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August 24, 2011

Big software firms ‘not interested’ in selling BI

It's all about the full software stack, BI guru Donald Farmer tells CBR


The big players in the enterprise software space are not interested in selling business intelligence (BI) software on its own, according to a BI expert.

Speaking to CBR, Donald Farmer, a QlikView product advocate who used to work for Microsoft, said the big guys were more interested in selling a full set of enterprise applications.

"They are selling an entire stack of software," he told CBR. "It’s not about selling BI. It’s about selling the entire infrastructure that you run your business on. Oracle is not interested in people saying: ‘I use Oracle for reporting.’ What they really want is: ‘I run my business on Oracle’."

"If you look at the commercials you see what they are emphasising. They don’t say: ‘Here are the companies using Oracle for BI.’ They say: ‘Here are the companies who run on Oracle. It’s the same for Microsoft and SAP and IBM. It’s about running the entire company," Farmer added.

Farmer said that the approach the big traditional vendors – Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, for example – take is not about giving users choice about what technology they use at work (there’s more on QlikView’s approach to this here).

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"That’s great," he added, "because when it comes down to individuals and their tool of choice we connect to Oracle, Microsoft data sources, SAP. We have an SAP Connector – not because SAP users don’t have business intelligence but because the tool of choice for many of their users will be QlikView."

The choice aspect that Farmer talks about is driven by three important changes in technology at the moment – cloud, mobile and social networks (again, there is more on that here), with particular emphasis on the latter two.

"When you have that range of choice in the consumer world, going into the business world and being restricted just seems weird," he said, adding that things such as Apple’s App Store are giving consumers much more choice about the technology they use.

But how does that relate to the business space and BI in particular? Farmer uses the example of having email, calendar, tasks and contacts integrated into a single app at work, Microsoft Outlook, compared to lots of different apps for the same things on an iPhone. If you don’t like the calendar app on your phone you can download another one.

"If I was an IT person I may be worried about that, about people using the wrong app," he said. "But actually Outlook is connected to Exchange; it doesn’t do email tasks on its own. It’s the same on the iPhone. So IT isn’t provisioning every app I use but is provisioning the data and services that drive the business," he says.

"IT is changing from having to provision every aspect of your interaction with technology to being the custodians of quality data and services, and you interact with them as you need. You choose the app you use to interact. The same goes for BI. IT teams provision quality data and services and users interact with them through the technology of their choice," Farmer added.

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