iQ for Business Looks to Grow BI Market Share
September 13, 2011 Alex Woodie
While some IT segments look bleak, it is a good time to be in the business intelligence software market. The pace of acquisitions and IPOs might be off, but companies that write good BI software will command an increasingly bigger chunk of the $2 trillion worldwide IT market in the coming years. One software firm that hopes to be part of that equation is iQ for Business Software (formerly iQ4bis Software), which is in the process of re-energizing under a new CEO.
IT Jungle readers may remember iQ for Business as the BI company that puts the entire user manual for its OLAP (online analytical processing) reporting tool on a mouse pad. All that a user needed to know, the company famously said, was how to manipulate a mouse, drag and drop, and right click.
Of course, running a sophisticated analytical environment is never so simple. But it’s worth noting that iQ for Business has been very vocal about the need for easier-to-use BI software. In fact, it was calling for less complexity long before its rival QlikTech made simplicity in BI fashionable (if not profitable) with a big splashy IPO on the Nasdaq.
While QlikTech’s $2 billion market cap has caught the attention of the BI market’s standard bearers, iQ for Business has struggled to gain traction. Ray Major, the new CEO for iQ for Business, declined to discuss the specifics that led to the departure of former COO Siggy Plommer, but he did confirm that the company lacked a clear strategy several years ago following the COO’s departure.
“After Siggy left, the company drifted for a while,” Major says. “The company was purchased by venture capitalists [TVC of San Diego]. They took a look at the technology and found it to be exceptionally well-suited for the marketplace, and they decided they wanted to further invest in it.”
The technology, in a nutshell, is an end-to-end OLAP environment that runs on Windows. The back-end database and data synchronization tools reside on Microsoft‘s OLAP tool, called SQL Server Analysis Services. On the front-end is a modern Web browser interface that is famously easy to navigate.
Lots of BI vendors have OLAP tools and reporting interfaces and fancy key performance indicators (KPIs). But according to Major, what sets iQ for Business apart is the capability to go out and get data from all kinds of hard-to-access places.
“What differentiates us in the marketplace is our ability to link to these multiple databases, and create one cube across these different databases and keep them all up to date and in sync,” he says. “Some KPIs that you’ll be looking at may require two or three different data sources. You may have some information in an ERP or an HR system, or maybe in a spreadsheet for doing forecasts. And you want all that information together to create one KPI. We’re able to create these multiple cubes on the back end, and keep them all in synch, so that the customer has a dashboard they can come to daily.”
iQ for Business has about 20 ERP-specific templates that allow it to quickly get to the data that matters. The company focuses on mid-market manufacturers, which puts it right up the alley of the IBM i. JD Edwards (World and EnterpriseOne) and Microsoft Dynamics appear to get the most attention from iQ for Business, but the company has worked with a wide range of other IBM i-based ERP systems, including BPCS, Movex, and System21.
Along with the simple training manual, speedy deployments are another hallmark of iQ for Business. “What may take a traditional BI vendor four to eight months, we can do in four to eight weeks,” Major says. “For a lot of companies, it makes a lot of sense to them. They don’t want a million-dollar BI solution.”
This mantra of smaller, cheaper, easier-to-use BI software has resonated with customers of all sizes, not just mid-size companies (those with up to $1 billion in revenue). It’s forced the big guns of the BI market–IBM, SAP, and Oracle–to offer their customers pared-down BI suites. Abandoned big-bang BI projects and billions of dollars in wasted resources have helped spur the market for open source BI tools, which has been addressed by the likes of Birt, Jaspersoft, and others.
The owners and executives in charge of iQ for Business recognize this sea change occurring in the BI market. And as a result, the company has ramped up into “massive growth mode,” Major says. Revenue has doubled in the past year, and the company has increased its direct sales staff by a factor of five, he says. It recently moved its headquarters to San Diego, although it still has a presence in Irvine, California, as well as Auckland, New Zealand, where most of the R&D is done. “2012 going to be a really big year for us,” Major predicts.
“We’re probably one-tenth or less of the cost of some of these big BI solutions, and we’re able to provide end users with very similar functionality, in many cases,” Major continues. “It’s much simpler to use, and it’s a much more appropriate fit for these mid-level companies that have small IT departments that can’t support a Cognos, for instance, and for a user base that wants to be able to do analytics on their own and change views and things like that.”
The good news for iQ for Business is that there is still a big green sales field out there; in other words, there are many midsize companies that have never installed a BI tool.
“While many of the large companies already have BI solutions, there are literally thousands of companies that are right on the cusp of wanting to implement some type of BI,” Major says. “They want to understand better, they want to analyze the data assets better. That’s where a lot of money is being spent: to improve business processes.”
For more information on iQ for Business Software’s products and services, see the company’s website at www.iq4bis.com.