Reader Feedback: MicroStrategy 8
Readers report: MicroStrategy has done a very good job supporting existing customers with point upgrades and other enhancements
It’s not every year that MicroStrategy Inc. releases a new version of its flagship business intelligence platform, and for users of that company’s BI tools, it’s been a long time between platform refreshes.
Not surprisingly, then, last week’s story about MicroStrategy’s new version 8 release drew several responses from readers (see http://www.esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?t=y&EditorialsID=7428). All were enthusiastic about the new offering, but most stressed that—while MicroStrategy 8 has been almost three years in the making—MacLean, Va.-based company has done a good job of supporting its version 7 platform with point releases and other enhancements.
Take Ramon Venegas, a technical project leader in Brandeis University’s Office for Information Technology Services. “We have been upgrading to the interim releases, 7.2, 7.5, etc., and have been very pleased with the incremental improvements,” he writes. On the whole, Venegas says he’s very satisfied with the complement of features and functions already present in MicroStrategy—although he hopes that version 8 will address at least one pain point.
“The most important feature for us at this moment is [MicroStrategy’s] ease of use. It allows users to easily create and run their own reports, regardless of where the data comes from,” he comments. “One drawback of the current version is its licensing structure. There is no concurrent licensing option and a site license is an overkill for our needs at this time.”
In addition, several new MicroStrategy 8 features intrigue Venegas, such as the enhanced Web reporting and WYSIWYG report design. “Any usability improvement is always welcome, it makes our users more productive and our job easier,” he writes. The new data mining and predictive analytic additions are welcome, too: “We can use more bundled tools and pre-built analytical components since we are a small shop.”
MicroStrategy user and consultant Paul Reigel also dismisses the idea that the period between platform releases has disadvantaged MicroStrategy customers. Instead, he writes, the company’s 7.x point upgrades have more than filled the bill, feature- and function-wise.
“Typically MicroStrategy will release additional product features in each numbered release,” he points out. What’s more, a lot of customers are typically at least one or more upgrades behind the current version of the MicroStrategy product. “So, for us, we typically wait to upgrade until there are at least 2 or 3 patch upgrades before moving to the next release set.”
Reigel also notes that “[F]or each version that has come out, although the users do not see many bugs, the administrators do.” He cites MicroStrategy 7.5.2, for example, which had poor virtual-byte management and frequently caused errors when saving user profiles.
At the same time, Reigel concedes, there are probably a couple of pain points he hopes will be addressed in the new version 8 release.
“The main pain point we can truly blame MicroStrategy for is Web speed. The prompts take too long to resolve—some blame [this] on the DB, but additional caching would fix the issue."
Reigel, who was in attendance at last month’s MicroStrategy World user conference, likes what he sees in the new release, which includes many long-requested fixes. “I see many fixes or enhancements that were requested from versions all the way back to 7.0 [service pack 2]. So, I think the longer wait until the major release was needed to ‘catch-up’ in order to solidify the product line." Reigel’s company doesn’t currently use MicroStrategy’s OLAP Services or Report Services components, so he admits that he’s not all that interested in MicroStrategy 8’s new data-mining or enhanced-reporting features: “I can say that the enhancements to the Architect—logical views and free-form SQL—are huge. Also, the intelligence server has advanced clustering capabilities for unbalanced systems. This is a great new feature as well and will be widely implemented.”
Michael Tanong, a BI and data warehousing consultant with PT Berca Hardayaperkasa, an Indonesia services firm, confirms that the three-year interval between major MicroStrategy platform releases hasn’t overly disadvantaged his company’s clients. In fact, he writes, the version 7i release many of his clients are using already addresses many of their most glaring pain points.
“Its concept of a metadata-centric single platform for all analytic application is the main strength,” he reports. “Whatever we've done in the development/desktop, by that second it can be available on the Web/deployment since both share the same metadata, and no additional work is needed.”
Nevertheless, Tanong is looking forward to a few of the additions in MicroStrategy 8. “Data mining and predictive analysis are also becoming more important for companies that need to stay competitive, and we've seen the tendency is going up here in Indonesia,” he comments. “The version 7i can't really deliver data mining adequately, since it only gives you standard data-mining functions which can only be used with simple metric manipulation. Also the what-if analysis can't be done properly in [MicroStrategy 7i].”
Just because many users give MicroStrategy’s business intelligence platform high marks for ease of use and functionality doesn’t mean the company can afford to rest on its laurels, however. Tanong, for example, cites at least one thing he’d like to see changed in future versions of MicroStrategy’s BI suite.
“I'd really like to see it capable of delivering scorecards, since I think in earlier versions [MicroStrategy] doesn't have adequate capabilities in this area,” he suggests, adding that he hopes this shortcoming will be addressed in version 8. “[Balanced scorecarding] is definitely another form of BI that nowadays becomes more important to have.”
MicroStrategy consultant Reigel, like almost all business intelligence professionals, says the company needs to do more to make its pricing more affordable, particularly for a product such as Report Services.
“It is very difficult to convince executives to spend $100,000-plus for a tool that provides pretty reporting when users can export to Excel and do the same job for much less money,” he writes. “That being said, other companies that provide data to external vendors by the hundreds or thousands would greatly benefit by the advanced report presentations available with Report Services.”
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.