Interview: Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin

The business intelligence market is exploding and there are plenty of channel opportunities to spread the technology among more SME customers according to Yellowfin's boss

The business intelligence market has changed significantly over the last couple of years with more opportunities opening up for the channel as well as a fresh raft of vendors.

With the technology appealing more to an SME audience the established brands that have served the enterprise for decades have found that they have new competitors providing solutions to other parts of the market.

One of those vendors making waves is Australian firm Yellowfin, which revealed that it was opening an office in Milton Keynes in March and had recruited Peter Baxter, who has a CV that includes time at AVG as well as Computacenter, as EMEA managing director to deliver fairly ambitious growth targets.

“I want to be hitting £25 to £50m in the UK in the next two to three years,” he said back in March and added that the intention was to go through the channel to get that growth.

With the firm holding a partner event today at the Emirates Stadium, the home of Arsenal in North London, which was over subscribed the plans seem to be going well so far.

Now seems to be the right time for all sorts of BI vendors to be making a channel pitch as the technology and market conditions change and Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin, describes a market that has changed considerably in a relatively short space of time.

"The last five years have been phenomenal in terms of innovation and lots of interesting work has been done," he adds, "The SMEs used to look at what was being offered to the enterprises and think that it would be great to get those sorts of tools but it is never going to be possible. But it is possible now as the cost and complexity of solutions has dropped dramatically."

"There has been a complete explosion," he says when trying to describe what has happened in the last few years but warns that some of that has caused problems.

with some vendors claiming that they can meet all of a customer's BI needs there are some users on their second or third solution looking for something that can actually deliver against their expectations.

Rabie describes dealing with that miss-selling from some in the market as "the biggest challenge" as vendors and channel partners look to deal with dissatisfied customers.

"There are 60 vendors in the BI market, so there are a lot of vendors in this space. It is a great time to be a customer because there are lots of choice and lots of innovation happening with lots of vendors trying to do something different," he adds.

Why now
The timing of the current explosion in the market is down to a few factors according to Rabie including the price of data storage falling significantly making it more attractive for users to keep all of their data.

In addition to storage costs being more attractive there has also been a growth in firms that specialise in delivering analytical databases that allow the customer to pull their information into a position where the BI tools can get to work.

"The days when it took three years to build a data warehouse has all gone away," says Rabie.

The other change has been at a customer level with more users now aware of just how useful analytics can be in their business. Most users are aware of how Excel works and have used that in the past but thanks to easy to navigate dashboards and data visualisation tools many more people across diffrent departments want to now get access to information that can have an impact on their performance.

"People have really seen the value of BI and analytics and have seen the value and the costs have come down," says Rabie.

More than self-service
One of the common responses to the wider adoption of BI tools is to encourage users to move away from relying on data scientists and do it on their own and many vendors have produced solutions that support 'self-service'.

Rabie is not a fan of the approach and argues that when super markets introduced self checkouts it was not necessarily with the customer at the forefront of their minds but to save money on staff working the tills and to free up more space.

He draws parallels with self checkouts BI and reasons that you need someone to help package up your dashboards and ways of looking at business data just in the same way it helps to have a human scan and then fill your bags.

The Yellowfin story

The firm started life in 2003 after some BI professionals acted on their frustration with existing products and decided to meet their own needs by designing their own solution.

The firm now has more than a million users and tens and thousands of clients across 50 countries that are using its products in Mobile BI, Collaborative BI and Location Intelligence.

In terms of the attitude to the channel the aim is to be 100% channel and work with partners to reach customers.

The Yellowfin approach has been to make it possible for data analysts in a business to support more users with its software, with on average one expert being able to help 44 people, making sure they get quality information that can help them enhance their roles in the business.

"It is about how quickly you have to wait in the queue. We don't want you to stand in a queue for long or to do it yourself," says Rabie.

Channel commitment
To reach the SME market it clearly makes sense to work with the channel and Rabie is keen to stress its commitment to partners saying that you can't be inconsistent and being indirect has to mean exactly that.

He believes that those rivals that get tempted to use the vagueness that can creep in around the question of direct and indirect accounts risk losing more than just a channel relationship.

"If you go direct you might get the kicker for a year but then there is no long term business left because no one is supporting the customer," he adds, "I would rather have 70% of something than 100% of nothing."

The future will involve continuing to develop its channel base and with the UK one of the key markets the crowd who have turned up for the session at the Emirates are likely to be in the vanguard of a much wider programme.

Rabie argues that the opportunity and the growth that is coming from the BI market right now is something that more of the channel should look to be part of.

Read more on Business Intelligence Tools and Services