I spent the early part of my career focused on marketing on-premise business intelligence (BI) solutions. While I spent a lot of time working with and talking to customers about their BI needs and challenges. I primarily interacted with the people responsible for building and managing the data warehouse instead of the people who actually needed trustworthy information. It wasn’t until I joined an early-stage software-as-a-service (SaaS) BI vendor (LucidEra) that I saw the potential for delivering analytical applications directly to the business without having to focus so much on the supporting IT infrastructure.
But there are still skeptics out there who question whether or not business intelligence can be delivered in the cloud. I recently caught up with Roman Stanek, founder and CEO of GoodData, to get his views on the topic.
Roman, can you tell us a bit about your company?
Roman Stanek: GoodData is a SaaS/cloud analytics company. Our goal is to deliver business intelligence (BI) as a business service directly to business people. It’s somewhat ironic given its name, but business intelligence has always been delivered as an IT initiative. Expensive, with unsure results, and measured like any other IT initiative, successful BI was usually quantified by data size or data model complexity and not by value delivered to the business or adoption and visibility of KPIs.
But thanks to cloud computing, we can, for the first time, “package” BI as an end-to-end product and deliver it directly to the business user together with the right metrics, industry benchmarks and other best practices. GoodData typically delivers dashboards, reports and KPIs to hundreds or thousands of users in less than a month, which is a fraction of the time it takes to implement an on-premise BI solution and for a fraction of the cost. It’s a very disruptive approach to the traditional model.
When did you first realize that the cloud was the future of both BI and the IT industry?
Roman Stanek: I know exactly when it happened. I am actually an irregular blogger, and one of the unintended consequences of my blogging is that it leaves traces of my forming opinions. I blogged about my cloud “Aha!” moment on September 10, 2007. Facebook launched their application platform back in May 2007, and it was clear to me that the cloud was the only way to scale in the new world of social networks. You can check out “Facebook Elastic Compute Cloud” and read my “Aha!” post.
It did not take much longer to realize that the cloud was the perfect solution not only for the social apps but also for BI. And I actually believe that business intelligence is simply another form of social app that deals with internal and external data.
Your company name aside, what’s so important about “good data” in the era of cloud computing?
Roman Stanek: Every era needs “good data;” but as our industry goes through different paradigm shifts, companies go blind. The old ways of command-and-control data analytics that don’t get end users involved early and often will not be successful in the era of cloud computing. Data used to be centralized and under the control of IT teams, but it is now more and more distributed. Increasingly data is also coming from unstructured sources and analytical requirements are immediate. A new approach to business intelligence is required and the need for “good data” has only increased.
The second reason why “good data” is so important in the era of cloud computing is the increased speed of our business. The cloud allows companies to be much more agile – it took Apple only six months to sell seven million iPads – and the importance of accessing and analyzing the right analytical information in context (aka good data) has never been more critical.
How important is data integration to cloud adoption and success?
Roman Stanek: Data integration is absolutely critical to cloud computing. Every time a business process moves to the cloud, the data goes as well. Cloud and SaaS applications are the new “suite” and data integration brings back the centralized view. Integration is very important for processes like lead-to-cash, that may involve multiple applications, and I can’t imagine cloud success without the right approach to cloud data integration.
How have the buyers changed since you first started selling cloud-based solutions?
Roman Stanek: The biggest change I’ve experienced is that users better understand the trade-offs of SaaS and cloud computing. One example is security. Users don’t underestimate the importance of cloud security (that question will never go away), but users ask the right questions about security processes and certifications.
You have a solid track record of success – from founding Systinet to NetBeans.org to GoodData. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs in this economy?
Roman Stanek: This is a tricky question. We live in very interesting times – on the one hand our industry is going through another huge boom (some people would say bubble) and at the same time U.S. and European economies are still struggling to de-leverage. But I believe that “tough times create tough companies,” so this may be the best time to start a new company. Startups that are able to benefit from the desire of customers to lower their costs and improve their productivity, while taking advantage the disruptive innovation of cloud computing, social networking and the proliferation of mobile devices will create a strong tailwind for entrepreneurs and we will without a doubt see some huge wins as a result.
Are you having fun?
Roman Stanek: Yes, I am having fun every single day. And I need to quote Seth Godin here: “It takes three years to be an overnight success, sometimes more.” GoodData feels like overnight success right now!