On BI Bake Offs and Vaporware - InformationWeek

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5/23/2007
10:06 AM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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On BI Bake Offs and Vaporware

At TDWI in Boston last week, attendees of the course "Evaluating BI Toolsets" got to see Business Objects, MicroStrategy, and Oracle demo head-to-head… Some of the questions from attendees during the course made me think of vaporware. Vendors love to put out press releases well in advance of product release dates. This is smart marketing as it takes time to build awareness… but in some cases, confusion on dates seems purposeful to me, leading buyers to think it's all vaporware.

I really shouldn't call it a "BI Bake Off," because the demos are tightly scripted to maximize educational value and enable everyone to win. At TDWI in Boston last week, attendees of the course Evaluating BI Toolsets got to see Business Objects, MicroStrategy, and Oracle demo head-to-head, using the same data set and on topics attendees consider the most important buying criteria. (If you want to see Cognos, Microsoft, and SAS head-to-head, come to TDWI in San Diego in August).It's an unnerving process (for the vendors and for me) as the class is made up of BI buyers and the occasional competitor. Throughout each mini demo, I point out product strengths as well as where I think a vendor is glossing over a deficiency. No smoke and mirrors allowed! To ensure a fair session, vendors are allotted a fixed amount of time, buzzer and all - much like in the presidential debates.

During this last course, attendees also threw the vendors a wild card in which they got to vote for a new demo topic. The vendors only learned what that topic would be during the lunch break. Top of the list: predictive analytics (beating out other hot topics such as performance management, production reporting, and BI search). Kudos to each of the vendors for speaking about - and for some, demoing - these capabilities literally at the last minute!

Some of the questions from attendees during the course made me think of vaporware. Vendors love to put out press releases well in advance of product release dates. This is smart marketing as whenever there is a major innovation, it takes time to build awareness, let alone demand. Yet in some cases, confusion on dates seems purposeful to me, leading buyers to think it's all vaporware.

Some specific points of confusion:

"Microsoft Performance Point will ship this summer." No, actually Bill Baker, GM of Office Business Applications, made it quite clear that the code is on track to be finalized late this summer (and he jokingly added, Northern Hemisphere summer), but that the way the software distribution works, it will be end 2007 before it reaches customers.

• When I gave Excel solutions from certain vendors a higher score than others, a TDWI attendee countered, "Cognos users can analyze data directly from Excel," and so you would think from this article. But if you read the fine print of Cognos's press release, this capability has been announced and previewed but will only ship in the second half of 2007.

• BI & Search is clearly a hot topic and vendors want to be the first to jump on this new wave. So when one vendor complained that I did not credit them for early innovation, I explained it was because the product only shipped this month, whereas others began shipping last year. He himself had drunk his own KoolAid, thinking that since they issued a press release on the subject last year, it meant they also had the capabilities last year.

My take on all of this is that some vendors' solutions are vaporware and buyers must beware. However, some vendors do make shipping dates more clear, and the media glosses over the details. Customers should welcome early promotion of capabilities. It takes a while to understand the value of new capabilities and to plan for these projects internally. But IT doesn't need another black eye for delivering capabilities later than promised. When the media and certain vendors purposely confuse the market on release dates, it only sets IT up for failure and for customers to wonder what's real and what's vaporware.

Sincerely,

Cindi Howson Founder, BIScorecardAt TDWI in Boston last week, attendees of the course "Evaluating BI Toolsets" got to see Business Objects, MicroStrategy, and Oracle demo head-to-head… Some of the questions from attendees during the course made me think of vaporware. Vendors love to put out press releases well in advance of product release dates. This is smart marketing as it takes time to build awareness… but in some cases, confusion on dates seems purposeful to me, leading buyers to think it's all vaporware.

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