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Posts Tagged ‘Microstrategy’

Microstrategy – Dreadful Differentiators

February 8th, 2010 No comments

Compared to Who?

Every BI vendor in the marketplace today tries to put their software is the most favorable light.  They like to rattle off words like: world-class, best, only, leading, #1, best-in-class, complete, etc.  Here are some of the leading statements:

  • Actuate Corporation – Dedicated to providing business intelligence solutions that increase the richness, interactivity and effectiveness of enterprise data, for everyone, everywhere
  • IBM Cognos – Leading provider of technology and services for Business Intelligence (BI) and Performance Management,
  • Microstrategy – Leading Independent Provider of Business Intelligence
  • SAP BusinessObjects – World’s leading provider of business intelligence (BI) solutions
  • SAS – The leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind that everyone wants to be leading.  It depends how you measure it right?  Revenue?  New Customers?  OEM Partners?  Downloads?  I’m sure everyone is #1 is some category.  Just ask the airports.  No one can decide who’s the busiest.  Are you measuring number of flights or number of passengers?

It’s all marketing.

…but what I don’t like are deceptive practices backed up by dubious legal statements.

Key Differentiators

Microstrategy’s website shows you how they compare against all the competition.  Allegedly.  Actually I’m not legally allowed to say.  You see if you do a Google search for Microstrategy Comparison, it takes you to a website called Microstrategy vs. Competition.  At this point you might expect to be able to see a chart which explains the products… and yes, of course Microstrategy is going to come out on top.  Funny how that works.

What I didn’t expect was a legal disclaimer!

MicroStrategy's Legal Notice

Legal Notice

My goodness what are they afraid of?

Here is the text from the website (the italics/bold are mine):

The information contained in this document is confidential and proprietary to MicroStrategy Incorporated. The recipient of this document agrees not to disclose its contents to any third party or otherwise to use this document for any purpose other than an evaluation of MicroStrategy’s business or its offerings. Reproduction or distribution of this document is prohibited without MicroStrategy’s advance written authorization. MicroStrategy does not guarantee the accuracy of any information presented in this document, and there is no commitment, express or implied, on the part of MicroStrategy to update or otherwise amend this document. The furnishing of this document does not provide any license to patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property rights owned or held by MicroStrategy.

Copyright Information
All Contents Copyright © 2009 MicroStrategy Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.

Please click the link to agree to the above terms and continue with the QuickTour. AGREE »

So let me take a shot at this.  Basically, although this is on their public website, you aren’t allowed to talk about, share or otherwise comment on the information that MicroStrategy says about it’s capabilities against the competition.  Hmmm.  You aren’t allowed to reproduce it.  To correct it.  To reference it.  To rely on it.  It may not be correct and if something is incorrect, that’s okay, we never said it was!  Interesting.

Don’t let the Truth get in the way of a good Story

Well, I would love to say that maybe they are afraid of the truth, but I wouldn’t want to go negative.  What I will say is that I wouldn’t trust what you read.  I’m sure I’ve seen some of these key differentiators mentioned in snopes.com.  🙂

If you are in the process of evaluating BI solutions, don’t be afraid to tell the BI vendors who you are comparing them to.  Each vendor will try to put their software is the best possible light, but at the end of the day it shouldn’t be about features and functions.  Don’t add features to the evaluation just because the BI vendor says you need it.  Know your requirements and longer term BI Strategy.

Your BI Vendor should be able to:

  1. Meet the key business requirements
  2. Offer multiple training options for different user needs
  3. Get you going quickly with services (their own or via partners)
  4. Explain and help you of product best practices
  5. Provide the lowest possible TCO

You are going to have your BI solution is place for a long time.   Consider the criteria that is important to you as well as all the on-going costs, not just licensing and maintenance.

Who To Trust

Never trust another vendors evaluation of their competitor’s product.  Always try it out for yourself.  Pepsi or Coke?

One final point:  Don’t be afraid to tell those vendors who didn’t make the cut why they didn’t.  Your feedback may improve their product(s) which will ultimately help drive better competition in the marketplace.  It also helps vendors understand how customer’s needs may be changing over time.

Overall analysts do a good job and evaluating BI vendors and ranking them accordingly.  I recommend you look at Gartner’s BI Magic Quadrant (Compliments of SAS believe it or not!), Forrester BI Wave and BIScorecard.  When it comes to product comparisons, the old adage remains true: You get what you pay for.  When it comes to understanding how BI tools compare with each other, it might be worth it to hear what the analysts are saying.

«Good BI»

Set Analysis Part 5a: Custom Groups in WebIntelligence

June 25th, 2008 4 comments

Just What the Doctor OrderedI recently had a customer who was in the process of migrating from a legacy version of Microstrategy to BusinessObjects. They had been able to migrate over most of their core reports, but there were several reports that required a number of custom groups.

Microstrategy’s approach was to allow the customer to define any number of groups and filters from with the Microstrategy Desktop tool. These global filters and group definitions can then be leveraged by the report editor for building the report. Microstrategy’s SQL generation engine uses multi-pass SQL when creating the reports. Multi-pass SQL means that a single SQL statement cannot deliver back the correct results, so the report data is written into temporary tables. These temporary tables are then combined with additional queries to obtain the final results.

In the case of BusinessObjects, it wasn’t going to be possible to take the same approach. BusinessObjects does not generate multi-pass SQL. Instead, BusinessObjects focuses on creating extremely complex SQL in a single SQL statement. In most cases, this works just as well, but this was an exception. This sales report used a combination of multiple filters at multiple levels in the heirarchy. The Heirarchy was also defined within the custom groupings and not within the database.

The right answer is: Modify the Data Warehouse and ETL processes to make the underlying data better fit your reporting requirements. You see, the problem was that these custom groups should be defined within the data warehouse natively. This would allow for simplified SQL that can be run in a single pass. Translation? Reports the use custom groups will run a heck of a lot faster.

In my situation, the customer wasn’t going to be able to make these changes, but still wanted to migrate the report to BusinessObjects.

The best answer is: Use Sets. Sets gives you the ability to generate those custom grouping within the data warehouse. Unlike Microstrategy which will run the same multi-pass SQL over and over again, sets will allow us to “cache” the previous passes using sets and run single-pass SQL. We can then tie the set tables into the data warehouse and add the custom groupings to our universe.

The advantage of sets over ETL is that it can be much more dynamic. Sets can allow an analyst to create a new set in a matter of minutes and then see a report broken down by the new custom group.

In my case it was just what the doctor ordered. By introducing sets and adding the set tables to the BusinessObjects semantic layer, we now have access to the sets, which in this case, the customer called custom groups. It was perfect.

Now, not only will the customer be able to migrated this complex report from Microstrategy to BusinessObjects, but they will also be able to run the report much faster than ever before because the report will be generated through a single-pass process.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how to set this up using our simplified data.