MicroStrategy unveils its new take on self-service analytics

MicroStrategy has introduced the first major new version of its BI software in six years, and it's playing for self-service customers with the MicroStrategy 10 release -- but with a focus on governance.

Each quarter, the editors at SearchBusinessAnalytics recognize a business intelligence or analytics technology for innovation and market impact. The product selected this quarter is MicroStrategy 10 from MicroStrategy Inc.

Product: MicroStrategy 10

Release date: June 4, 2015

What it does

MicroStrategy 10 was released June 4, and the company says it will bring data governance and enterprise scalability to the modern world of self-service analytics.

The product is built around MicroStrategy's existing enterprise infrastructure. It then layers on top a new data discovery interface that allows users to import from a range of data sources, including Hadoop or a Twitter data stream, by pointing and clicking. No coding is required at this point. Users can then use built-in visualization tools to present the data however they want.

Paul Zolfaghari, MicroStrategy's president, said the new discovery tool brings the look and feel of modern self-service software. But he added that because it's built on MicroStrategy's enterprise architecture, which focuses on organizing data in a single data warehouse, users can be sure that analyses are coming from a valid source, rather than department-specific data that might not be fully consistent.

Trend visualizations in MicroStrategy 10
Visualizing trends in data using MicroStrategy 10

The interface between front and back ends is built in HTML5, which gives it a common language for integrating with other tools and technologies, like Web applications, the R programming language and the D3 library of JavaScript visualizations. MicroStrategy 10 also uses in-memory computing in an effort to speed up its functions.

Why it matters

MicroStrategy is one of the original leaders in business intelligence. Its products became synonymous with centralized, governed reporting. But in recent years, the company lost some ground to competitors like Tableau and Qlik, which took a more agile approach to BI reporting and data analysis. These systems are quick to stand up and configure, and in many cases can be implemented by a line of business without any involvement from IT.

While this speed and agility is great for business units, having multiple departments manage their own systems can fragment data within an organization and make it hard for different departments to trust each other's information. MicroStrategy 10 intends to bridge this gap between governed data reporting and quick and easy self-service analytics.

Zolfaghari said the product is a direct challenge to current kingpins in the self-service and data discovery space. "Modern data discovery tools say that you can't have a single version of the truth," he said. "10 debunks that."

What users say

The Advisory Board, a research and consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., runs MicroStrategy 10 to develop and deliver BI applications to its clients, primarily to healthcare organizations through its Crimson division. This group develops applications that enable hospitals and health systems to keep track of where referrals are coming from, how populations of patients with specific diseases respond to certain treatments and business-related performance metrics.

The ability for us to further empower our end users and help our advisors internally was important. It enables the end user to quickly get answers.
Jay Egansenior product manager, The Advisory Board

Faqir Ahmed, senior director of development at The Advisory Board, said the fact that MicroStrategy 10 is built in HTML5 is big for his use case. Most of the products his team delivers to clients are run as Web portals. Prior versions of MicroStrategy relied more on Adobe Flash for building Web applications, which was fine when much of the Internet used Flash as a common framework. But HTML5 is increasingly supplanting Flash as the go-to development framework.

"For our group, we've got a common set of visualizations and tools, and the integration with Flash was complex," Ahmed said. "[HTML5] is a lot easier to maintain, and performance is also better."

His co-worker, Jay Egan, a senior product manager at The Advisory Board, said another key decision point for them was governance. Particularly given that the team using MicroStrategy 10 deals primarily with healthcare clients, controlling access to data and ensuring its accuracy is paramount. This factor, paired with improved usability and visual appeal of its self-service data exploration functions, made 10 a good fit.

"The ability for us to further empower our end users and help our advisors internally was important," Egan said. "It enables the end user to quickly get answers."

The new data dashboard in MicroStrategy 10
A look at MicroStrategy's new approach to dashboard design


MicroStrategy Desktop 10 costs $600 per user license with a 22% maintenance charge annually that kicks in after the first year. The MicroStrategy 10 line also includes a variety of other products, including BI server, report services, mobile and Web versions.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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