Business intelligence (BI) isn't always thought of as the sexiest market to play in. That hasn't stopped Gartner Research from identifying five vendors bringing innovation to the BI and performance management (PM) space and keeping things fresh. In fact, the authors of the research firm's annual "Cool Vendors" report suggest that innovation is the one common trait shared by all five vendors mentioned. Being cool isn't the same as being the best, however: The report authors note that any of these particular BI and PM software providers may not be the optimal choice for a given organization. The five companies, although notable within the emerging technology category, may lack in visibility and viability.
"The demand from business users for information processing is growing faster than [information technology] resources can address," the report states, "especially with traditional BI platforms." A number of Gartner's Cool Vendors target that growing demand, but another big trend involves real-time data analysis to proactively serve and sell to customers.
Gartner Research's 2009 "Cool Vendors in Business Intelligence and Performance Management" are as follows:
The Media, Pa.–based company has been offering its InsightBI product line since 2006. Analyst Bill Gassman writes that Altosoft offers a package of "business process intelligence" that combines data integration, process discovery, business activity monitoring, incident management, and something called "in-memory BI," which allows data models to be constructed on the fly by any user. The report also credits InsightBI for enabling users to easily navigate with a drag-and-drop interface.
The Cool Factor: Altosoft's Insight Incident Manager essentially closes the loop between detecting events and responding to them. The software tracks, aggregates, and escalates incidents in a collaborative way to ensure that no alerts go unnoticed. And what's cooler than getting stuff for free? Altosoft is giving away no-cost downloads of the Insight Personal Edition on its Web site. The downloadable software, Gassman points out, is a subset of the Insight dashboard and is a great way to evaluate the company's offerings.
Despite its leading-edge approach with tools for in-memory BI and process discovery, Altosoft has struggled a bit in finding the market in which to position itself, Gassman writes. Although the in-memory aspect puts Altosoft into direct competition with the likes of Qliktech, IBM Cognos Now, and Tibco Spotfire, Gassman recommends Altosoft for large organizations seeking a solution to meet operational business intelligence needs.
The Newton, Mass.–based provider of "active intelligence" connects the "quantitative world of BI and the semi-structured world beyond its scope," writes analyst James Richardson. Attivio's search-oriented data-discovery tools allow access to SQL-like queries as well as fuzzy searches. The vendor's Active Intelligence Engine permits entity action and then automatically forms tables to create records of data.
The Cool Factor: Some users are understandably intimidated by an ad-hoc query tool, but might be quite comfortable with a search engine. Attivio, Richardson writes, enables these users to find the information they need in a structured database. This allows users to access both the "what" and the "why" within a single query. As an example of this complex natural-language request, the report cites the ability for users to say, "Show my 20 worst-performing products by revenue associated with ratings and reviews."
The report also notes the effect Attivio is having on the overall marketplace, with its active intelligence highlighting a trend that megavendors are now paying attention to. (The report cites SAP's Business Objects Polestar as an example of the unification of search and text mining.) Richardson notes that organizations wanting to move beyond traditional analysis and reporting should consider Attivio for its search product.
As enterprises become more intelligent, so, too, are the products they're manufacturing. (Think of Nike's "Nike+" running chip: Embedded inside a shoe, the chip can connect to a runner's iPod to track how far and fast the runner travels.) As products become more intelligent, it becomes interesting and relevant to measure how those products are actually being used. Analyst Gareth Herschel, in fact, writes that understanding the real usage of products is vital to customer relationships and product strategy. And though few systems have allowed organizations to do so, Sunnyvale, Calif.–based Glassbeam seeks to fuse analytics with product usage.
The Cool Factor: Glassbeam lets organizations view a continual stream of data regarding product use and configuration. For an organization to have access to this data is novel, Herschel states. Knowledge into product use can enable proactive support and services on the organization's behalf. It could also lead to cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Herschel notes, however, that Glassbeam needs to establish footing within customer organizations -- preferably within service and support departments. Glassbeam could hold value for manufacturers developing intelligent products.
Based in Denver, Lyzasoft is spinoff of a highly successful business intelligence consulting practice. The company, formed in 2008, touts itself as being "designed by analysts and for analysts." Essentially, Lyzasoft's desktop BI tool serves as a one-stop shop for business users looking for self-service options to access, manipulate, and visualize data. All can be done without the assistance of the technology staff.
The Cool Factor: When one Lyzasoft user shares data with another, the associated metadata brings forth certain assumptions, according to analyst Rita Sallam. A user can then continue adding additional data sources to the results and watch the progression.
Sallam notes, however, that Lyzasoft, as with other personal, workgroup, or departmental BI platforms, still needs to overcome the resistance of enterprise technology departments. Most traditional technology staffs have been trending toward tool consolidation and may be hesitant to introduce yet another BI tool into their infrastructure. Still, she says, organizations seeking a self-sufficient personal or workgroup platform for analysis should consider Lyzasoft.
This emerging vendor is just beginning to penetrate the European market. Based in Chemnitz, Germany, Prudsys focuses solely on the retail sector, but analyst Andreas Bitterer notes that the vendor's offerings could potentially benefit other industries, such as insurance and financial services. The analytical, real-time capabilities in the Prudys engine are designed to reduce the number of online shoppers who change their minds and abandon their shopping carts. "The system attempts to prevent the cancellation of an online purchase by offering individual actions, such as suitable payment options or online chat," Bitterer writes.
The Cool Factor: Prudsys' recommendation engine can be used as an on-premises application or can be plugged in though an application programming interface using the Java programming language. Bitterer writes that the solution is compelling for online and catalog retailers seeking to improve channel effectiveness.
To date, Prudsys addresses mainly the German-speaking market and its visibility is limited to retail. The company plans, however, to open an office in the United Kingdom before the end of 2009.
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