Don't just drop the box

Don't just drop the box

The migration of resellers from box-mover to service provider continues with the rise of business intelligence provision.

But while some say it's a road less travelled, paved with gold, it can also be a confusing route.

"With BI, you're not really selling software," says Richard Johnson sales director of Cortell, a consulting firm specialising in BI. "I mean you are, of course. But you've got to understand [a customer's] data and then you've got to build the underlying data structure that you then report on and do your analysis."

Cortell works with resellers on such projects. But Johnson says some seem to be very new at the BI game.

The attraction for resellers and their customers can be price. Business intelligence tools have simply become cheaper, according to Grant Broadbent of Stellar Business Intelligence.

"When I first started selling them in the late 80s you were up into the tens of millions of dollars just to get a solution on the floor, but now obviously you can buy those sorts of tools and database platforms and servers to run them on for only a few hundred thousand," he says. "It has created more opportunities for companies that possibly don't have a pedigree in business intelligence who think the tools look pretty cute."

Broadbent's criticism is that companies can supply the technology, but may not be offering services such as information architecture, data management, performance insight or governance components.

"Those are essential if you're going to succeed in BI," says Broadbent. "If you just drop the technology on the floor you might get some passionate soul to use it and show their fellow business unit how great it is, but if that person leaves or if the business changes its focus, then a lot of those projects just end up dying. There's a lot in BI that people don't realise."

Broadbent says his company was launched four years ago to address a "void in the market because people weren't doing BI properly." He says Stellar has doubled its growth, year on year since inception.

"We've cleaned up an enormous number of failed projects," Broadbent adds.

Reseller Pulse IT already does some collaboration in BI, but operations director Ruth Mollar says New Zealand needs to improve its fibre network to make it a truly viable service that can be delivered in the cloud.

"There will still be a need for the middle man," Mollar says. "Users still need help trouble shooting. We try to do that as much as we can now. To provide some strategy along [the client's] business and to be involved."

Paul Plester at Express Data says the traditional BI space in New Zealand has been dominated by a small number of specialised middleware developers.

"What has changed however is that there are a number of personal BI tools that are available on the market," says Plester. This includes IBM's Cognos Insight which gives you "the tool set to allow you take a lot of similar data and drop that into what looks like a business intelligence tool and to manipulate that data in ways beyond the spreadsheet, that will allow a repeatable business intelligence solution."

Plester says teaching users how to analyse and use data to run a business better is going to be a key part of the offering in the future.

"We're encouraging [resellers] to do that, to dip their toe in," he says. "There's now an entry level way to do that, to try that on their own business and to try that on their customers. That type of skill is going to be more in demand, it's not a box move any more, there's value add around it, perhaps as people develop verticals for their own customers, they may be able to repeat that for other customers too.

"This is one of the growth areas of the future. There are now products that people can graduate into. There are great partners in New Zealand to do the big implementations... it's a great place to be because there aren't many people in it."

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