Midmarket BI and Data Warehousing

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Of all the underreported areas across categories of information management, most lie in the small to midmarket. That's because, in a lot of ways, it’s easier for people like me to know what’s going on at Pfizer or Coca Cola or a big insurance company than what’s happening downstream, where the greater overall market lies. There is prestige in big programs with lots of visible people and titles across the Fortune 500 and many interesting stories are documented there.

And while we've covered midmarket business intelligence and data warehousing activity in our 25 Top information Manager series and in discrete stories involving shippers, retailers, health care providers and many others, many smaller companies are often likely to hold BI and data warehousing close to the vest. They’re competitively unsure whether to talk about it, because they’re not sure where they stand in the broader scheme of small to midmarket companies, and whether they’re better or horribly worse than their peers at these information initiatives.

All the more reason then for me to be interested and point you in the direction of a short BI and data warehousing survey we’ve launched today that is the work of our friend Lyndsay Wise of Wise Analytics. Lyndsay knows this market well, but is also looking for better metrics for activity there, who’s involved and who’s doing what.

Talking to her yesterday, I found myself trying to predict with her what we might find -- and this is purely speculative – so here is some guesswork we'll be able to prove right or wrong once you and everybody else has taken the survey.

Lyndsay says that in her consulting work she finds small and midsize companies are getting very interested in operational data and want dashboards to track trends and data across time, but they usually don’t come to the table with good ways of managing their data.

She also sees a lot of vendors getting interested in the midmarket but that there’s still not a lot of focus on the data warehousing side of things. I’d agree. Just like the ERP movement has taken time to move downstream, mainstream BI solutions are still finding their way to smaller companies.

And, Wise says, small to midsized market business executives have begun to show a  clear understanding of precisely the metrics and KPIs they are looking for.

“They may not be able to say, we need this Microsoft source and this Oracle source, but they know they have data coming in their supply chain and customer stuff somewhere else they have to match,” Wise says. “They’re not saying, ‘we have a known problem and we have no clue.’”

I’m going to predict a lot of small to midsized companies underestimate the data moving and integration needed to support those dashboards. I’ll also predict steady penetration for some of the mainstream BI household names but not as much as they’d like.

And in a market with more options and better product visibility through peer users, I’ll bet we see more interest and comfort, and good (but maybe not miraculous) uptake in open source BI vendors like Pentaho, Actuate and Jaspersoft.

I also think we’ll see some good interest in software as a service for BI and data warehousing, and especially cloud services for databases and computing power, though we’re probably early to count more than some inspiring innovators there. Still, Wise notes that a lot of smaller companies, just because of their size, have a lot of hosted systems up to and included ERP already on hosted offerings, meaning they’re already comfortable with the model.

I’d be happy to see you add your predictions to what Lyndsay Wise will find in her survey. And remember to take the survey yourself so we get a good result, and if you do, Lyndsay will share the results with you as soon as it’s out. I’m really looking forward to it myself.

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