Business Intelligence Platforms for Mid-size Organizations: Comparing Birst, MicroStrategy, Oracle and SAP BusinessObjects

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1 Business Intelligence Platforms for Mid-size Organizations: Comparing Birst, MicroStrategy, Oracle and SAP BusinessObjects An ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES (EMA ) White Paper Prepared for Birst August 2012 IT & DATA MANAGEMENT RESEARCH, INDUSTRY ANALYSIS & CONSULTING

2 Table of Contents Introduction... 1 EMA Business Intelligence Continuum... 1 Mid-size Organizations Defined... 1 Functional Comparison... 2 Report Key... 2 Data Acquisition... 2 Data Management... 3 Business Analytics... 4 Knowledge Discovery... 5 Actionable Intelligence... 5 Infrastructure... 6 Security... 6 Support... 7 Financial Comparison... 7 Additional Required Investment and Infrastructure... 8 EMA Perspective... 9 Methodology... 10

3 Introduction The function and feature sets of Business Intelligence (BI) platforms evolve at ever increasing speeds, making it difficult to compare platforms in an apples to apples configuration. ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES (EMA ) analysts have developed the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum as a framework to match 75 points of functionality spanning five critical categories in an effort to assist in making these comparisons. This EMA research paper compares and contrasts BI platform offerings from Birst, MicroStrategy, Oracle and SAP Business Objects, and includes Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) detailing investment costs for each. EMA Business Intelligence Continuum The EMA Business Intelligence Continuum is a set of business intelligence related features and functions organized into five categories to act as a framework for classifying enterprise business intelligence platforms. A minimum level of proficiency is required within each category for a solution or integrated suite of solutions to qualify as a viable enterprise business intelligence platform. Most platforms deliver a varying degree of depth within each area causing significant differentiation. In parallel, there are issues of TCO, time to implementation (agility) and Return On Investment (ROI). Each of these factors can weigh heavily after comparing a platform s adherence to the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum s specifications. Mid-size Organizations Defined Traditionally, the term mid-size brings to mind the concept of Small and Medium sized Business (SMB). However, as more department-level organizations in enterprises operate as independent units, those business teams and their supporting shadow IT teams have similar characteristics and requirements to SMB companies. EMA describes this segment to be the mid-size organization independent of their placement as an autonomous SMB company or within a larger enterprise. With a nimble size and drive for innovation, many of these mid-size organizations have focused, instead of specific skills in technical and business areas, on finding the right cultural mix of staff members. This has led to the evolution of the mid-sized IT team staffing model. Mid-size organization IT teams feature more technical generalists who understand the drivers of the business model rather than product specialists who understand the nuances of particular supporting technologies. The business scenario for this EMA report focuses on a mid-sized organization 1 implementation. Some of the features and functions examined may be better suited for large-scale, enterprise-wide scenarios. 1 Calculated utilizing EMA Licensing Scenario Model 2012, Developed by Shawn Rogers and John Myers 1 Page 1

4 Functional Comparison EMA conducted a comparative survey based on the five categories of the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum along with foundational system elements that include infrastructure, security and product support. While the Continuum is not designed to be a completely comprehensive list of all possible features, it acts as a framework to define and compare critical factors contributing to enterprise class business intelligence platforms. In order to compare similar capabilities, EMA looked at the functionality available in: Birst Agile Business Analytics MicroStrategy Business Intelligence v9.2 3 Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11g SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Report Key =Yes =Partial =No Each Key Feature category can include multiple levels of functionality. For scoring purposes, a score of Yes indicates that the solution offers all of the required features in that category within the solution listed above. Partial scores are awarded if the solution delivers some of the features or relies on additional software from the vendor or an additional partner product or service to deliver the functionality. A score of No is given when the solution fails to deliver any of the functionality within the category. Data Acquisition In the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum, the initial level is Data Acquisition. This layer represents physical or virtual access to data from sources systems. Physical access can take the form of ETL (Extract Transform and Load) or ELT (Extract Load and Transform). Virtual access can be represented as a data virtualization or data federated layer. The Data Acquisition Layer represents the start of integrating an organization s data with a business intelligence platform. Source Data - Single and Multiple Source Data Format -Operational (OLTP) /Relational, Analytical (OLAP) & Streaming Data Target Data Format Column/single table and relational Data Acquisition Configuration Script, GUI or Automated Each of the four solutions reviewed demonstrate effective capabilities when accessing legacy data formats. SAP offers the most robust capability with features that assist when accessing social data sources and other JSON based data. Each solution delivers varying degrees of data acquisition configuration functionality. SAP can provide a level of automation, but only with the addition of 2 Birst Agile Business Analytics 5.3 scheduled for a fall 2012 release was not included in this report 3 MicroStrategy Business Intelligence v9.3 released in July 2012 was not included in this report 2 Page 2

5 SAP Power Designer, a solution not included in the base product. Birst can generate the required routines for loading data from the source into dimension and fact tables automatically. Birst s built-in data acquisition capabilities should not be overlooked as they all but eliminate the need to invest in additional ETL solutions delivering a substantial cost savings over the other three solutions. Data Management After Data Acquisition, a business intelligence platform is required to manage the data from an organization s source systems. This can be either physical or virtual Data Management layers depending on the form of Data Acquisition. Data Management can include the following Data Governance disciplines: Data Quality and Cleansing to maintain standard organizational standards. Metadata Management for consistency with data definitions within an organization for areas such as product, customer and analytical measurements. Data Retention and Archive to maintain the appropriate level of information with a business intelligence platform for the domain of analysis of the platform s mission. Data Management is the capability of a business intelligence platform to ensure the proper level and consistency of an organization s data is represented within the platform. Data Model Engine Auto Discovery and Manual Design Data Model Configuration Methodology GUI, Script, Automated Metadata Mgt. and Data Gov Engine Auto discovery, Manual Design Data Storage Style In-memory, Disk-based Data Storage Scale Gigabyte, Terabyte, Petabyte Data Storage Configuration Methodology GUI, Script, Automated All four vendors deliver some level of data modeling control. SAP again relies on add-on product Power Designer for automation features. Birst s functionality gets best marks for its ability to generate routines for loading data from the source into dimension and fact tables automatically. Also, based on a logical dimension model, Birst can generate corresponding subject areas to support report designers and analysts. Birst also automatically supports time-shifting variants and rolling variants without requiring additional setup. Database design and modeling are often a hidden cost of implementing a BI solution; the time and effort invested in these steps can be significant. Birst s ability to automatically execute both creates significant value especially for companies that would otherwise need to invest in outside resources to implement this critical step in building out a BI solution. Issues of data storage style, scale and configuration are discussed below in the Additional Required Investment/Infrastructure section of this paper. 3 Page 3

6 Business Analytics With data ingested and properly administered from the Data Acquisition and Data Management layers of the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum, a business intelligence platform can then perform analysis on the data to transform it into information. The various levels of Business Analytics are represented in the EMA Business Analytics Pyramid and have the following levels: Simple Query Results This is represented by being able to perform simple SQL queries upon the data in the Business Intelligence platform. Multi-Dimension Analysis This is the ability to perform levels of complex multi-dimension analysis in a business intelligence platform. Often it can be represented by the functionality commonly found in an analysis cube. However, multi-dimension analysis is not limited to the feature of an analysis cube. Dynamic Forecasting The ability to make adjustments to projections of past events for future use cases or scenarios is dynamic forecasting. Business intelligence platforms can perform this via simple projections, programmatic adjustment or regression analysis. Descriptive Modeling In the area of advanced analytics, one of the key areas is the ability to perform descriptive modeling. This is often used to group or bucket groups of sample or population. For example, groups appropriate for customer treatment is an application of descriptive modeling Predictive Modeling The other key area of advanced analytics is that of predictive modeling. Whereas, descriptive modeling can be used to define the grouping for a particular treatment (e.g. cross-sell/up-sell candidates), predictive modeling can be used on individual members of that population to determine the likelihood of that cross-sell/up-sell opportunity. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a specific use of business analytics associated with sentiment analysis and text analytics. NLP, and other forms of machine learning, are at the apex of the EMA Business Analytics Pyramid. 4 Predictive Modeling Neural Networks, Radial basis functions, Naïve Bayes Descriptive Modeling Classification, Regression Trees Dynamic Forecasting What if?, Linear projection Multi-Dimensional Analysis OLAP Simple Query Results SQL Configuration Methodology GUI, Script, Automated MicroStrategy and SAP have predictive modeling, descriptive modeling and dynamic forecasting features included in their solutions. Birst can deliver these features with the assistance and added cost of professional services. Oracle offers additional solutions for purchase to bolster its offering. Not surprisingly, all of the solutions offer multi-dimensional analysis and simple query results representing the most commonly adopted levels of the EMA Business Analytics Pyramid. 4 EMA Business Analytics Pyramid 2012 Developed by John Myers and Shawn Rogers 4 Page 4

7 Knowledge Discovery When information is generated from the Business Analytics layer of a business intelligence platform, it is critical to communicate this knowledge with a wide audience outside of the users/operators of the business intelligence platform. Knowledge delivery is often represented by standardized reports and dynamic dashboard user interfaces. Standard reports can be pixel perfect representations of static snapshots of the information generated from the Business Analytics layer. Dashboards can be various levels of dynamic access to the data presented as a graphical interface via Web, mobile or client application. Visualization Dashboards / Charts, Scorecards, Geo/Mapping Reports Pixel Perfect, Prebuilt Templates Distribution Manual Push, Manual Pull, Automated publish/subscribe Delivery Channel Web-Based, Mobile, PDF, Office Doc, Collaborative Configuration Methodology Script, GUI, Automated All four of the solutions provide simple prebuilt report templates that assist users with fast-start report authoring. A more sophisticated feature shared by all platforms is application-based templates. These templates match up with data models supplied or built to support industry specific applications such as BI for human resources, sales or customer service. Distribution of reports is a key feature for the knowledge discovery area. Birst, MicroStrategy and Oracle deliver on all aspects of the category. SAP is reliant on Feature Pack 3, an add-on to their base BI platform solution. Each of the vendors demonstrates collaborative features but fails to deliver on all three dimensions of enterprise level collaboration (interact, enhance and execute). SAP offers StreamWork, a collaborative platform designed to work with its BI platform; the most mature offering in the space. All solutions are capable of delivering mobile BI. SAP has made extensive investment in this area and offers Afaria, an enterprise class mobile management platform. Actionable Intelligence Actionable intelligence is the final layer of the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum. It represents the management and communication of decisions and/or decision paths to the organization. This can include simple alerts on discrepancies in analytical values via SMS, or social-based collaborative environment. Actionable intelligence can also take the form of complex workflow management facilities that manage not just the communication of information, but the process by which that information is managed, approved and tracked by the application. Actionable intelligence can often have a business analytics component of its own to determine the quality of actions recommended by the business analytics layer. 5 Page 5

8 Alerts Work-flow Engine Configuration Methodology Scripts, GUI, Automation MicroStrategy, Oracle and SAP enable workflow Engine capabilities in their BI Platforms. This feature set is often more important to larger organizations that have a greater number of defined processes, smaller firms don t generally institutionalize formal business processes. Birst does not deliver workflow functionality. Infrastructure Data management and BI ecosystem infrastructure is not included in the five functional areas of the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum, but remains important when comparing and contrasting BI Platforms. For purposes of the research we have focused on Implementation Options and Operating systems. Implementation options Cloud and on premises Operating System Windows, UNIX, Linux Each of the vendors support all major operating systems and in some cases highly specific niche systems. Birst was an early innovator in purpose built, cloud-based, business intelligence platforms and offers public and private cloud solutions. MicroStrategy recently launched a cloud-based solution that is a scaled down version of its standard solution. Oracle and SAP are now bringing cloud solutions to market. Security Much like infrastructure, security is a critical component to managing and utilizing business intelligence platforms. Leveraging existing security systems as well as positioning the platform for new features requires a sophisticated approach to system security. Identity User, Group, LDAP Data Security Tablespace, Table, Row, Cell Configuration Methodology Automated, GUI and Script Birst is the only solution to offer cell-level security for its platform. MicroStrategy, Oracle and SAP all deliver row-level security/access control in their base platforms. When collaboration is part of the solution, the ability to manage access to cell level, as in the Birst solution, affords a platform greater latitude when sharing information between various levels of stakeholders. All solutions will integrate with enterprise LDAP directories to manage security. 6 Page 6

9 Support Support capabilities and options are important to long-term adoption and success of BI projects. Training, professional services and community support represent key components of system support from the vendors. Training Professional Services User Group Community In the case of support, all vendors scored equally across the categories. Each has similar support features. However, the larger firms can scale faster and provide deeper overall capabilities. Financial Comparison The financial use case example represents a medium sized company 5, requiring 100 seats/users. The following product costs (approximate list prices, before any volume discount) would apply: Cost Component Birst MicroStrategy Oracle SAP License Cost for 100 Users $160,000 $349,980 $435,300 $371,000 Annual Maintenance Rate 20% 22% 22% 20% Annual Maintenance Cost $32,000 $76,996 $95,766 $74,200 3 Year License and Maintenance TCO $256,000 $580,967 $722,598 $593,600 It should be noted that SMB market discounting was applied to the MicroStrategy, Oracle and BusinessObjects pricing. Birst has no such market discount structure. 5 Calculated utilizing EMA Licensing Scenario Model 2012, Developed by Shawn Rogers and John Myers 7 Page 7

10 Additional Required Investment and Infrastructure Each of the platforms reviewed may require additional investment beyond the standard licensing and maintenance costs of the core software platforms. = Included in Base Product = Additional Cost for Feature Birst MicroStrategy Oracle SAP Data Transfer Database Management Platform Predictive Analytics Workflow Engine / Case Management Server Hardware Storage Capacity Birst s platform does not offer a path to include a workflow engine and requires professional services interaction to enable predictive analytics features adding to overall TCO. With regard to data storage and scalability, MicroStrategy, Oracle and SAP cater to larger ecosystems that are supported by additional database infrastructures. Oracle and SAP have both made significant investment in a variety of internally offered database management solutions (e.g. SAP s HANA, Sybase IQ and Sybase ASE; and Oracle s Database 11g, MySQL and TimesTen). These database management platforms are licensed separately from the business intelligence solutions. Birst is the only evaluated vendor that includes database management and storage components within its solution license price. This functionality can have dramatic impact on overall cost of ownership as it allows users to avoid the license cost of a database solution. Birst also delivers data management functionality, such as data modeling and Metadata Management (MDM), within its solution. The other evaluated vendors rely on the external database management systems to support these requirements. It is also important to point out that Birst s platform includes ETL functionality. This functionality allows a company to forego the additional expense and maintenance of an external ETL solution as well as the time and tools required for database design and data modeling. 8 Page 8

11 EMA Perspective Feature and function comparisons are important when choosing a business intelligence platform. Yet organizations should employ a forward-looking strategy to ensure the solution of choice matches not just technical requirements, but cultural and staffing considerations. Each of the vendors considered in this analysis delivers a wide variety of features and functions. In particular, each platform performed well across the categories of the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum. However, beyond product feature sets, it is important to understand how business size can influence the administration and operational components of TCO in implementing business intelligence platforms. The business scenario carried through this analysis is focused on the needs of mid-sized organizations and the three critical areas that influence their success: Time to Value Technology Generalists Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) In the area of Time to Value, mid-sized organizations find it critical to leverage technology solutions that decrease implementation timeframes. Automation and wizard-based functions help to get projects executed economically and fast. The Birst solution offers an array of automatic capabilities spanning ETL and data modeling functions that will impact deployment time and operational cost in a positive manner. Mid-sized organizations are challenged to employ large, role specific technology teams. Economic pressures and cultural preferences guide these firms to utilize generalists as opposed to specialists. Mid-size teams benefit from technology platforms that play to strengths of Technology Generalists as opposed to those who require multiple sets of specific product skills. These technology platform attributes include ongoing administrative shortcuts to manage monitor and operate BI platforms. Administration of best of breed, technology platforms, like enterprise business intelligence, is a timeconsuming and often expensive proposition. Integration of infrastructure, flexibility of deployment models, ease of use for security administration and system change management are critical factors to consider when mid-sized organizations are researching BI platform solution providers. When specialized installation, development and administration skill sets are required, mid-size teams often turn to consultant services or attempt to learn on the job. Both of these implementation strategies can greatly impact the cost or delivery timeframe of a business intelligence project. From a feature function perspective, EMA found all the solutions provide appropriate functionality for mid-sized organizations. This brings TCO front and center as an evaluation criterion. The solution costs studied here varies from less than $300,000 to over $700,000 for license and three years maintenance. Birst s solution price is approximately 50% less than the next evaluated alternative. Additionally, Birst is able to leverage flexible deployment (e.g. public and private cloud-based) and pricing (e.g. annual subscription) models to further impact TCO savings. From an integrated infrastructure that offers quick Time to Value characteristics to automation tools that empower a technology generalist IT Staffing to focus on the business problems and not configuration tasks to a TCO that beats the other alternatives by 50%, the Birst solution rises to the top of our evaluation group and promises to provide a significant value to mid-sized organizations now and in the future. 9 Page 9

12 Methodology EMA has identified 75 features and functions that are common to enterprise business intelligence platforms and critical to the EMA Business Intelligence Continuum framework. The Continuum organizes each of these features and functions into one of 5 categories, Data Acquisition, Data Management, Business Analytics, Knowledge Discovery and Actionable Intelligence. Each vendor was given the opportunity to identify which of the functions within these categories is addressed by its platform. The vendors were required to share the solution name(s) and version number, and were restricted to Generally Available (GA) releases. Forward-looking or roadmap features were excluded, as were products that were still in BETA. EMA exercised due diligence to confirm features and supporting documentation as well as utilizing publically available product information and EMA analyst product insight and experience. EMA provided an opportunity for each company to review its findings and provide feedback. Oracle and MicroStrategy declined our invitation to supply feature based survey data for this paper. About Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. Founded in 1996, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) is a leading industry analyst firm that provides deep insight across the full spectrum of IT and data management technologies. EMA analysts leverage a unique combination of practical experience, insight into industry best practices, and in-depth knowledge of current and planned vendor solutions to help its clients achieve their goals. Learn more about EMA research, analysis, and consulting services for enterprise line of business users, IT professionals and IT vendors at or blogs.enterprisemanagement.com. You can also follow EMA on Twitter or Facebook. This report in whole or in part may not be duplicated, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or retransmitted without prior written permission of Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. All opinions and estimates herein constitute our judgement as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Product names mentioned herein may be trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies. EMA and Enterprise Management Associates are trademarks of Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. in the United States and other countries Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved. EMA, ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES, and the mobius symbol are registered trademarks or common-law trademarks of Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. Corporate Headquarters: 1995 North 57th Court, Suite 120 Boulder, CO Phone: Fax: Page 10

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