MicroStrategy explores mobile opportunities beyond its BI bread and butter
At the recent MicroStrategy World event in Las Vegas, mobility stood out as an area of significant development. While the company continues to make its mark in mobile BI space with intuitive and consumer-like solutions for iOS and Android devices, it became clear at the conference that MicroStrategy is increasingly veering outside the BI realm and is exploring opportunities with products in mobile application development, e-commerce, and mobile identity management.
It is refreshing to see a vendor that really thinks â€śoutside-the-boxâ€ť, but MicroStrategy needs to make sure it does not spread itself too thin with a portfolio of disparate products. It will be imperative for it to provide a vision of how the new types of products tie back to what made it so successful in the first place: its core BI platform. This will help its internal operations because sales, R&A, and marketing will understand what the companyâ€™s go-to-market strategy is, what will be supported, and, most importantly, what lies ahead for existing BI customers and partners.
MicroStrategy continues to be a heavy-hitter in mobile BI
MicroStrategy has been an avid advocate for mobile technologies as the next big frontier in technology, and this is reflected in the maturity of its mobile BI capabilities. In Ovumâ€™s recent Solution Guide for Mobile BI, MicroStrategy is at the top for both iOS and Android devices, outscoring competing vendors in several categories. Much of this can be credited to a company looking closely at mobile not only as an extension of BI, but also as a primary way to conduct traditional BI processes such as reporting, KPI monitoring, analysis, and data mining. MicroStrategy is also betting on a roadmap that is strongly influenced by mobile solutions, and Ovum expects it to continue to be a heavy-hitter in the mobile BI space.
Key for a mobile BI solution is that it is intuitive, fast, and personalized, something MicroStrategy has been able to address successfully. The company has made sure that customers can easily develop custom-made mobile applications on top of its core BI platform via the MicroStrategy Mobile App Platform through code-free drag-and-drop development. This allows companies to build BI apps that can easily be adjusted to their needs, roles, and look-and-feel.
MicroStrategy also provides native integration to iOS and Android, which allows for faster touch response and more functionality (as offline data exploration) than web-based solutions. However, MicroStrategy might need to rethink its strategy of exclusively offering native support for mobile solutions. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is attractive to many enterprises. Indeed, a recent survey by Ovum shows that 57.1% of all full-time employees use a personal device to access corporate data. This percentage is expected to grow, meaning that more versions and types of mobile platform will enter the work place (see Ovum report BYOD: An Emerging Market Trend in More Ways than One). Providing native solutions for a plethora of devices is no mean feat and the company should invest in R&A to provide similar functionality through hybrid (HTML5 code in a native wrapper) deployments. This will cut out a lot of the redundancy and effort of writing new code for every platform, and the core HTML5 code can be reused for each platform. MicroStrategy can therefore avoid DRY (donâ€™t repeat yourself), which is a big no-go area in application development.
Breaking into new, non-BI, territory
MicroStrategy can no longer be considered as only a pure BI vendor. The company is now offering products in several non-traditional areas for a BI vendor. In addition to its latest BI platform, MicroStrategy 9.3, the company offers mobile application development, mobile identity management, and e-commerce solutions. Its current portfolio includes Usher, a mobile identity network that enables enterprises to provide digital credentials (â€śbadgesâ€ť) on usersâ€™ mobile devices to enable physical (for example, doors) and online (for example, logon to a banking website) access.
A lot of this has arisen from the companyâ€™s increased focus on consumer-centric and mobile-enabled solutions for BI, and although the company is embarking on many new ventures, executives stress that BI is still the bread and butter of the company.
Like many other BI vendors, MicroStrategy is also ramping up its advanced data visualization efforts. A key focus in 2013 will be to improve Visual Insight, the companyâ€™s advanced data visualization solution, which was introduced during 2012. The solution, which is packaged as an integrated part of the MicroStrategy BI platform, allows users to visually explore and analyze data and create dashboards and reports in an ad hoc fashion. Strategically, the goal will be to prevent vendors such as Tableau from gaining customers on top of systems such as IBM Netezza, Teradata, and Cloudera, systems MicroStrategy BI platform is optimized to plug into.
MicroStrategy must avoid becoming a jack of all trades
MicroStrategy needs to tread carefully so it doesnâ€™t become a jack of all trades and master of none. Specifically, Ovum believes the company needs to show a common thread (for example, unified platform, metadata exchange, data synchronization) for its offerings in BI, mobile application development, and e-commerce.
Development of mobile BI applications on the MicroStrategy Mobile App Platform and its new Express offering, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution designed to help businesses build web and mobile BI solutions in the cloud, are good examples of â€śtying it all togetherâ€ť. However, other solutions such as the Usher mobile identity solution, and Alert, an e-commerce solution allowing retailers to barter inventory to retail customers, do not appear to fit in with a BI company of MicroStrategyâ€™s size.
It will be important for MicroStrategy to provide a clearer vision of how BI, e-commerce, mobile application development, and mobile identity management will come together, not only from a technology standpoint but also from a strategic perspective. The company should also clarify whether the different offerings will operate as unified or multiple separate units.
Sales, R&A, and marketing currently work under the same roof, which might not be optimal if the company is serious about making a run in mobile application development, e-commerce, and mobile identity management space while continuing with what got it there in the first place: its core BI business.
Fredrik Tunvall, Analyst, Information Managment
Solutions Guide: Mobile Business Intelligence (November 2012)
Mobile BI: Providing Intuitive Access to Business Data (November 2012)
Multi-market BYOD Survey Results: Employee Behavior and Attitudes Toward Mobile Device Usage at Work (October 2012)
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