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Permira Private Equity and Canada Pension Plan Take Informatica Private

Author: Andreas Bitterer

Published: 9 April 2015

In a surprising move, Informatica Corporation, a publicly traded and market-leading provider of data integration, data quality and master data management solutions agreed to be acquired by two private equity firms that will take the vendor private.

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Marlin Equity Partners Acquires Arcplan

Authors: Carsten Bange, Andreas Bitterer

Published: 7 April 2015

German business intelligence software vendor Arcplan has agreed to be acquired by US-based private equity firm Marlin Equity Partners for an undisclosed sum. The Arcplan company and its product portfolio is expected to be merged with Longview Solutions, a Canadian provider of business performance management solutions and another Marlin Equity Partners portfolio company.

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Self-service BI and the DIY trap

Here is a common scenario, seen in organizations all over the planet. I’m talking about self-service, which is meant to be a good idea.

DIYFor quite a while now, self-service BI has been all the rage. Understandably, business users are often discouraged, disappointed or outright annoyed by the lack of support for BI they get from their local IT departments, and so they often decided to take matters into their own hands. In most cases, Microsoft Excel comes to the rescue, but when that approach doesn’t scale or is otherwise not manageable anymore, those functional departments are looking for a more pragmatic solution. They called it self-service BI, but it was really more self-help. This is where companies such as Qlik or Tableau have seen huge success from generating demand and adoption through grassroots movements, which often happened behind IT’s back. After a while, those DIY implementations became a little more complex and the newly generated shadow IT groups needed help.

What usually happens next?

After IT’s aggravation has subsided, and the rogue projects have been reigned in again, Big IT decides to give the business what they say they want and sets out to enable their users through controlled self-service BI. Or so they thought.  Because it is not about the tool. Now, the functional departments are creating reports, dashboards, and are analyzing data to their hearts’ content, and all with IT’s blessing, yet they still don’t seem to be happy. Why? Because they often rely on self-service definitions (for lack of a better description). Only those organizations that base their BI infrastructure on a commonly agreed data model and semantic layer, the confusion over what means revenue, how many customers have churned, or the profitability of a certain product, can be kept to a minimum. Many others look at their beautiful self-serviced dashboards, nicely rendered on the latest mobile gadget, and have the same funny feeling as before that the figures they are looking at do not represent the truth. So, be careful what you wish for when you say you want “self-service” as there are still a few traps along the way. Some infrastructure guardrails are necessary.

An RFP is not a Request For Propaganda

I get it. Responding to an organisation’s Request For Proposal (RFP) is not everyone’s favorite way to spend time. After all, first you need to read and understand the requirements described in the RFP to begin with, then figure out whether your organization has something to offer in this field, whether necessary personnel is available, come up with competitive pricing, and when that’s all done, write it all up in a comprehensive proposal that stands out from the rest. And all of that well knowing that it may be a total waste of time, if another provider is selected. It’s tough to be a vendor sometimes.

roosterI am currently involved in an RFP for what can be considered an  end-to-end BI implementation, from data integration and data quality to the data warehouse, its data model,  and finally various BI front-ends. Almost a green field approach, which is kinda rare these days.

So after carefully developing the requirements list and turning it into a concise RFP, it’s now the time to review the responses from about 10 solution providers, some of which are global organisations, others smaller and more locally operating vendors. And it became very clear that the size of the organization is no indication for the quality of the response. Similarly, a vendor’s grand reputation can be at a stark contrast to a very sloppy proposal from the same company. Sometimes it seems as if the vendor isn’t even interested in the engagement. So why respond at all then?

However, what gets me real mad is when a vendor sends a 50 page proposal from which 40 pages are pure propaganda, five pages are boilerplate stuff, and another five pages interesting content about the topic at hand. If I want to read a vendor’s marketing blurb, I’ll go and visit their website. But when I want to learn about a vendor’s approach, capabilities, pricing, skills, etc., they should better spare me the slogans. After all, we didn’t just pull their name out of thin air, but thoroughly  research them before inviting them to the RFP in the first place.  So there is little need for a standard marketing pitch.


BI in the Cloud: The Theoretical Adoption

I recently received an invitation to a webinar named “Your checklist for Cloud BI success!” from Yellowfin, a BI vendor from down under, headquartered in Melbourne. In the announcement, I read

By the end of 2014, Gartner expects almost 50% of organizations to deliver their mission-critical BI via the cloud.

Say what? The end of 2014 is not even a whole month away, and by that time, half of all organizations are using BI in the cloud, even for what’s considered mission-critical decisions? No way, José.  I mean, this incredible adoption of BI in the cloud must either have happened in a parallel universe, or something is totally off with that statement. I know my former colleagues at Gartner well, and I doubt that anyone dealing with BI trends would come up with such a prediction.

I asked the folks at Yellowfin for some clarification as to where they found that statement, and received the following references, two media outlets and one blog:

After scanning those texts, I came across related sections discussing BI in the cloud. In the ComputerWorld article, I read:

Researchers at Gartner say that 2014 may be the tipping point for cloud BI. In each of the last four years, around 30% of respondents to a Gartner survey said they’d run their mission-critical BI in the cloud. This year, however, nearly half — 45% — said they would adopt cloud BI.

The Brittenford blog says the same thing, word by word. Looks like the “blogger” just pulled that section from the CW article.

Researchers at Gartner say that 2014 may be the tipping point for cloud BI. In each of the last four years, around 30% of respondents to a Gartner survey said they’d run their mission-critical BI in the cloud. This year, however, nearly half (45 percent) said they would adopt cloud BI.

Marissa Tejada from the Midsize Insider also references the CW article, the message is the same.

In a recent ComputerWorld article, Gartner analysts revealed their insights on recent industry trends around the cloud and BI. Within the last four years, about 30 percent of firms preferred to run their mission-critical BI through cloud computing. That percentage is set to increase to 45 percent this year.

Wait a minute, those 30% or 45% from the first two references said they would adopt cloud BI. Which means they did not, or not yet. In the Midsize Insider article, those same percentages preferred cloud BI, which sounds as if they are already underway, which I really doubt.

Bottom line: Lots of companies consider cloud BI as an option. That’s it, no surprise there. Now, I personally could consider a lot of things, for example, base jumping from a skyscraper or putting a Hello Kitty tattoo on my forehead. Doesn’t mean I’ll do either. Same thing will be true for many of those organizations that said they’d consider cloud BI. They’ll never do it.

The much more interesting thing to know is obviously how many organizations have a significant (!) number of their user population consume BI via the cloud today. Still relatively few. According to the 2014 BARC BI Survey, which includes a breakdown of cloud BI adoption by vendor from over 2000 end-user respondents, only 10% of organizations use cloud BI at all. The percentage of total users is obviously even smaller than that.  If only the BI vendors with a large customer base would tell us what percentage of their BI revenue is actually coming from cloud BI subscriptions, because that would provide a good indication of adoption. I’m fairly sure that it is still in low single-digit percentages. So far, no vendor has objected.

Still, as for the Yellowfin statement, that started this whole investigation:

By the end of 2014, Gartner expects almost 50% of organizations to deliver their mission-critical BI via the cloud.

Maybe it’s just a simple misunderstanding, maybe it’s wishful thinking. In any case, it clearly distorts the facts, which isn’t helping anyone.


Coincidentally, Yellowfin, a provider of cloud BI solutions, is leading the cloud BI adoption statistics by quite a margin. Get the whole BI Survey here.

BI Strategy – Are We There Yet?

Welcome to my blog. After a blogging hiatus of about two years, where I just didn’t feel like it, I am back online and ready to pick up some of the topics where I left off. And I will certainly be willing to pick up a glove if need be. There are quite a few controversial subjects in the land of BI, big data, and overall data management, and I will start sharing my views going forward.

One of my favorite discussion topics over the last 10 years is “BI strategy” or rather the lack thereof. I may sound like a broken record, but at closer inspection of organizations’ attempts at business intelligence, it becomes glaringly obvious that most implementations are not based on a real strategy, but on faith and hope.

So why is it that hardly any organization has a true BI strategy and so many BI implementations fail to deliver? Here are a few attempts at an explanation:

  1. Lack of executive commitment
  2. Shortsighted focus on just quick wins
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Internal politics
  5. Not invented here syndrome
  6. Extreme time pressure

I could go on. It is interesting, though, that hardly any stumbling blocks are of technological nature. Pretty much all problems that relate to a lack of a BI strategy are homemade. At the same time, when I review a document that is called “BI strategy”, it almost exclusively focuses on the technology bits, as if that is what it is all about. Of course, BI would never work without technology, but the more important and much harder topics to think about are people–related: requirements, steering, stewardship, or program management.


As a reference, here are some of the suggested chapter headings of a potential strategy document. Feel free to contact me to discuss.

BI strategy