Schlumberger. The e-platform allows Distribution Managers, Supply Chain Managers, and Partners to assess variances in costs due to factors such as location, distance from distribution points, and contractual rates of regional carriers. A more drill-down analysis into less obvious costs such as weight per pallet, loyalty discounts, road tolls, and regional tax regimes, gives ControlPay a huge competitive advantage over other logistics suppliers. Pieter Kinds, Chief Operating Officer of ControlPay, speaks of this innovation by saying:

“Logistics is a major cost incurred by many businesses. Understanding the most efficient route to market across decentralized networks is a distracting challenge for organizations trying to satisfy global markets. Using our e-platform with Pentaho BI, brings disparate knowledge into one transparent hub, which means ControlPay customers have oversight on one screen of logistics data from many sources. This is a breakthrough!”

It is fascinating to see how BI has come such a long way from the old days of IT-centric report building. Interested to find out more about Pentaho’s User-Driven BI? Check out this 4 minute video and see for yourself: http://www.pentaho.com/power-to-the-user/

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing
Pentaho Corporation


What does the economic buyer of Agile BI know that you don’t?

May 18, 2011

Agile is a familiar term to product managers and software developers who are looking to build rapid prototypes and iterate through software development life cycles fairly quickly and effectively.

With recent market trends, Agile has now made it to the agenda of the economic BI buyer. If you are a CFO, CIO, or CEO, and have been hearing about Agile BI in the industry, you are probably looking to quantify the benefits of Agile BI in terms of direct cost savings.

As a CxO you know that your Business Intelligence costs are mainly driven by these 4 areas:

  1. License acquisition costs
  2. Skill development and training
  3. Project deployment duration and man hours
  4. Ongoing cost of change management once the solution is deployed

The question is whether Agile BI can save you costs in any of these categories? While Agile BI can immediately imply faster deployment of the BI solution (#3 above), in Pentaho we add value in all the 4 areas. Here is how:

  1. Consolidation of licenses: Any BI implementation requires some form of Data Integration, Data Warehousing/Data Mart development, and Data Visualization (Reports, Analysis, and Dashboards). Current BI vendors in the market have disparate products for each of these areas, and offer each product at a separate license acquisition and maintenance cost. Pentaho provides great value in this area as it includes all these components in “one” subscription to Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition, giving you an ultimate price tag that is by far a fraction of the cost of other BI tools in the market.
  2. Collapsing skill sets into one: Each specialized tool mentioned above also requires a set of highly trained staff. In a traditional BI project, a crew of ETL Developers, DBAs, Data Modelers, and BI Developers were involved, each building one piece of the big puzzle. An all in one tool such as Pentaho BI Suite EE offers “one” single integrated tool set for all areas of BI development. This enables organizations to collapse the diverse skill sets into one. This level of self-sufficiency reduces the amount of IT staff that needs to be on board for building and maintaining a successful BI program.
  3. Rapid deployment – Pentaho offers an Agile Development Environment, as part of its BI Suite EE. This integrated data integration and business intelligence development environment turns data to decision in a matter of days as opposed to months/ years. Interactive data explorations and visualizations for slicing and dicing data across multiple sources are instantly auto-generated using this tool. Unlike a waterfall approach, this tool allows business and technical teams to build quick prototypes, and iterate upon that all within a unified workspace that empowers sharing, collaboration, and rapid results.
  4. Rapid change management – The need for quick turnarounds when adding additional business metrics or changing existing ones is a reality in BI deployments. When disparate tools are used, adding a new data source, or changing a metric, can take a long time. With Agile BI Development Environment, unique to Pentaho, any change to ETL flows or to the business semantic layer, is automatically reflected in the visualization layer (Reporting, Analysis, Dashboards). This helps organizations to quickly incorporate changes and adjust their BI solution to current business requirements, without long wait times and IT bottleneck delays.

Ready to start saving? How about this….try the Agile BI functionality of Pentaho BI Suite or Pentaho Data Integration for FREE (30-day supported enterprise evaluation). Ready now?

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation


IT needs vs. Business needs

March 22, 2011

Can Business and IT finally live in harmony when it comes to BI?

This is not a new concept or question. In fact, for the last several years pretty much all BI vendors claimed that they have solved the “Business and IT Collaboration” needs. Or, at least their marketing departments did!

To truly solve a problem, we must first fully understand it. In this case it is important to ask questions such as: Why is there a lack of collaboration between these two groups? What is so drastically different about these two groups that have forced such a gap between them?

The truth is that IT needs a central ownership to information to streamline processes and ensure sustainability, while business users want their own self-service and ownership to gain results faster. After all business users have become a lot more analysis and data savvy these days as compared to the past; so, an old-school approach of letting IT do the work and just being the consumers of canned reports doesn’t cut it anymore.

Perhaps this picture illustrates the differences more clearly.

As you can see, these two groups are clearly in conflict when it comes to how they like to manage their information. So, we ask: What will help these two groups to start working in harmony?

The truth is that it won’t happen… unless there is a ‘balance’ between their needs.

As much as business users want quick time to value out of their BI projects, one-off applications are not sustainable overtime. They become monsters that are too hard to keep up-to-date, considering all the changes that happen to business requirements over time. Sooner or later, business users will need to reach to their IT friends for help.

The ‘balance’ lies in letting the business users get fast time to value, but still building applications that are sustainable to change. We define this ‘balance’ with an Agile BI approach:

  • Quick prototyping and visualization of the results
  • Frequent iterations and reviews between business and IT users to ‘get it right’
  • Once the data is ‘fit-for-purpose’, providing self-service tools for business users to be self-sufficient in building their own reports, analysis, and dashboards
  • Having a strong ‘shared’ metadata foundation across the board to adjust to changes quickly and to scale up with cumulative iterations

So back to our point about collaboration between business and IT: It is possible? Yes. Does it happen because a set of ‘tools’ facilitate this collaboration? Not necessarily, but they can help. What is the secret ingredient then to ensure such collaboration occurs? Simple: This collaboration happens as long as these two groups need each other, and are working towards a set of common / balanced goals for their BI projects. Something that is only possible with an Agile BI approach.

For more information about this topic and to explore how Pentaho has made Agile BI possible, attend our upcoming webinar on How to Fast Track Your BI Projects with Agile BI and see for yourself how Pentaho customers have come to reap the value of their BI projects with Pentaho’s Agile BI initiative.

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation


Why Pentaho Analyzer was ‘on the money’ at Strata

February 9, 2011

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Last week, Pentaho was a sponsor at The Strata Conference in San Francisco, California. Over the two-day conference our booth was constantly packed with attendees. As I chatted with these eager visitors, I was pleased to hear comments such as: “My boss has asked me to look into Pentaho,” and “We currently have product X and we are looking into solutions that are easy to use and don’t charge an arm and a leg for it.” As I was demoing the Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition, one thing was clear … the line between business users and technical users is fading fast!

Everyone wants access to data, but not everyone has it. Technical users, the ETL and BI developers, spend all their time on working with data, integrating, cleansing, standardizing, and analyzing it, but the business users need their data in a different way. Data gives these business users power.

The days of traditional BI when IT was building standard reports and pushing it out to business users are over. Canned reports are too slow to arrive, too limited on the information they provide, and often are too far out from what the business needed in the first place.

Business users want the power and flexibility to work with their data, and to compare and contrast anything to everything. But they want an intuitive and easy way to work with their data, similar to the tools they are most familiar with such as Excel pivot tables. This became all very clear as I was demoing the Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition. The reaction of people to Pentaho Analyzer was right on the money. Pentaho Analyzer has the same look and feel as Excel spreadsheets, with an easy drag and drop capability to pull business data (customers, sales, orders, payments, time, region, territory, etc.) up to the canvas and slice and dice it to the heart’s desire. “Why not Excel?” one attendee asked me. The answer is simple….Because you can see the changes that your colleagues or IT staff make to data, immediately, without having to cross-check, guess, or ask about. Your Excel data is as good as it once was!

Pentaho Analyzer’s easy to use and intuitive ad hoc analysis capabilities, with hyperlinks for drill through to detailed transaction data behind the scenes, along with its strong charting capabilities and the flexibility to turn your final analysis results into Excel, PDF or any other popular format, topped it all off. I was pleased to see a lot of nods as I was demoing the software, a confirmation to Pentaho’s focus, strategy, and roadmap.

For additional highlights from the Strata conference read blog by Ian Fyfe, Thoughts on last week’s Strata Conference.

For a free 30 day evaluation of the Pentaho BI Suite (including Pentaho Analyzer), please go to http://www.pentaho.com/download/

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation


3 questions that every CFO wants to know about Pentaho (and how to answer them)

January 25, 2011

1. Will it do what I need?

2. Will it get done on time?

3. Will it fit my budget?

These are pretty much the 3 questions that any IT Manager will ask him/herself when it comes to evaluating and investing in any type of software. Open Source BI is no different. Call it an over-simplified RFI (Request for Information) or “make my CFO approve my gut feeling” checklist, these questions are essentially what you need to know to go forward with a purchasing decision.

The snippets below show how 4 Pentaho customers have answered these questions.

ZipRealty, a well known real estate firm, wanted to increase the quality and quantity of their reports to their users. Their previous BI solution was cost-prohibitive when it came to rolling out these reports to “all” their agents and district managers. ZipRealty’s Director of Business Intelligence, Salvatore Scalisi quotes: “It wasn’t economical to add the number of users we wanted. The licensing fees became substantial.”

With Pentaho, ZipRealty was able to help its agents and managers track inventory and conversion rates. They also enhanced their client services and satisfaction by rolling out analysis to their client base, allowing them see real estate listings along with embedded analysis and map-based mash ups directly from the ZipRealty’s website.

Estalea L.P., a technology incubator with strong Java programming expertise wanted to find a similar technology-base solution to prepare “data services” for its clients’ independent BI applications. In looking for a solution that was Java base, and did not require very deep technical skills, stating, “Pentaho was the only viable open source product, particularly in the ETL area.” Given that other Java ETL solutions are on a per user licensing model, Pentaho’s unlimited user license was a better option to them.

The simplicity and ease of use of Pentaho Data Integration, further enabled Estalea to save on costs by not hiring more expensive programmer staff. Jon Cotter, Director of Product Design and Technology at Estalea explains, “This way I can take on projects with people with less experience and move my senior people to other projects.”

For Loma Linda University Health Care, the value was mainly around user adoption. Loma Linda’s physicians, a non-technical group in the field of Business Intelligence and ETL, are now very interested to use Pentaho for their analysis. Historically, physicians are primarily Excel users. Their positive experience on the ease of use of Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition is absolutely clear in in the quote by Darrin Blocker, Decision Support Analyst at Loma Linda, “Just the idea of being able to select attributes and pivot that data and get a response in seconds, versus having to send in a report request and waiting for a week was a big selling point”.

Power Costs, Inc.’s goal was to offer an analytical application to its utility customers that can help them with energy bidding process. Monthly gigabytes of data and a seven-year history of data from its customers, combined with Power Costs’ own market data was processed to build these sophisticated analysis. Pentaho Analysis fit the bill.

For the volumes of data that Power Costs needed to analyze, Pentaho Data Integration was well-integrated into BI stack. According to David Nilsson, Power Costs Vice President of Product Strategy, his analysis of Pentaho’s ETL tool was “ One of the better ones that we had seen….Most vendors’ products don’t integrate as well.” The pricing model and easy integration helped Power Costs achieve ROI in less than four months.

4 customers, 4 different business use cases. They all needed Pentaho to not only deliver the functionality they needed, but also to provide them with tools that can easily be implemented and deliver results fast. Needless to say these customers had budget constraint that could not bless them to a ½ million dollar solution! To summarize their results in a few bullets, what they got out of Pentaho was:

  • Ease of use in implementation for the ETL and BI developer
  • Full integration of ETL and BI to speed project cycles
  • Letting business users make changes and see results fast, without having to wait for IT
  • Scalability of the solution for large volumes of data
  • Low cost in rolling out BI to the masses

For more information on these customers, download the white paper “Realizing the Pentaho Agile BI Opportunity: BI for the Masses and Customer Success” by Joshua Greenbaum, Principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation

To read more examples of customers like Loma Linda University and Estalea experiencing success with Pentaho visit the Pentaho Customer Success webpage.


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