Dashboard Insight recently spoke with Strategy Companion’s Bob Abernethy about their Analyzer solution and Pervasive BI pricing model - as well as what he thinks about legacy BI products and obstacles to BI adoption.
Dashboard Insight: What is your Analyzer BI solution and what are some of the key reasons people choose Analyzer?
Bob Abernethy: Analyzer is a front-end solution for SQL Server Business Intelligence. Analyzer’s ease of use for non-technical business users, advanced visualizations, and powerful reporting, analytics and dashboard capabilities are the main reasons why people make the choice for Analyzer instead of our better-known competitors. Their legacy BI products come with a whole set of legacy issues, most notably price, complexity and lack of flexible deployment options. Of course, a mission-critical BI application also has to be able to provide fast performance even for thousands of users and very large datasets - and it has to be manageable and secure. Analyzer is proven and battle-tested in all of these critical areas. Our pricing is very attractive as well.
DI: How are your customers using Analyzer?
BA: Some customers are using Analyzer internally for mission-critical, large-scale business intelligence, via our Enterprise edition. Others are using the SaaS version to turn business intelligence into a profit center instead of a cost center. What these customers are doing is selling subscriptions to access a solution they have put together which consists of: 1) value-added industry-specific or customer-specific data, 2) a set of pre-built Analyzer reports and dashboards presenting that data, and 3) the Analyzer interactive interface which allows non-technical business users to do their own analysis and create or modify their own reports and dashboards. Still other customers are using the OEM version of Analyzer to add our leading-edge BI capabilities to their own commercial applications, strengthening the BI component of their applications in order to become more competitive and attract new customers.
DI: How long does it take a customer to get up and running with your BI solution?
BA: Because Analyzer is a 100% zero-footprint solution which is installed only on the IIS web server(s), the install process takes less than 30 minutes. You can easily be up and running with several reports and dashboards and analyzing your own Analysis Services cube data in less than a day. How long it takes to get into production depends entirely on how many reports and dashboards you will be building, how many users you will be bringing on board, etc. Because the process of building Analyzer reports and dashboards is incredibly intuitive and fast, your overall time to production deployment will be greatly reduced with our solution. We are talking weeks or months, even for large deployments.
DI: How many customers do you have today? What industries are they in?
BA: We have over 500 customers globally, in a wide variety of industries. Business intelligence, by its very nature, is a horizontal application which is needed by any company or organization that wants to make better decisions based on the data they have collected in many different information systems. Some of the industries where we have the most customers are the financial, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and government verticals. Also, our partners and SaaS customers use their industry-specific domain knowledge to create very impressive Analyzer-based vertical solutions.
DI: Do you offer localized versions of your solutions? If so, can you tell us about what you offer?
BA: Yes, Analyzer is available in 10 different languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simple, Portuguese, and Norwegian. Moreover, if someone needs to deploy Analyzer in a language we do not yet offer, we utilize a straightforward process in which they create their own translation tables which we then use to create the localized solution they need.
DI: You recently announced your “Pervasive BI without the Pervasive Costs” enterprise pricing model for SQL Server BI. Has this led to increased enterprise-wide BI deployment?
BA: Yes, our new Pervasive BI pricing model, which features no cost for end-user licenses, has been very well-received by customers and partners. An industry survey we co-sponsored last year highlighted that pricing is often a huge obstacle to enterprise-wide, pervasive BI. Paying for every user seat, whether it’s inside a large organization - or when extending BI to your customers or partners through the internet - can be a very costly proposition under traditional software licensing models. Our new pricing model completely eliminates that obstacle and has led to more companies implementing enterprise-wide BI.
DI: What are some key BI best practices you would recommend?
BA: One of the most important things is to make sure your intended user audience can actually use and be productive quickly with the solution you put in front of them. That may sound obvious, but “complexity” was cited as the #1 obstacle to BI adoption in the industry survey we co-sponsored last year, which is available on our website. So intuitive ease of use is incredibly important, especially if you are trying to achieve Pervasive BI, because you need to get a very large and diverse user community productive quickly with little or no training. It should really be so intuitive that users can do what they need to do without having to attend a training class, just like they can when they buy a book on Amazon or reserve a hotel on Expedia. Another very important best practice is to make sure that your cubes are well-tuned. We have found this can make all the difference between poor performance which can alienate users, and excellent performance which gets users excited about the BI solution and what they can do with it.
DI: We obviously are in a harsh economic environment right now. How is Strategy Companion addressing that?
BA: In challenging times, it’s more important than ever that companies make the right strategic decisions. Successful companies make those decisions based on solid data. We are making it possible for more and larger companies than ever before to deploy this kind of capability throughout their organizations. Our SQL Server-based solution ensures that companies are able to do all this at the lowest cost possible. And today, that really matters. Legacy BI solutions with legacy price tags make Pervasive BI impossible to achieve for all but the largest companies. And even then, those companies are spending way more than they need to. Our customers are not only thrilled with our solution, they also feel that way about our pricing for Analyzer’s Enterprise, SaaS, and OEM versions.
DI: What can we expect to see from Strategy Companion in the coming months?
BA: One of the exciting things happening around here lately is that we’ve been signing some key SaaS customers, so you can expect to see announcements about those in the coming months. Some very well-known Enterprise customers have also signed recently, and as they get into production we will be releasing some new case studies and press releases about them. In terms of our solution, we don’t work on a “Big Bang” release schedule – we believe that a continuous stream of improvements are much more manageable and productive for everyone involved. But in the coming months you should expect to see some powerful new features in the areas of geographic mapping, report subscription and distribution, new visualization features, new scorecard capabilities, and increased integration with Microsoft Office.
Bob Abernethy is SVP & GM at Strategy Companion Corporation. A veteran of Oracle and Siebel Systems, Bob brings more than 25 years of software industry experience to the field of business intelligence implementations. Bob received his Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University in New York and his Masters of Management Information Systems from West Coast University in Los Angeles.