MicroStrategy to focus on customers, not 'PowerPoint slides,' at conference

CIOs from Facebook and Gucci are among more than 50 Microstrategy BI customers set to speak

While some vendor conferences can end up mired in technical minutiae, MicroStrategy believes it's better to show, not tell customers how its BI (business intelligence) software works, according to its president, Paul Zolfaghari.

"The most valuable thing we can show the marketplace is the value we're creating with customers," he said in an interview prior to MicroStrategy's annual conference later this month in Las Vegas. "It's one thing to go up there with PowerPoint slides and tell people what you think they should do."

More than 50 MicroStrategy customers will deliver presentations at the event, which has about 130 sessions planned in total, according to a statement. They include BMC Software, Flextronics, Nielsen, Panda Restaurant Group and Publicis Touchpoint Solutions.

Scheduled for keynotes are Facebook CIO Tim Campos and Gucci CIO Simone Pacciarini, who will discuss their use of Microstrategy technology.

When it does discuss products at the event, Microstrategy plans to showcase its recently released Analytics Desktop, a self-service BI tool that is available at no charge, as well as its push into mobile BI, Zolfaghari said.

Mobility has transformed the BI market, in Zolfaghari's view. Five or six years ago, companies largely ran some internal reports and rolled the results up the corporate food chain, he said. "What's happened is BI has now moved massively outside of HQ."

It's also likely MicroStrategy will discuss the massively parallel in-memory computing architecture it's been working on with Facebook. The technology should be commercially available from MicroStrategy later this year, showing up first in MicroStrategy's cloud BI offering, according to Zolfaghari.

The conference comes as MicroStrategy, the industry's last remaining large pure BI vendor, faces ever-stiffer competition from platform companies such as Oracle and SAP, as well as upstarts like Tableau and Birst.

But MicroStrategy is keeping an edge thanks to a number of key strategic decisions, according to a recently released Forrester Research report on the BI market.

"MicroStrategy has grown organically and architected its entire suite as a single platform," analyst Boris Evelson wrote. "Forrester clients find that, after making the initial investment and effort in MicroStrategy, the reusability of all objects and the relational OLAP engine with drill-anywhere capability often result in a lower long-term total cost of ownership."

Forrester clients are also having success rolling out mobile BI based on MicroStrategy's platform, Evelson said.

But there's some cause for concern over MicroStrategy's "high reliance on a largely disappearing network of partners, many of which have been acquired," for architectural components such as ETL (extract, transform and load), data quality and MDM (master data management), Evelson added.

Zolfaghari downplayed the impact of its partners being acquired, noting that Informatica, a major provider of such tools, remains independent. MicroStrategy also maintains "robust relationships" with companies such as IBM, SAP and Oracle, he said.

MicroStrategy World runs from Jan. 27-30.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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