Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trends in Business Intelligence

Five trends in Business Intelligence (BI) are identified and examined in the September 2009 issue of Smarter Technology. There is some overlapping among the five items but it's a good selection to illustrate current developments in BI:
  • Predictive analytics - BI can advance further by adding more advanced statistic analysis tools and models.
  • Agile development - a model with small but continuous improvement is more in line with how other parts of the enterprise works.
  • User-centric BI - providing richer tool sets for different groups of users allows a better use of BI.
  • Visualization improvements - visualizations have developed a lot with Web 2.0. There are many technologies that makes it easy to produce more sophisticated presentations and this can be better implemented in BI.
  • Operationalization of IT - This is an important but a complex trend. There is a need to make the information more accessible and operational in nature. BI should also be better integrated with other kind of information systems - it's fair to assume it will be much tighter integrated with ERP and other business systems.
Two important driving forces behind these trends are the maturity of BI itself and general developments in IT. The current economic climate is also an important factor by focusing attention on providing hands-on and immediately useful information.

Looking ahead - will these trends eventually push BI to merge with other IT systems and thus start to dissolve as a distinct technology? I hope not, such a scenario would have a negative impact on the development in the long term.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Enterprise Cloud

There are many cloud providers on the market and many more will surely to emerge shortly. One new player - OpSource Cloud - is a bit different (public beta) by providing many enterprise security features.

VPN comes standard with any service and the security can be customized within a multitier environment. Full control over the firewall is also provided and an advanced access control schema. The system is SAS 70 audited and the support ambition is high.

It's definitely an interesting product and will be attractive in some circumstances but I am not sure there is currently enough demand for this solution. Time will tell.

Apple in the Enterprise

Apple's operating system has gained traction in the consumer market, moving its overall market share from the traditional level of 3-4% to the current level of 8%. If Apple keep it up will Mac OS soon be in the double digits and that is a completely different story than previously - it's still a small player but it's now playing in the big league.

Despite Apple's success in the consumer market is there not much, if any, traction for Mac OS in the enterprise market. explored the issue with CIOs and analysts in a recent article and concludes that the main resistance remains the "prohibitive costs involved in such a change". The cost factor is, of course, even more of an issue in the current economic downturn.

So far, nothing new but the article move on and explores two interesting issues:
  1. Mac OS is entering the enterprise through the backdoor by end users bringing (unsupported) Apple computers into the environment
  2. Apple's image as product for artists and designers.
On the first issue, introduction through the backdoor - it's certainly taking place and the author reference support for the seriousness by quoting Michael Silver of Gartner and
cheerfully concludes that it's a "phenomenon that's only set to snowball". It may be a bit too early to declare this as a snowballing process - it's hard to quantify to what degree this occurs and if there is a sustained impact because of this anarchistic behavior.

Apple may still have have an image, among some people, as a product for artists but the company has been successful to move the image away from the traditional notion and, instead, cast it as a product for independent and cool people. Continuing penetration of the consumer market will further help Apple in this endeavor and other successful Apple products such as the iPod and iPhone contributes to positioning Apple, as a brand, in the mainstream

Another hurdle for Apple to overcome is the conservatism among the IT grunts in the enterprise. The article doesn't explicitly comment on this, presumably because the main focus is on the CIO level, but the fact remains that it will be very difficult to change the status quo without buy-in from this group. After all, it could be disastrous for a CIO to introduce Mac OS in the organization and depend to IT workers loyal to Windows for success. It's a dangerous if a group has the ability to prove its point by its own failure. The only way for Apple to break into this market is by remaining persistent and improve support for enterprise features. If there would emerge more players (read Google) in the operating system marketplace would that too be to the benefit of Apple.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Locked in Battle - Microsoft, Apple, and Google

Nobody can have missed the animosity and confrontation between Google and Microsoft. Fierce competition is a good thing but I am somewhat surprised by the sustained hostility and fervor. Apple is certainly also a player and competes with both Google and Microsoft in different segments but there is just not the same kind of hostile energy when Apple is involved.

Microsoft has a huge lead in the operating system market. Google is moving into this market and is in a position to finally bring Linux to the masses. However, the primary objective is surely not to directly challenge Microsoft but rather to develop a niche and chip away the impression that Microsoft owns the operating system market. More diversity in the operating system market will certainly benefit the smaller players and not by proportional measures - the gains for smaller players will accelerate as the market is changing. Microsoft will surely remain the leader, by far, for foreseeable future but Apple's OS X and Google's forthcoming Chrome is an attempt to change the dynamic of the market by breaking what has appeared to be a Microsoft monopoly - it is not a bad game plan.

Microsoft is challenging Google in the search market and Bing is a really good effort but it lacks an edge compared with Google and the core functionality - search - is, at best, comparable to Google. Currently, there is simply not enough incentive for users to abandon Google for Bing. But Microsoft will continue to challenge Google and they have time to work on the product.

The cell phone market and portable music player (iPod) markets are equally interesting. Google's Android platform is gaining traction and it will soon appear on more phones. Microsoft Mobile is far behind. Palm and RIMs Blackberry are fading. The iPhone is such a strong concept that it will surely continue to gain in the high-end segment of the market. Apple has managed to create a community driven ecosystem in the apps market and iTunes remains in a strong position in digital music sales - it's a concept that is very difficult to copy even if the competitors will eventually catch up and even surpass the iPhone itself. Microsoft's attempt to challenge the iPod with the Zune is so far pretty far from being a seriously threat.

On the application market is Microsoft's flagship - the Office Suite - under attack from both free software with similar capabilities (foremost OpenOffice) and web based applications such as Google Apps. The latter threat is more serious because it's an attempt to change the fundamentals - from local applications to web based applications. The web based applications have not caught up yet but they're making headway and key functionality such as offline capabilities are slowly emerging. This is a fundamental threat to Microsoft and this is the wider implication of the fight in the browser market. Just like with the operating system market, the primary objective of Microsoft's competition is to defeat the dominance and change the market.

The three companies are big enough to stay in the game for a long time so it will be a long battle. It may not only prove to be a good fight and drive innovation through competition but increased friction in the three areas (search, operating systems and web applications, and hand-held devices) may accelerate the development further and create ripple effects.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Google's Operating System

Google's announcement of the plan to release a Linux operating system, Google Chrome, next year wasn't exactly greeted by a unison voice of excitement from the Linux or from other parts of the open source community. The concerns are many, including fear that it will only splinter the Linux community and that Google will end up owning the world.

I don't know if Google will be successful but it seems like many miss the point of what Google is aiming at doing. The point is not to challenge Microsoft at building the current kind of operating systems. The point is to drive the development of operating systems in the direction of web applications and cloud computing. And that is much needed.

It is a good project. Google has defined a clear mission. It knows Linux very well and understands the power of web apps and the cloud and how to harness it. After all, Google built its breakthrough technology on Linux and a cloud-style design making computers work together. Lastly, no matter how people cut this - it's perceived to taking up the competiton with Microsoft and there are very few companies that can do that in a credible way. Google is one of them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vendor Management

Ericka Chickowski lists six CIO mistakes in vendor management in her article in CIO Insight, May 2009. It's a good selection, let's have a look at the mistakes to avoid:

  1. Failing to speak with one voice: It's important to manage the interaction with the vendor. Too many cooks without an executive chef is a big risk and managing a vendor by committee doesn't work.
  2. Skipping the homework: Investing in the project with good prep-work is usually a very good investment - minimize the need for the vendor to read your mind. The vendor want to avoid mind reading but will have a shot at it if needed - you may not be too happy with the outcome.
  3. Fixating the price: The price is important but it's only one aspect. What ueis a good price if the vendor will not deliver a good product or not on time?
  4. Using too few suppliers: Reliance on a few vendors expose you to risk and undermine your position in negotiations. Diversify!
  5. Only dealing with large vendors: Choosing "safe" and large vendors may not be a guarantee for success. Often, you will get the B-team of a large vendor while smaller companies generally provide direct access to the principals.
  6. Signing and forgetting: The signature of a contract is merely the start and checking-in and reviewing status is imperative.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Browser Market and Web Apps

The browser market is fundamentally different today compare with a few years ago. The latest market share provided by Net Applications leaves Internet Explorer with a 67.77% market share. This is down nine percent from a year ago but the trend becomes even more pronounced when looking even further back such as the above 90% market share in late 2004.

While Microsoft owned the browser market five years ago, it is now a diverse market place with Firefox continuously growing and after passing the 20% mark in late 2008 and now listed at 23.84%. This is an annual increase of about five percent. The diverse nature of the browser market is fortunate as web apps gain increasing importance. Hence, the technology to access the web is not controlled or dictated by one company or group.

Safari has increased its market share to 3.53% which is about a percent higher than a year ago. The increase for Safari is currently not primarily driven by the browser itself but by the success of Apple's products.

The newest player, Google's Chrome, remains at a modest share of 1.79% but the product is still very much in its infancy. Google is pretty open and clear about its ambitions, as articulated in a recent interview - serving as a catalyst to improve the JavaScript capabilities of all browsers seems to be one of the principal motives behind the project.

How will the future browser market look like? If the current trends will remain steady may we in two years have a situation with IE at 50%, Firefox 30%, Safari 15%, and Chrome at 5%. However, that assumes that there are no disruptive change.