Smaller BI Vendors Still Alive and Kicking
Robert Lendvai was as confused as anybody when he read RCPU's declaration that
IBM's planned buyout of Cognos meant the end
of business intelligence
as we know it. The chief marketing office of Blink
Logic, an Ottawa-based BI firm, even had a bit of a career crisis: "I wondered
whether maybe I should resign," Lendvai said.
Hey, folks, he's just kidding. Lendvai's not going anywhere, and neither is
his company. Blink Logic, an independent vendor whose leaders cut their teeth
at Cognos, actually has a pretty cool idea: BI for BI. Cognos, Business Objects
(recently acquired by SAP), SAS and the gang came up with BI so that executives
could more easily drill into and use SQL data that previously only IT types
knew how to find. It was a great idea, and it sold -- a burst of innovation
at the early part of this decade met genuine customer need and voilà!
BI was big business.
Unfortunately, it was also...well, just big. And expensive. The applications
that were supposed to (and did) ease a painful process actually became bloated
and pretty difficult to use. They also ended up costing a lot of money, and
they weren't easy to implement, either. "There's a good reason why two-thirds
of the licenses of most BI platforms are sitting on the shelf," said Bill
Stewart, a member of Blink Logic's product marketing team who bravely fought
through a vicious cold to speak with RCPU.
In steps Blink Logic. It's a pure, Web-based, Software-as-a-Service play with
nothing to install at the client site. It sits on top of a variety of platforms
and provides a simple, front-end view of structured data (stuff residing in
databases) as well as unstructured data (stuff roaming around in e-mails and
the like). It can serve as a point of entry to BI for smaller companies or as
a way for firms already invested in bigger BI systems to get more out of their
implementations. It can sit on top of a Microsoft BI platform or work with Cognos
What Blink Logic really does is deliver through a browser-based interface what
BI was supposed to provide in the first place: a clear, manageable view of critical
data. At some point, the bigger BI vendors largely lost their focus on simplicity
of interface and user experience. Blink Logic intends to bring it back.
There are collaboration tools, user-customizable views and all sorts of other
neat things in Blink Logic's offering -- and it's cheaper and easier to manage
than a lot of heavier, software-intensive alternatives. That's one of the reasons
why Fieldpoint Service Applications, a Gold Certified Partner also based in
Ontario, sells Blink Logic to its clients, who mostly play in the technology
"BI has always been a cost-prohibitive thing for any of us who sell in
the small-to-medium space," said Fieldpoint President Richard Smart (who
goes by Rich -- meaning his name is Rich Smart, two adjectives most people would
love to have associated with them). "If you want to partner with Cognos
or the other big players, you've got to staff up for that. It becomes a whole
part of your business. The fact that we've got a low-cost entry point for our
customers is absolutely key."
Now, with the great BI consolidation of 2007, Blink Logic finds itself running
into new competition: Oracle, SAP, IBM and, of course, Microsoft. But Lendvai
doesn't look at those big vendors as competitors, only as data sources.
"We've never seen ourselves as competing directly with the BI platform
vendors," he said. "We're not going to build OLAP servers. These
guys are just a group of data sources for our product. As we grow the business,
it could be any data source. We will sit on top of their stacks."
Blink Logic has put out the call to Microsoft partners -- it wants to work
with them on development for the Microsoft BI and SharePoint services markets.
And the upstart vendor sees in the consolidation around it nothing but opportunity.
"You cut the big trees down, that clears room for vigorous growth to come
back in," Stewart said. "Those platforms are going to be tied up in
how do they fit into the bigger story of their acquirer, but the rest of the
industry is not going to be marking time while they make their minds up. It
opens up a lot of opportunity."
So, it appears, Lendvai will keep his job after all.
Have a BI story of your own to tell? Tell it here: [email protected].
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/28/2007 at 1:21 PM