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


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


Reflections on the Wisdom of the Crowds BI Market Study

January 10, 2011

I recently came across a very interesting study that has been published by Dresner Advisory Services. The Business Intelligent market study titled, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” is written by Howard Dresner, one of the foremost thought leaders in the BI market. This in-depth market research has used a survey tactic to gather the wisdom of 457 BI users (quite a crowd!) on 32 essential metrics for choosing a BI technology. The results are astonishing.

Among the many trends two were the most interesting to me:

  1. Today, smaller BI deployments dominate across all geographies and all industries.
  2. Smaller BI deployments have started to take off in the last 2 years or so and are growing in the expense of large deployments that were once popular 5 to 15 years ago.

This is a huge market shift. 1,000+ user base deployments are no longer ideal or even desired. They have been replaced by smaller deployments for individual organizations, departments, and line of businesses.

While this is no surprise due to the economic conditions that has forced companies to cut back in their capital expenditure, including huge licensing costs just to entitle “every” user to the software and tools in hand, plus money spent on training and hiring skilled users, what has truly made this “shift” possible is the opportunity that open source BI has presented to these clients.

In my opinion, Open Source BI provides this opportunity in two ways:

1. Lower cost and easier to deploy BI software is now available. Notice that I am not just talking about the low cost here. Yes, Open Source BI has been a disruptive technology in the past couple of decades. Newer to the BI world, Open Source bears no acquisition cost for the software. Instead it offers a subscription model for support, which has made it the most attractive alternative for most clients. All the required functionality with only 10% of the cost! What else is new?!

Here, however, my emphasis is on the “easier to deploy” factor. What in the past took a symphony of data modelers, BI developers, ETL developers, data analysts, data architects, data warehouse managers, and DBAs, and a 12 month implementation cycle, is now done “only by a few and only in a few weeks”.

What does this mean for smaller organizations or even departments within larger organizations? It means that now they are able to invest in BI. Something that was not viable a few years ago. They not only don’t have to pay high dollars for BI tools, but also don’t need an exhaustive list of skills, consulting, and expertise to get going.

Dresner’s report shows exactly this. More and more smaller deployments are becoming popular in the last couple of years and are replacing the large ones that were on most corporate priority lists 5-10 years ago.

2. The second reason for this market shift is due to the connection that emerging technologies (such as open source) have made to the line of business owners. Business users have found a way to “free” themselves from IT latency. There is no question that you need your technical staff to initially set up the BI infrastructure and build the first round of reports and analysis, but that shouldn’t mean that every time you want add a dimension to your calculations, or measure something slightly different, you would have to go in a waiting list queue behind several other requests and get an answer 3-4 weeks later. Business users now realize that they can take control, and find the answers for themselves — at least in most cases.

Open Source BI has emerged to enable these folks with tools that let them manage changes in their business processes a lot faster. Dresner’s report is an evident to this fact. The study shows that business users are the most likely to chose emerging technologies over BI tools from the Titans (IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft) and the BI Pure Plays (Actuate, MicroStrategy).

I would encourage you to download and study this report further. You will be intrigued!

To conclude my points, I’d like to point out a chart from the 2010 Wisdom of Crowds Market Study (The 2011 study is underway). It shows the life cycle of all BI vendors. Several vendors matured 2 to 5 years ago. They saw the most deployments and new customer acquisitions in that time frame. But since then, their deployments have declined. Among these vendors are SAP Business Objects, Oracle, MicroSoft, IBM Cognos, and Actuate. With cobbled together tools from different acquisitions that are not integrated and require deep technical skills and long deployment cycles, not to mention the huge software acquisition costs for clients, there is no wonder to this trend. These tools are anything but suitable for small, agile, and high-value projects.

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation

This blog was originally posted on  Open Source Business Intelligence


13 highlights Pentaho BI Suite Bootcamp

December 15, 2010

As the new product marketing manager at Pentaho, I wanted to write my first blog on my experience attending the four-day Pentaho BI Suite Bootcamp. This class is key to better understand the architecture of the Pentaho BI Suite and get hands on experience with the Pentaho BI Suite, ETL/Data Integration, Analysis and Reporting.

I have to say that coming from an enterprise data integration vendor such as IBM, I was a bit skeptical of any open source solution. What I expected was the bare bones: limited data type coverage, no metadata, basic data modeling and simple BI reporting. What I discovered was to the other extreme. I was taken by surprise on both the breath and the depth of the solution.

Here is my list of lucky 13 highlights from the class:

1.     Coverage of all types of data from what you expect (DB2, Oracle, & SQL Server) to Hadoop, Netezza, Teradata, SAP ERP systems, and of course MySQL and PostgreSQL.

2.     Parallel processing of data transformations – with an ‘intuitive’ UI that eliminates the need for coding. Unlike other tools in the market from both Open Source as well as major proprietary ETL vendors that are code generators, Pentaho Data Integration eliminates the need for coding. Talk about a low TCO!

3.     A shared repository gives a great opportunity for team work and collaboration in the process.

4.     Can handle very sophisticated dimensional modeling concepts – combination, degenerate, and conformed, and slowing changing dimensions, star and snow flake schemas.

5.     Power of OLAP for dynamic aggregation, so developers don’t have to figure out the reporting requirements ahead of time with SQL. This is an extraordinary piece of the puzzle.

6.     Caching and aggregate-aware constructs, so look ups don’t need to hit the database for every row. The wait times will be a lot less and latency is reduced.

7.     Removing the SQL layer for BI developers and data analysts. This has two benefits:  1. Reduces the complexity. 2. Protects databases from novice SQL users that can harm the system. Instead, a set of “business objects” (customer, product, etc) are presented for building reports and dashboards.

8.     Covers all types of reporting needs: Production reporting (for managed and high volume pixel perfect distribution), ad hoc analysis (for interactive analysis to measure business performance against time, location, product lines), operational reporting (for detailed reporting on the current state of data supporting ERP and CRM applications), and data mining (for predictive analysis to detect fraud / next best offers).

9.     Full drill in and out capabilities on reports. Can drill in from summary information to details. Can also drill from report to report with hyperlinks.

10.  Parametrized reports for the interactivity factor needed for analysis. Examples: What if I change the time dimension, or region? What changes I will see and how I need to adjust my operations accordingly?

11.  Dashboards, scorecards, and metrics that allow business users assemble previously built reports, queries, and analysis, needing “zero-training”.

12.  A quick installation got me up and ready in a few minutes. Quote from a customer in the class: “was able to kick this off in 10 minutes”. This customer has evaluated Pentaho’s other Open Source rivals and had found Pentaho to be superior.

13.  And now, for the cream of the crop…Something that the Big guys of ETL are light years behind: Pentaho’s integrated ETL, Visualization, and Modeling environment. It was really cool to be able to create a live connection to an transactional systems (OLTP), select some tables, and from there click right into the modeling and data visualization environments, analyze the content of those tables, do some profiling and decide the best ETL paths as well as best data structures for our new target schema. This was really exciting for me to see, as I have seen struggles around it before. Pentaho not only has all the pieces of the puzzle (ETL, Analysis, Modeling, OLAP, Predictive), which a lot of other vendors don’t even have, but it also has ‘integrated’ them into one development suite that helps the user walk through the process of building a BI solution one step at the time and on a consistent path to completion.

Seeing this set of “sophisticated” ETL, Data Modeling, OLAP, Visualization, and BI tools just left me with one puzzling question at the end. This is what I wrote in my notes at the end of the class:I can’t believe this is all so cheap! Where I was we used to charge hundreds if not millions of dollars for this!”

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation


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