Business Intelligence Agility - A Q&A Spotlight with Ken Chow of LogiXML

Originally published 11 January 2012

BeyeNETWORK Spotlights focus on news, events and products in the business intelligence ecosystem that are poised to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole; on the enterprises that rely on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data warehousing and/or data governance products to understand and act on the vital information that can be gleaned from their data; or on the providers of these mission-critical products.

Presented as Q&A-style articles, these interviews conducted by the BeyeNETWORK present the behind-the-scene view that you won’t read in press releases.

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Ken Chow, CMO of LogiXML. Ron and Ken discuss why organizations are demanding that business intelligence be available to more users and how the market is responding to that demand.

Ken, we continue to see business intelligence reaching a wider audience within the enterprise including both casual and operational end users. It’s a trend we have been discussing for years. Why is it taking so long to become a reality?

Ken Chow: I think a lot of people for a long time have been seeing the promise of business intelligence (BI). But until now, trying to distribute it to a wider audience has had a couple of hurdles. Number one, the legacy technologies that were out there simply weren't geared toward the easy distribution of that type of information. Second, it typically was very expensive for companies to do that with legacy technology.

The other thing that's happening, of course, is that technologies such as mobile technologies are beginning to make it all the more apparent that the delivery of this really shouldn't be that hard. It’s now possible for people to get to these applications and information no matter where they are. I think those things are driving the demand to see BI reach a broader audience.

I couldn't agree more. What do you see as the biggest hurdles these users face when using traditional BI tools?

Ken Chow: Well there are a number. One of them is in the cost of trying to scale up distribution to wider audiences and the second is really the time to value. When you are using a very heavy monolithic type of system that requires the construction and rebuilding of complex data models in order to change the view or in order to accommodate a new audience with different information, it can take months to get the information to these audiences. For businesses today, their reaction speed has to be measured in days or even hours but certainly not in months. I think that when a lot of these business users go to IT and request information or request a change, the answer that comes back far too often is delivery times measured in seasons of the year rather than days of the month. I think that's the biggest challenge right now.

I definitely agree with you. Our research shows that often by the time IT completes the application, it no longer meets the business needs. Do you see that as well?

Ken Chow: Absolutely. That's happening because the business condition changes. Those of us who've been in business 20 years or more know that the operational parameters under which we conduct our daily work have sped up tremendously. All of us now are aware that we suddenly have to react to changes in customer opinion, in customer buying habits, and in customer preference – all of which have also become more apparent and can be measured. Now, because we have real-time measurement and interaction with our consumer audience, we need to have real-time reaction on the basis of our operations.

What is different about LogiXML's approach to business intelligence?

Ken Chow:
Well, I think the market conditions have finally caught up to our philosophy. One of the reasons we've grown so much is that our approach is really to provide rapid development and deployment. With a traditional tool, obviously, we've talked about it taking months to even make modest changes in schemas and so forth even when you're using tool sets, whether open source, Microsoft, or anything else. These are fine tools. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of coding that takes place, and that puts additional burden on typically already overtaxed IT departments.

With our approach, we provide essentially a code-free environment that allows even ordinary IT to rapidly make these types of applications and rapidly adapt them in an iterative fashion. Our approach is really geared toward helping deliver things quickly to the business user rather than requiring them to  adapt to some huge standard static data model or schema that was decided years ago. I know agility is an over-used word, but I think the way that we practice it is precisely the type of agile business intelligence that analysts and business users have been calling for. And the success, certainly on our part, definitely has been validated by our market growth.

In my opinion, this agile approach to BI and the ability to reach a wider audience has become critical. One of the things that really surprised me about LogiXML was that you grew over 80% last year. It’s not too unusual for a company in its first five years of business to experience dramatic growth, but to be around for ten years and then grow 80% in one year is remarkable. What do you see as the major reasons for that growth?

Ken Chow: It's a great question. By the way, I think we're on that same pace again this year. I have to say that when I first got here, part of my job was figuring out exactly why we were having that success. I know a lot of companies don't take the time to always try to figure that out, but so much was on the line for us that we went back and talked to almost every customer and prospect from the past two years. From these conversations, we determined the reasons for our growth. The first reason is that the market conditions are at a fever pitch screaming for agile BI. I think the failure of traditional BI to fill that demand over the last few years has given rise to this need and has made a lot of successes for a number of formerly niche players, including ourselves as well as the data discovery vendors and others who are now capitalizing on that failure of traditional BI to move into the agile space.

Another reason that we, in particular, have been graced with this type of success is the fact that more than any other solution, we really provide the time to value. Our customers tell us time and time again that even though we represented a tremendous economic value, much of that value was not just in the ongoing cost to administrate or acquire the product but really in their ability to react quickly to their business needs and to do so without having to staff up their IT resources unreasonably. I think that time to value has been our biggest draw. The fact that our technology has been perfected and has such a high satisfaction rate means that we aren't coming to this with a bleeding-edge solution. We have a very well tried, true, and tested technology that has a number of happy customers. I guess the word is just getting out that you really can do this quickly.

Well, let's drill down a little bit into time to value, Ken. What are we talking about? Obviously, if you’re reaching a wider audience, what do you see as the parameters for time to value? Are we talking, days, weeks, months?

Ken Chow: Well, it certainly varies, but I'd say we have a tremendous number of customers that cite a five to tenfold decrease in time and/or resources needed for BI projects.

That is quite an accomplishment considering that BI has been around for a very long time.

Ken Chow:
Again, I wouldn’t be making the claim if I didn't have customers and case studies to support it. But I think without question our customers are almost uniform in their claim for the speed at which the product can react.

Another major trend we're seeing is in the SMB market. Many companies, especially in the BI space, have really been focusing on penetrating the smaller companies, and they haven't had much success. But you're experiencing a lot of success with SMBs. Can you tell us why you're being so successful and others aren’t?

Ken Chow:
That's a good question. The SMB really is our sweet spot, and I think for a number of reasons not the least of which is that SMBs are facing a lot of the same data velocity and data volume issues that larger companies are facing. I mean we're dealing, in many cases, with the very same customer bases and certainly we're dealing with the same Internet technologies. But it's in the SMB that resources are truly at a premium. You’re typically not going to find enormous IT resource staffs, and you're not going to find a lot of developers. The SMBs, more than any other segment, really need to have BI as much as anyone else but are more resource constrained than the enterprise. In addition, they’re not tied into legacy software and legacy systems that are so deeply entrenched that it will cost of a fortune to back out of them. They're more agile even in their business practices. So the combination of limited resources, more desire and ability be more agile in their practices makes the SMB particularly apt to want to have a product like ours.

Some of the other big trends in BI have been personalization and self-service BI. How is LogiXML responding to those trends?

Ken Chow: Our product has always been known for the level of interactivity that our visualizations are able to produce. It gives so much power that you can decide even down to the individual element of an individual graph how an end user is able to interface with it. I'd say that functionally we've probably been a leader in self-service for a long time. I think the trend, as you mentioned earlier in our discussion, to empower more and more people further down the chain has made that an even more important aspect of our product. We continue to add increased levels of personalization and interactivity in the self-service aspects of our products – every graph, every report, every dashboard that you can make with LogiXML. We pay very careful attention to the level of interactivity and on a regular basis are creating enhancements to increase that level of interactivity and to make it even more intuitive for non-technical users. That's really going to be the key, I think, to increasing the breadth of adoption of BI – making sure that your ordinary, garden-variety, worker level business user is able to access these functions and then be able to take a look at the data the way they want to. I think it's no longer going to be BI by proclamation or fiat.

I think more and more companies are looking to allow individual workers to be able to reach their own conclusions based on the data. Again, this data is moving so rapidly that you simply can't have a team of analysts telling everybody what they should think about their area of the business. You have to let these people come to their own conclusions, to investigate the data that they need to investigate in the way that they want to and share it between themselves. We're continually focused on this. Next year we’ll be introducing increased enhancements for the total level of interactivity as well as collaboration capabilities that increase the ability of the ordinary business user to interact with his or her peers within the environment so that communities of practice can form around given disciplines and challenges.

Ken, one last question. Obviously, these are difficult economic times. From a pricing perspective, what makes LogiXML attractive to customers and prospects?

Ken Chow: Well, I think one important thing is that a lot of our competitors charge on a per-user basis so every time another user is added, it's another license or the company has to re-license again to expand their capacity. At LogiXML, we don't have per-user fees. What we do is we offer the product based on upon cores so that if you decide you have a server that's going to be working this hard, then that's your deployment. You can scale it up on that server, on that set of cores, without having to increase your cost at all. Because our product is completely web-based, typically you aren’t buying a lot of additional infrastructure to distribute either. You're simply creating web interfaces, which are very inexpensive and quick to deploy to serve each of your individuals and individual departments.

Excellent, Ken, I really appreciate you taking the time today, and it's been great talking with you to learn how LogiXML is making the promise of business intelligence a reality.

SOURCE: Business Intelligence Agility - A Q&A Spotlight with Ken Chow of LogiXML

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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