That said, I think you can understand my dislike of a MicroStrategy executive's use of the term "insight-as-a-service" in describing Visual Insight, a new feature in the latest version of its business intelligence software, MicroStrategy 9.2. As Mark LaRow, MicroStrategy's SVP of products, told me, the company thinks many of its clients will use the Visual Insight feature to offer BI capabilities to all of their employees as a sort of internal software-as-a-service offering.
"We expect our customers to turn on the functionality in select centralized servers and support every single user in the enterprise," LaRow said. As he explained, this will allow users to take personal control of data while also ensuring IT organizations can centrally manage it, a more preferable approach than multiple departmental deployments of BI.
Accessing data through a Web browser, users can create simple, multi-tabbed dashboards they can then save and share with colleagues. "We're trying to promote a publishing culture," said LaRow.
While other BI vendors offer similar capabilities, LaRow said MicroStrategy's data security architecture automatically ensures individual employees only see data they are allowed to view. Security has long been a sticking point in solutions that attempt to offer BI capabilities to a broader spectrum of users, he said. "We offer the ability to publish securely. Other solutions put the responsibility for security on the back of the person publishing data."
In addition to Visual Insight, MicroStrategy has enhanced the software's in-memory capabilities, making it easier for organizations to work with Big Data, one of the hottest trends in BI. Now companies can simply update changed portions of data rather than refreshing the entire in-memory data store, which frees up additional processing time and allows companies to pre-position more data into high-speed memory.
While these changes are transparent to end users, they offer them much faster access to data. Other in-memory updates:
- MicroStrategy 9.2 includes a capability to automatically redirect queries to in-memory data stores when data originates from multidimensional data sources, including SAP BW, Microsoft Analysis Services, IBM Cognos TM1 and Oracle Essbase.
- It also offers the ability to automatically combine multidimensional data with relational data and retain full analytical capabilities, including drilling, sorting, pivoting, adding thresholds, aggregating and adding calculations. That's significant because company financial data tends to be stored in multidimensional databases while non-financial data is more often found in relational databases. Now business people can report on and analyze information that spans both types of databases.
To get a better idea of how folks might use Visual Insight, the MicroStrategy website has a demo in which a user analyzes the on-time performance of U.S. airports with a map-based visualization. You can also register for a webinar spotlighting the product; you have your choice of three time slots on April 20.