Q&A with Pentaho Senior Sales Engineer, Wayne Johnson

May 12, 2011

Q&A is a series on the Business Intelligence from the Swamp Blog that interviews key members of the Pentaho team to learn more about their focus at Pentaho and outlook on the Business Intelligence industry.

Our Q&A today is with Wayne Johnson, Senior Sales Engineer at Pentaho. When he’s not on webcast or in meetings with potential customers, Wayne is SuperDad to five kids, an adjunct college professor and competes in triathlons. To learn more about Wayne’s role at Pentaho and view on Business Intelligence we asked him four questions:

1.  What brought you to Pentaho?
Back in 2009 I was made aware of Pentaho by competing against them in an opportunity where I represented a proprietary BI Vendor.  When Pentaho approached me to discuss the possibility of joining their team, I was very apprehensive due to their business model.  I just didn’t understand it.  Instead of writing it off, I decided to do my research and started reading a book called Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams.  This book not only changed my view on Pentaho but no pun intended, it opened my eyes to the benefits of Open Source (it was also a plus that Pentaho was mentioned in the book).  So I decided to take a risk and jump on board.

2.  What do you do for Pentaho?
Currently I am a Senior Sales Engineer who specializes in managing the Evaluation Experiences our evaluators have with our software.  Opposed to proprietary BI Vendors, companies are encouraged to try our software out to see if it is a fit for their organization.  Anyone with even a little experience in BI knows, however, that downloading, installing and building solutions with Enterprise Software would require some hand holding.  That is where I come in.  I make sure that those people that are evaluating our software have access to the resources and people they need to be able to accurately and efficiently evaluate Pentaho successfully.

3. How do you define a successful evaluation?
You would probably think my answer to this question is simply, one that ends in a subscription to Pentaho:-)  A more accurate answer is: A successful evaluation is one that has provided the evaluator with enough information to make an informed decision on whether they can meet their business needs with the use of Pentaho.  While the majority of our prospects come to the conclusions that Pentaho is the right solution to meet their business needs, some organizations do come to the conclusions that it is not.  I view both evaluations as successful because we have kept the customer in mind and solving their business needs as a priority, not just trying to make a sale, that is something I take great pride in.

4.  What characteristics do successful evaluations have in common?
There are definitely some common characteristics that I have seen in companies being able to successfully evaluate not just Pentaho, but any enterprise software package.  These are:

  •  Clearly Identified Business Needs – As I stated earlier, that a successful evaluation determines the ability to solve a specific business need, knowing that need is vital to gauging whether or not the software package will meet that need.
  • Having a Plan – If you were to take a trip driving from San Francisco to New York, you can either just get in your car, head east until you hit the coast then drive north along the coast until you hit New York.  This method would prove to be very time consuming and costly, especially considering gas prices these days.  Similarly, evaluating a software solution to meet your clearly identified business needs without a plan will be very time consuming and costly, especially with the limited amount of time and resources most companies are struggling with today.  Additionally, you run the huge risk of making the “wrong turn” on your evaluation route.  Having a plan ensures that you keep your eye on the objectives and have concrete milestones to check off during your evaluation.  It will also help you make your decision once you have arrived at your destination.
  • Executing the Plan – this may require a custom demonstration from the software provider, a test drive of the software using sample data, an evaluation of the software in your environment using your own data or engaging with Professional Services in order to prove out your plan.  Each company’s needs are different and may require a different execution of their plan.  The important part is to seek out is a software provider that provides ALL of those plan execution methods and does not limit you to their plan.  The problem is that most don’t allow you to download, install and test the software yourself.  For this reason I really enjoy working here at Pentaho, not only do we give you access to download and test the software for free for 30 days, but we also provide you with free evaluation support for those 30 days.

By following these three best practices around evaluating Pentaho or any other enterprise level software, you are guaranteeing that no matter what the decision is, you will have a successful evaluation.

Do you have additional questions for Wayne? Is there someone or a certain role at Pentaho you would like us to interview? Leave your questions in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.


Q&A with Pentaho Director of Sales Engineering, Mike Tarallo

April 14, 2011

Q&A is a series on the Business Intelligence from the Swamp Blog that interviews key members of the Pentaho team to learn more about their focus at Pentaho and outlook on the Business Intelligence industry.

You may be familiar with our interviewee today from reading his blogs on BI from the Swamp or watching a demo on the Pentaho Evaluation Sandbox. If you are a customer, there is a very good chance you have met him virtually or in person. Michael Tarallo is the Director of Sales Engineering and our feature today on Q&A. To learn more about Mike and his role at Pentaho we asked him 5 questions.

1. What brought you to Pentaho?

It was spring of 2007 and after about 9+ years at Information Builders (IBI), a proprietary Business Intelligence company, I felt I achieved all that I could and decided to “find new cheese”.  Around the time I was promoted to Senior Sales Engineer at IBI, a recruiter approached me speaking in tongues of this “thing” called “Open Source Business Intelligence.” I remember thinking, “Sheesh, I am having a hard enough time selling this expensive proprietary stuff, how the heck am I going to sell Open Source since it’s already free?” However, after a thorough investigation, I decided to leave my comfortable position at IBI for a company that was new and exciting called Pentaho.

When I finally learned that Open Source is not about “free” software but more about community, collaboration and better software, I was immediately enlightened and couldn’t wait to get started. I distinctly remember the Sales Manager at IBI, attempting to put fear in my head, “Ya know Mike, the grass isn’t always greener.” Well, sir 4 Years later, not only is the grass greener, but it is thicker and fuller than ever.  Remember, comfort is the enemy of achievement – (Dr. Farrah Gray)

2. What do you do?

I am the Director of Sales Engineering, responsible for leading the Sales Engineers and pre-sales activities within the organization.  I started 4 years ago as the first Pentaho Sales Consultant (SC), responsible for Pre-Sales activities. There are technical and consulting related activities that occur during the sales cycle, before the actual sale hence Pre-Sales.  Pentaho was still fairly new at the time and either sales team members or Product Management performed many product demonstrations. As the company grew it became increasingly important to a build a group that would focus support on the sales team as its pre-sales activities increased. My initial goal was to introduce pre-sales processes, create collateral and demonstrations that focused on “solutions” for business problems, rather than demonstrate a bunch of “tools”.

As the Pentaho Sales and Pre-Sales teams grew worldwide, there was a huge demand on Sales Engineer (SE) resources. With the continued growth of the company and finally a larger team of SEs – I was promoted to Director of Sales Engineering in order to lead and proliferate those processes throughout our group.

3. Why are Sales Engineers a vital part of the success of a sales cycle?

Sales Engineers are the stage performers of the IT world: immensely capable, adaptable, confident, excellent communicators who are equally cool in front of large crowds and intimate groups. Sales Engineers work closely with Pentaho Account Managers to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Pentaho products as a complete solution.

Sales Engineering provides what I call the “Solution Vision” to the prospect who is evaluating our software. We present the “Art of the Possible” by demonstrating and discussing how Pentaho software fits in the context of their landscape. At all costs we try to stay away from generic demonstrations, but sometimes you have to play the game. And when we do play, we play hard. Let’s face it; there are a lot of software packages that can “do” the same thing. Sales Engineering provides that 2% factor by establishing a relationship with the prospect and making them feel comfortable that the Pentaho solution can meet their specific needs. Without Sales Engineering, a crucial piece of the sales process would be missing.

4. What makes a good Sales Engineer (SE)?

There are a number of facets that make a good SE, good. But, there are key factors that make a good SE, great. Some of these characteristics are learned over time, and some are just part of one’s personality and are difficult to master. Aside from technical expertise, one important quality of a great SE is, communication. Learning not only how to communicate with the prospect but also with the account rep and other members of the SE team.

Every person, whether prospect or rep, is different. The key is being able to listen to what is being said and also what is not being said. This is important so the appropriate persuasive questions can be asked and proper expectations can be set.

Once communication skills are honed a SE should be able to translate the product’s technical software capabilities into the suitable business value to the prospect. There is nothing worse than demonstrating software to a company who has no idea why you just showed it to them.

I feel that an SE also needs to establish themselves as a leader in his/her domain. If your technical strength lies in some sort of application development you may want to focus your talents in the OEM group – where it is more about embedding and integrating the software into the prospect’s applications.  If you are able to articulate the business value better or provide subject matter expertise you can specialize in creating vertical demonstrations and collateral relevant to the sectors you are working with.

Finally….energy, lots of energy, enough said. :-)

5. What does the “Pre” in Pre-Sales stand for?

Doing a demonstration without knowing anything is called a “show up and throw up.” Hoping you know what a prospect wants is not good enough. It is critical to know their exact needs and how to best demonstrate our capabilities. I prefer to think of the “Pre” to stand for: P-prepare, R-respond, E-execute. Those actions will make for shorter sales cycles, proper customer expectations and increased sales.

Want to see what Mike is up to now?

Do you have additional questions for Mike? Is there someone or a certain role at Pentaho you would like us to interview? Leave your questions in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.


The Pentaho Pre-Sales Sandbox

October 7, 2010

Quick Bit About Pentaho

Pentaho has been all about building and delivering a scalable, complete end-to-end BI Suite from day one. From making the software “possible” during those humble beginnings to making it “available” and now “easy”. You will find that Pentaho has an extensive offering that is both flexible and intuitive. Pentaho software has been targeted as the Commercial Open Source BI alternative by System Integrators, Consultancies, Enterprises, OEMs and SMBs. It has been deployed worldwide in a variety of industries; supporting mission critical applications which encompass both data integration and information delivery, all provided by “one” vendor, Pentaho.

The Pentaho Pre-Sales Sandbox

The Pre-Sales Sandbox is a resource that will streamline the effectiveness of the Evaluation/Selection process. With this resource at hand, you will be able to make an informed decision as quickly and efficiently as possible. Examples, tutorials, consolidated information are staged here to view and download to assist you in your evaluation process. Please be aware that the collateral available on this site can be posted on a moments notice and is intended to serve the masses as quickly as possible. Therefore the content downloaded may be a work in progress, a draft, incomplete, or limited in detail. Please see our website at http://www.pentaho.com for more information about our products and value added services.

Who should use this resource

This resource is primarily for those who are actively evaluating the Pentaho BI suite. It is not a replacement for our FREE evaluation support offering or the Pentaho Knowledge Base. It has been designed for those who are intending on exploring the power, flexibility and extensibility of the software. They have a basic understanding of Business Intelligence applications including information delivery and data integration. They are familiar with concepts of accessing data sources, creating and publishing reports as well as understand the fundamentals of ETL (Extract Transform Load). They understand terminology such as metric, measure, dimension and have a general understanding of data modeling. Professional documentation for the Pentaho BI suite, including Administration and Security guides are located in the Knowledge Base.

If you are evaluating Pentaho, or are simply a bit curious come check out the Pentaho Pre-Sales Sandbox here: http://sandbox.pentaho.com/

I hope to speak with you in person.

Michael Tarallo
Pre-Sales Director
Pentaho

(Originally posted on Michael Tarallo’s Blog: http://michaeltarallo.blogspot.com/2010/10/pentaho-pre-sales-sandbox.html)


Top 3 questions asked to Pentaho Pre-Sales

August 16, 2010

Can you…? How does…? Where do…? What is…?

Sound familiar?

Pre-Sales Engineers are the stage performers of the IT world; immensely capable, adaptable, confident, excellent communicators who are  equally cool in front of large crowds and intimate groups.   If you are in a Pre-Sales role, you have the absolute pleasure of showcasing what your product / service / solution can offer to help prospects make an informed decision.  Pentaho Pre-Sales Engineers, have numerous discussions everyday with qualified prospects that want to evaluate Pentaho and prove that the software can satisfy their goals.  Most prospects are looking for a solution that will help them reduce costs, increase profits and make their businesses function efficiently. Part of my job is to identify a “fit” for these objectives and recommend an approach to take when evaluating. During these discussions I am asked many questions that have definitive answers and some questions that have more than one answer. I thought it would be helpful to share the 3 most common questions asked to my team and I and our responses.

Question 1: What is the most common reason an evaluation or implementation will not be successful?

That answer is quite simple. So simple in fact I wrote a blog entry about it in March 2009. You can view it here. However I will summarize it for you in one word.

Answer: People

People involved in the evaluation process of anything, are the lead cause for its success or failure. There are those who are self sufficient, “read” the provided materials, have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done with little assistance….then there are those that expect everything to be done for them. I elaborate more about this in the fore mentioned blog entry. However, for those who need a lot of hand holding, please be prepared to present clearly identified evaluation criteria to those you will be working with.

Question 2: What skill sets are required to use the Pentaho software?

Answer: I will first state that having Java Engineering skills are not necessary. You do not have to be a Java developer to use Pentaho. This stigma can attach itself to not just Pentaho, but to other “Java” developed platforms. Someone sees the word “Java” somewhere in the Wiki or on the Web and they automatically assume they need to know Java. This is not true. Pentaho is built on modern open standards that are written in Java. All this should mean to you, is that Pentaho provides a cost effective alternative that can run almost anywhere that supports Java.

Primarily, Pentaho training is the #1 skill set needed to really exploit all of the power that the software provides from the GUI design suite. Just like learning anything new, you should attempt to pick up the manual. I certainly wouldn’t start driving a car without learning how to operate it first. Other skills that can help are a general understanding of BI technologies and terminology. Relating to terms such as KPI (Key Performance Indicator), RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) metrics, dimensions, operational reporting, analyitcs, dashboards, and even a little acronym known as ETL (Extract Transform and Load). Furthermore, if you want to dive deeper and start embedding, integrating and enhancing the applications…having a Java background or even a simple web development skill set is always a plus.

Question 3: How scalable / performant is your solution?

Answer: I love this one. What answer do you think I am going to give? – Simply stated, your mileage is going to vary and greatly depends on what products you are using. Are you using the software for data integration or content delivery or perhaps both? I don’t care if you have the beefiest machine on the block or are paying for the largest cloud, your scalability and performance are going to be dependent on numerous factors. Prospects are usually looking for exact sizing statistics. They want to have some predetermined knowledge of application performance as well as what hardware and software infrastructure they may need to provision. Fortunately, Pentaho has produced the Pentaho Linear Scalability White Paper for the BI platform, and an independent consultancy has created the PDI Scaleout White Paper for Pentaho Data Integration. These documents can give additional insight in setting those expectations. Pentaho Services can also conduct capacity planning sessions with prospects to give an estimate of what can be expected. In addition to the white papers please note that there are a number of real-world scalability customer success stories you can read about on our website.

Thanks for your time, I look forward to answering your questions in person.

Michael Tarallo
Pre-Sales Director
Pentaho


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