By John P Desmond
Popular BI technology components today include multi-dimensional aggregation, real-time reporting with analytical alerts, interpretation of unstructured data, rolling forecasts, statistical inference, simulations, optimizing key performance indicators (KPIs), and process management.
BI tools provide a view of historic, current, and predicted business operations. The functions of BI tools include online analytical processing, data mining, performance management, text mining, predictive analytics, and marketing management.
The overall market for software, hardware, and services for business analytics is approaching $100 billion, according to market research firm IDC. “The focus on big data is driving interest in the rest of business analytics solutions,” says Brian McDonough, analyst, IDC.
IDC identifies additional interest in the business analytics market including the acceleration of acquisitions to extend into new markets, new product entries, acquisitions of software suppliers by service firms, acquisitions of application (app) vendors by tool vendors, and growth of cloud business analytics products at a faster pace than the overall market.
For large and mid-sized organizations working on adopting business analytics products and services, the challenges include data governance, security, and privacy; enabling business users with self-service capabilities; deciding on the organization structure needed to support enterprise-wide business analytics needs; finding appropriate IT talent; and support for the multiple technologies needed to address the range of requirements, according to McDonough.
In this piece, we review the services offered by top ranking suppliers of BI software tools in the 2013 Software 500.
SAS Institute ranks number 43 on the 2013 Software 500, reporting $2.9 billion in software and services revenue in the ranking year of 2012, and five percent growth over the previous year. The company is a player on all BI fronts. Based in Cary, NC, SAS is one of the world’s largest privately held software companies. It is rooted in a research project at North Carolina State University, which is headed by a team including James Goodnight, who continues to run the company as CEO.
Marketing automation tools from SAS are at work in Staples, the major office supply retailer chain with stores in 27 countries. Understanding that the best way to build loyalty is to target customers individually, Staples has come to rely on SAS Analytics for predictive modeling and SAS Marketing Automation for fine-tuned marketing campaigns.
“A substantial part of the retail customer base engages us online by using the Web site to research a product,” states Jim Foreman, director of circulation and analytics, Staples. “They might use it to find the closest stores or quickly see what’s currently on sales. My team is involved in the analysis of online and offline customer behavior, building linkages between the two to provide us with a complete picture of the company,” he says. “The marketing automation product enables Staples to bridge work on the analytics side with campaign generation and execution.”
Staples also utilizes SAS products to reduce customer attrition. When spending for a regular customer drops, the company sends personalized offers to bring them back to the store. “Our data is among the most valuable assets we have,” notes Foreman. “We want to be able to mine it effectively and discover nuggets that can generate incremental sales and profit. SAS Marketing Automation does that for us.”
Verint Systems, Inc., ranking number 96 on the 2013 Software 500, grew more than seven percent to reach $839.5 in revenue for the ranking year. The company describes itself as a supplier of “actionable intelligence” solutions for the enterprise. Its products are reportedly in use by more than 10,000 organizations in more than 150 countries.
Verint’s Impact 360 product line employs BI process management for workforce management and BI monitoring to track KPIs. For example, AAA Washington, the travel and insurance firm, uses the Impact 360 Quality Monitoring and Impact 360 Speech Analytics products to identify issues that affect its overall service to customers and to comply with insurance industry regulations.
“We are in a constant state of improvement,” states Janet Ryan, director of call center operations, AAA Washington. “We are always looking for ways to optimize operational efficiency and the customer experience.”
Using the Quality Monitoring product, AAA Washington says it achieved a 400 percent gain in efficiency of agent evaluations, enabling twice as many evaluations to be done in half the time. The Speech Analytics products help the organization focus on interactions that matter most to its business, from customer complaints to frequently asked questions. This leads to greater customer satisfaction.
Qlik Technologies, number 151 on the 2013 Software 500, grew at 21 percent to reach $338.5 in revenue in the measurement year. The company offers the QlikView Business Discovery software platform to help organizations use data strategically; the software’s in-memory architecture is designed to speed performance. Its intuitive user interface helps the analyst connect the business to the technology.
The formula worked for Surgical Information Systems (SIS), which recently announced an expansion in the integration of the QlikView platform and SIS Analytics product set to enhance operative information systems—addressing the time before, during, and after patient surgery.
SIS was recently selected by San Francisco Generation Hospital and Trauma Center to help automate surgery and anesthesia documentation processes. SIS integrated with the Siemens Soarian enterprise health information system, covering operating room scheduling, pre-admission testing, nursing documentation, and an anesthesia information management system.
San Francisco General selected SIS to help providers share information, reduce redundant documentation, and free up more time to focus on patient care. The anesthesia information management system resides on a single database to enable care providers to document the continuum of surgical care. “We are looking forward to comprehensive perioperative analytics with SIS to drive efficiency, reduce waste, and improve value to our patients in the operating room,” comments Dr. Jenson Wong, anesthesiologist/chief medical information officer, San Francisco General Hospital.
Ellen Derrico, director of global market development, life sciences and healthcare, QlikTech, adds, “in an industry where improved access to information enhances patient care, QlikView’s flexible platform enables users to navigate and drill in any direction to get the most pertinent information fast. We look forward to continuing our work together with SIS to deliver an advanced analytics solution.”
Actuate, number 245 on the 2013 Software 500, reached $138.8 million in revenue in the ranking year. The company is the first to propose the BI and Reporting Tools (BIRT) open source software project to the Eclipse Foundation in 2004. The project was approved and the initial project code base designed and developed by Actuate was donated to the Eclipse Foundation.
The BIRT project aims to provide reporting and BI capabilities for rich client and Web applications, and to address a range of reporting needs including multi-dimensional online analytical processing. The project is supported by an active community of users at BIRT Exchange and developers at the Eclipse.org BIRT Project page.
BIRT is the foundation of the ActuateOne platform, which allows developers to rapidly build business analytics apps that can integrate any data, including unstructured sources. Among its 5,000 customers is Johnson Controls, a $32 billion facilities management company. The company sought to benchmark performance and compare regions across 500 measurements used in 33 contracts. The data gathering required for this proved time consuming and inefficient.
Johnson Controls selected ActuateOne for its Global Performance Scorecard application, which has resulted in performance metrics viewable in a single place, and greater efficiency calculated to produce a $500,000 return on investment in one year. “Upper management can look at top-level measures while service delivery, human resources, safety, finance, and customer satisfaction managers can drill into the details. The ability to view performance metrics worldwide, in a single place is phenomenal,” says David Mercier, manager, Johnson Controls.
He says the scorecard app provides the company with a competitive advantage.
Tableau Software ranks number 250 on the 2013 Software 500. The company grew at 104 percent in the measurement year to reach $127.7 million in revenue, which was spun out of research at Stanford University into visualization techniques for analyzing relational databases. The founders created a database visualization language called Visual Query Language—or VizQL. The product queries relational database, cubes, cloud databases, and spreadsheets, and then produces a number of graph types that are combined into dashboards and shared over networks.
Tableau’s customers include Tesla Motors, the electric car manufacturer. The company uses the software to help keep production on schedule. One advantage Tesla notices is greater speed in producing new types of reports. Will Bishop, senior test engineer, Tesla, states, “the speed of making, publishing, and sharing with folks has vastly accelerated. It is starting to unify different groups in Tesla looking at the same data, in a much more integrated effort. It’s a mix of empowering people to connect to data, and the adventure of exploration. I can’t imagine going back.”
Another Tableau customer, the Millard Public School district in Omaha, NE, uses the product to report on student data for teachers, administrators, and district leaders. The district relies on dashboards on Tableau servers to provide insight. “When someone has a data request, or a question that needs to be answered, we’re able to provide that answer in a timely way,” says Tami Williams, director of assessment, research and evaluation, the Millard Public Schools. “I used to spend a lot of time merging multiple spreadsheets of random data on students. Tableau allows a building administrator to select the assessments they want, and the student they want, and create a grid quickly, saving hours.”
Future plans call for the district to use Tableau Public to make data more accessible to public stakeholders.
Personify, which changed its name from TMA Resources in August 2013, ranks number 365 on the 2013 Software 500, reporting revenues of $34.4 million. The new name is derived from the company’s flagship customer relationship and association management software product Personify, now called Personify360.
Personify aims to help leading associations and non-profit organizations optimize relationships and achieve sustainable success. “Our company is at the forefront of change in our industry. Our solutions and services help clients personalize their relationships with constituents. The name Personify helps us communicate that promise in a single word,” says Edi Dor, president/CEO, Personify.
“We recognize that associations and non-profits face multiple challenges today, such as changing demographics and increased sources of completion. Our products and services help such organizations get in front of these challenges,” adds Paul Gannon, VP, marketing, Personify.
The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the national trade association serving U.S. credit unions, provides services to its 7,000 members. Interested in having its members be better enabled to maintain its own data and to automate more of the backroom processing of registrations and product purchases, CUNA made the move to Personify several years ago. “Our main goal for the e-Business Suite at launch was for it to put power in the hands of our member credit unions,” ntoes Timothy York, senior project manager, CUNA. “We believe that our members’ information is their own, so they should have the control to manage it, from paying bills to updating profiles to signing up for meetings.”
Products from SecondFloor BV, based in the Netherlands, rank number 204 on the 2013 Software 500. With revenue of $17.4 million and growth of 15 percent, the company focuses on analyzing risk and gathering data needed for regulatory and management reporting.
The company’s eFrame 3.2 recent release of the governance, workflow, and process control software, controls data gathering and aggregation of reports produced in IBM Cognos. The new version also integrates with IBM’s Algo Financial Modeler, which helps with regulatory compliance and actuarial modeling challenges, and with Matlab, the technical computing language developed by MathWorks.
eFrame’s integration with Cognos enables Cognos users to produce reports with greater confidence, from relying on eFrame’s taxonomy driven data model. “Data management and data quality are issues beginning to surface at the board level. It is ultimately the board’s responsibility to ensure that reports and submissions are accurate,” states Martin Knook, CEO, SecondFloor. “To encourage healthy practices, you have to make it intuitive for people to make their contribution. This is what eFrame’s Structured Data Viewer achieves.”
A European bank used SecondFloor’s Analyzer product to map its current systems and data to help meet the deadline for a new regulatory requirement. The Analyzer product report hierarchies, processes, people, and responsibilities within a complex organization to uncover inefficiencies, gaps, and dependencies. The SecondFloor consulting team modeled 13,000 data points in Analyzer, then deployed the software to discover and map where each of the data points currently existed, or should exist, with the organization. In a matter of weeks, the exercise helped the bank position to meet the new requirements.
In the short term, IDC’s McDonough predicts that more vendors will provide analytic services and content as well as technology; a shortage of big data technology skills will drive more buyers towards cloud alternatives and packaged analytical applications; the skills shortage will lead to a greater focus on automation and outsourcing of analytic services.
For the longer term future, McDonough says that transaction-based pricing for analytics services will become widespread, such as price per recommendation; commercial use of artificial intelligence will widen to combine audio, video, and image recognition software; and big data analytics into intelligent response systems. Moreover, IDC projects that a new generation of consumers will increasingly give up some privacy in exchange for more personalized services, such as in call centers, retail stores, and automotive.
We’re entering an exciting time for BI, with solutions consistently improving and new products emerging. As organizations realize the benefits of leveraging data, these tools become an essential component of future business performance and growth. SW
Apr2014, Software Magazine