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Microstrategy back on track with business intelligence success

Nick Langley
Sounder financial base promises secure future for products

What is it?
Microstrategy's business intelligence platform provides for corporate query, reporting and advanced analytical needs.

In 2000 Microstrategy was battered by financial scandal and forced to restate three years' accounts. In the space of one year, its share price dropped by 99%, from $313 to $2.88. Larger IT companies hit similar problems, but it was Microstrategy's relatively small size in a volatile and rapidly consolidating market that made it so vulnerable.

By 2003, Microstrategy was back on track, with new board members and its workforce reduced by 60%.

Independent research resource the Olap Report said, "Microstrategy has instituted much-needed financial controls and the company is run conventionally for profit, not vision. It concentrates on selling business intelligence software (which it is now doing rather successfully) and has put its dotcom misadventures behind it."

Where did it originate?
Microstrategy was founded in 1989 by Michael Saylor, who survived an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to remain chief executive.

What's it for?
Microstrategy 7i is a set of end-user, development and administrative tools for business intelligence, including an Olap (online analytical processing) server, a Windows-based query and reporting tool, and a zero-footprint web interface for casual users.

According to Microstrategy, it supports five styles of business intelligence: ad hoc query and reporting, statistical analysis and data mining, information delivery and alerting/real-time business activity monitoring, cube analysis or multidimensional Olap and enterprise reporting. These are also the essential components of other business intelligence suites, such as Business Objects/Crystal

What makes it special?
Microstrategy's contribution to Olap is the Intelligent Cube, which combines multidimensional Olap (Molap) and traditional relational Olap (Rolap). However, according to business intelligence analyst Ventana Research, "Significant functionality overlap now exists across reporting solutions from the leading business intelligence suppliers. These includeÉ Business Objects/Crystal, Cognos, Hyperion/BrioÉ Microsoft and Microstrategy."

Ventana recommends that existing users should consider standardising on Microstrategy - an important consideration when mergers and consolidations threaten to make some business intelligence skills obsolete.

How difficult is it to master?
Prerequisites include knowledge of Windows and SQL (though Microstrategy offers a SQL course). You will need to take up to five Microstrategy courses to become a certified report developer or administrator.

Where is it used?
According to Microstrategy, its products are used by many Fortune 100/500 companies, but most of these use other business intelligence software too. Microstrategy customers include Benetton, Blockbuster, Bristol and West, Vodafone, BT Wholesale, AstraZeneca and BBC Worldwide.

What systems does it run on?
Windows, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Unix and Linux; XML and Soap web services; IBM Websphere, BEA Weblogic, Sun One and Apache Tomcat. Interfaces for Excel and other business intelligence tools. Microstrategy's 500 partners include IBM, PeopleSoft, Sun, HP and Teradata.

Not many people know that...
Microstrategy's disastrous stock market collapse made it a member of the 99 Club, an infamous group of companies, mostly from the IT sector, who saw their share price fall in 2001 to just one percent of its year 2000 high.

What's coming up?
Integration with the whole Microsoft Office suite - not just Excel, like other business intelligence suppliers.

Training
Classroom and online training is available from Microstrategy, which operates a discount scheme that requires you to buy "learning units" in advance.

www.microstrategy.co.uk/education

Rates of pay

Report designers and developers using Microstrategy can expect to earn £25,000-£35,000, or more with RDBMS and/or datwarehousing skills.

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