Editor’s note: Being effective and competitive today requires that organizations respond to customers now; and that requires business intelligence (BI) in real time. In this interview, Rick Pitts, CEO at JackBe, discusses the shrinking decision window and how JackBe addresses that challenge with the next-generation Presto real-time operational BI platform.
SandHill.com: What is the challenge with many of the existing BI solutions?
Rick Pitts: The biggest problem is that companies have spent millions of dollars to have good systems, but those systems still report primarily within themselves. People need to be able to put together information from different systems and different silos of data so that they can put things into a broader context to really understand and make decisions about their business and day-to-day operational needs. I’m talking about the operational folks needing operational intelligence, not the business analysts that drill petabytes of data looking for historical outcomes and try to figure out “what happened?”
Traditional BI solutions for operational intelligence are built to go against mostly structured data, reformat it, replicate it into a special format, and then people can write their reports and dashboards against that. That’s a multi-step process, and that’s why it’s not usually real time. By real time, I mean seconds, minutes, hours, days, maybe a week — whatever timeframe is relevant to a particular operational individual’s role in the business when he needs to make decisions. Operational people don’t need to know “what happened?” — that’s too late, they are more real-time and asking “what is happening?”
SandHill.com: So the challenge with traditional BI systems is as much about the silos of data as it is about the real-time factor.
Rick Pitts: Definitely. The explosion of data and the users of information and dashboards over the past 5-10 years led to companies realizing they need to look across different systems, as well as social media data, and need to put all that data into a context for making operational and business decisions. Their challenge was that they always had to go get more data from different sources and put it together, and there were time delays of days and weeks before they could get a response out of the IT group.
Look at how the traditional BI solutions were architected. Generation one was MicroStrategy and Cognos, for example. Generation two had tools like Tibco Spotfire and QlikTech, which were better at enabling non-IT folks to get the data. But it was still based on a traditional architecture of go get the data, transform it, load it, and then you can analyze it.
But if you want to see real-time information, even with generation two, that means going and getting and loading the data again. And these loads can sometimes take hours and hours if not overnight. Those first- and second-gen BI tools are based on architecture that’s now 12-20 years old.
SandHill.com: So how does the JackBe Real-Time Operational Intelligence platform get the data differently from these older tools?
Rick Pitts: It’s different in that it reads data off of the source systems in a real-time context that the user prescribes and shows the user just the relevant information of what is happening in the timeframe that the user wants. That’s the paradigm change that has taken place with our technology. With our Presto architecture, we’re able to direct-connect to new types of data in new ways including social media data.
Our platform is really an extraordinary mashup engine that can reach out to any source and type of data — traditional ERP-structured transactional data to Web services to public information on the Web to streaming data. It has a drag-and-drop mechanism that allows users to mash the data together in a form that they want to use and visualize.
We don’t store any data. And unlike the first- and second-generation solutions, our platform doesn’t go through the traditional “extract, transform and load” (ETL) of large amounts of data.
SandHill.com: Can you give me a couple of examples of the value created for companies using this solution?
Rick Pitts: Yes. Qualcomm, which manufactures circuits for cell phones, has manufacturing facilities and quality assurance people spread around the world. So in their weekly QA meetings, they had to collect and correlate information from multiple systems and silos of data. That data was already out of date during the meetings due to the ETL (extract-tranform-load) delays I’ve described. They never had one version of the truth put together from all those geographically dispersed systems. We helped them solve that problem.
GE Energy is another example. They need to monitor their network as to how it performs against a set of KPIs on which they guarantee performance or level of service. Like a lot of large companies, they had multiple silos of data and had five different network operating system management solutions. So they had a real challenge in trying to get a holistic view of the entire network– worldwide, on a map — with network connections and red, yellow and green icons representing the state of the network, the network health and where the problems were.
Using JackBe Presto, they were able to get that all data on one pane of glass for the first time and measure it against their KPIs. They discovered things like applications that weren’t being used much anymore and storage in a business unit where the usage was light. Over the last 18 months of using Presto, they’ve been able to save over $1 million in costs and efficiencies, plus they have real-time alerts when something goes from green to yellow to red.
Another example is our OEM business. Some large OEM customers have embedded our Presto technology inside their applications. It gives them the ability to bring together data from within their own systems, which would otherwise be difficult because they were using solutions that were either born yesterday or have been around for 20 years. They had challenges much like our regular commercial customers. They use our technology to mash together data, build widgets, and pool applications for their customers and put their own name and label on it.
SandHill.com: Does this BI platform go in as an enterprise-wide solution? Or is it a situation where different users and departments bring in their own apps and it’s not controlled enterprise-wide?
Rick Pitts: It can be an enterprise solution, but our entry point has traditionally been within a certain department within an organization. For example, at GE Energy, we started with their IT department with the network operations. From there, within GE we now have two more opportunities underway and one that’s already been put into production within their energy division.
What’s also significant is that they built these real-time operational apps and dashboards using Presto by themselves. With minimal training we strive to make every customer self-sufficient on the product. And we encourage them to explore new ways to connect information to create a self-service, real-time environment for decision makers.
SandHill.com: You launched the business in Mexico about six years ago and then moved to the United States, gained venture capital investments and now have around 100 customers worldwide. What are you hearing from customers and potential customers about their needs regarding BI solutions?
Rick Pitts: There are two primary customer needs with the ever-shrinking decision window. The first is agility. They want to be able to build apps very quickly and do it at a cost level that is very reasonable. Sometimes they have a certain purpose for a certain set of people for a limited number of months or a year. And some apps come and go, based on usage.
For example, we do a lot of work with the intelligence agency within the Department of Defense. They want to be able to build widgets and apps and get them out to the correct people so quickly that they can be built and deployed on a mission-level basis. Using traditional tools to build BI apps under these kind of requirements is too time-consuming, difficult and expensive.
The second is the notion of the enterprise app store. In our product it’s the Presto App Depot, which provides users with a familiar app store style interface, where they only see what is available to them based on their security around their role in the organization or to core systems. This allows IT to administer the apps properly with overall data governance and security policies.
Presto can also operate inside all of the popular portals such as Liferay, Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle and IBM portals, which have become destinations for people to go to use apps and share information and collaborate. And of course, operational intelligence on mobile devices, like our pure HTLM5 support of iOS, and Android, with end-to-end security as operational people in companies are most likely on the move.
Those are some of the hot buttons that we’re getting from our customers and seeing out in the marketplace. These functionalities also are forming the next wave of BI applications, according to Gartner, Forrester, Aberdeen and other analysts.
Rick Pitts is the CEO at JackBe Corporation. Prior to JackBe, Rick was the president and CEO of the North and South American subsidiary of QlikTech, where he grew the company’s revenue and established its strong presence in the U.S., Canadian and Latin American markets. Previously, Rick held numerous executive positions including VP of the SMB unit for SAP America, Inc., president and CEO for IXOS Software, Inc., and VP for SAP’s Complementary Software Program.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com.