This has been the year of the cloud for MicroStrategy. After ignoring early competition from cloud-based business intelligence (BI) providers, the company has jumped on the cloud BI bandwagon. At MicroStrategy Worldearly this year it announced a program called Cloud Intelligence and this summer introduced MicroStrategy Cloud, a complete BI platform with the option of using either IBM Netezza or ParAccel as the database and Informatica as the data integration environment. Now the company has expanded its cloud offerings to include MicroStrategy Cloud Personal, which enables individuals to easily upload spreadsheet data, analyze it and share it with others. (A free version is currently in beta testing.)
Cloud Personal automatically uploads and interprets up to 100MB of spreadsheet data using a simple wizard-based approach. The wizard allows users to review the data in tabular form to confirm the categorizations of metrics vs. dimensions and then makes it immediately available for analysis and visualization. Users can create as many dashboards as they wish using the various visualizations MicroStrategy supports. Cloud Personal supports filtering, sorting and formatting of the data as well as aggregations (sum, min, max, average and others) and some standard calculations such as ranking and percent of total. The dashboards can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites and MicroStrategy Mobile. These distribution options align with the company’s recent emphases on mobile technologies and social media.
Cloud Personal provides a range of analytic capabilities accessible through an easy-to-use interface. Novice BI users should be able to create useful presentations of information. Organizations that are sharing spreadsheet-based analyses should know from our recent benchmark research on business analytics that this approach is both error-prone and time-consuming. Individuals in such companies can use MicroStrategy Cloud Personal to demonstrate the value of a more robust solution. However, spreadsheet experts should not expect the product to be a complete replacement for all the ad-hoc analytical capabilities of Excel. Nor does the current version attempt to translate sophisticated spreadsheet presentations into similar presentation objects in MicroStrategy, although it may add that in future versions.
At least for now, Cloud Personal is less a spreadsheet replacement than a taste of MicroStrategy. Other vendors provide free access to similar cloud-based products; for example, Tableau Public uses more of a download and publish model than MicroStrategy’s 100% cloud-based version. Tibco just announced Silver Spotfire version 2.0, a cloud-based version of its data visualization products, and now offers a personal version that includes a one-year free trial.
We expect to see cloud-based applications and business intelligence tools keep coming from other suppliers. The cloud is one of five key innovations we see revolutionizing the BI and information management markets. Our business data in the cloud benchmark research shows that even one-third of the finance function, which has been slow to adopt cloud-based applications, appears poised to move to the cloud.
Pure-play cloud BI vendors, such as Birst, GoodData and PivotLink, may find the competitive environment more challenging with larger vendors such as MicroStrategy entering cloud-based BI market aggressively. Birst recently announced an on-premises capability to expand its ability to compete. And as I described in a recent blog post, PivotLink has focused on the retail market and others with packaged metrics as a competitive differentiator.
With respect to MicroStrategy Cloud Personal, keep in mind that it is inherently a personal, not departmental or enterprise, solution. MicroStrategy offers an enterprise cloud edition that supports additional data sources, user and group management, secure authentication and other features you would need to support a large number of users. However, if you are questioning the capabilities cloud-based BI can deliver, or if you are simply trying to move your organization off of spreadsheets to a more robust BI platform, you can try MicroStrategy Cloud Personal here.