10.2 Takeaways from MSTR World, Dubai Symposium and more...

February 26, 2016

Many of you must have spotted us at MSTR World 2016 wearing the bright green tees or the orange jackets. We also just got back from the Dubai symposium where the themes of MSTR World seemed to resonate. It has been an interesting start to the MSTR engine; a reboot of sorts. Here's what we thought of the MSTR story and what it means to our customers, our partners, and our peers.


1. Tension Remains in the Battle Between IT Controlled vs. IT Enabled Analytics

Traditionally, analytic capability has been IT-controlled and centralized.  Business users are pushing hard for “IT-enabled” capabilities that are decentralized. MSTR’s current focus better supports both ends of the spectrum. This shift becomes especially critical as MSTR rolls out its self-service features, -- the monitoring and migration of which continue to challenge IT organizations. MSTR is further aiming to create new tools that go beyond diagnostic insight to provide prescriptive intelligence, wrapped up in a centrally-controlled yet extensible security infrastructure. There is a renewed effort to simplify system administration. All in all, a better balance for the interests of both IT and the business.


2.  New Rule: Make the User Experience Consistent Across Interfaces

End user demands are flowing in opposite directions:  make the app bigger and richer for desktop users and make it smaller and more portable for mobile users.  There is an interesting push for parity between different interfaces, regardless of size.  Time will tell how this impacts highly interactive or complex features that are much better suited for those larger form factors. Aiming for a consistent user experience across all screens will either constrain or force future innovation.



3. When It Comes to Cloud, if You Build It, They Might Be Slow to Come

Cloud adoption is on the rise, but many customers are still reluctant to migrate. There is a concentrated effort on MicroStrategy’s part to reduce the friction associated with spinning up an instance, but customers aren’t yet ready to take the leap in moving their existing implementations.  Furthermore, there is still a sense amongst many that the cloud offering is not on par in terms of performance and reliability with on-premise deployments.



4. Rebranded MSTR Desktop (aka Visual Insight or VI) Improves Self-Service Dashboarding

Self-service dashboarding got a shot in the arm with the evolution of Visual Insight (VI)

but there is still some way to go to create, share and collaborate a narrative based on the “data journey”. However, the ability to easily insert non-standard visualizations is a winner.



5. Embedded BI is Still Far From Plug and Play

While the rollout of the SDK APIs through the community portal is promising, the creation of a modern customer-facing/extranet web app on top of the OOTB interface is still development-intensive.  This continues to be, if not now more than ever, one of the sweetspots for professional services practitioners.  A great example of a solution that leverages the power of MicroStrategy with a fully custom look-and-feel is Adalytics, Third I’s winner in this year’s MicroStrategy’s dashboard contest. Click here to learn more about Adalytics.



6. MicroStrategy is Refocused on the Core Product

MicroStrategy reported a drop in R&D from around $100 million or 20%, to 63 million or 12% of its revenue. In recent months there has been attrition -- some intentional -- throughout the company, and especially in technology. So the progress in rolling out 10.2 with all its features is a testimonial to the company’s renewed focus on the core product.  Especially for those that attended MicroStrategy World 2015 in Las Vegas, the shift was apparent.  Last year, there was a very strong focus on Usher at the expense of the core product.  Now, the focus at least seems equally divided in three pillars: Analytics, Mobile and Security.



7. Data Prep Tools Are Evolving, But Remain Rather Technical

The push to go down the data supply chain continues with the emphasis on data prep tools (wrangling, blending etc.). There remains a significant learning curve since the UI is yet to come to a level where non-technical business users can easily interact and prep data.



8. Business-Driven BI Depends On New Organizational Habits

The tools to help an organization become data-driven in a non-centralized federated environment are starting to take shape. Organizations however need to start developing the data habits needed to become analytical.



9. It’s a Challenging Market for Analytics

Other analytics platforms providers are all starting to build out end-to-end analytics capabilities and offering plug-n-play industry-specific solutions. The crowded market presents selling challenges especially as they relate to deal size.



10. Prime Might Be A Game Changer

We heard several conversations about in-memory. Didn’t really hear much about Prime, which is probably a game changer if MSTR can execute well. The effort around making NoSQL and Hadoop sources accessible for data exploration and query is helping the product suite catch up with other contenders.



10.2. Nobody Else Has Unified Metadata

MSTR’s biggest selling proposition remains its unified metadata -- a result arguably of their focus on organic growth based on a single code base. In fact, to the surprise of many of the attendants, MicroStrategy’s CEO Michael Saylor spent a considerable amount of time in the keynote explaining the architecture and highlighting the importance of the metadata.  Below is the diagram used to explain, which is also now prominently featured on MicroStrategy’s website.




MicroStrategy’s 2016 story is compelling -- one that combines self-service data exploration tools (potential for anarchy!) and centralized metadata-based enterprise reporting (potential for dictatorship!). The company is rallying around making its product as a “platform” again -- a launchpad for practitioners like Third I to democratize the development of the data model, scale to large numbers of users at a fair clip, and create and deploy high performance business apps with the modern interfaces they have come to expect from enterprise apps. Overall, the engine restart is promising. MSTR now needs to execute and “put the pedal to the metal” in 10.3 and beyond.



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