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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Optimizing Agile Business Analytics with Brad Peters, CEO, Birst

April 23, 2013 No Comments

In the below interview, Brad Peters, CEO and C0-Founder of Birst, offers expert advice for organizations looking to measure their true business value through agile data analytics, and highlights the importance of an enterprise caliber cloud BI solution.

  • Q. How have you seen BI and data management change over the last 10 years with the evolution of Big Data and Cloud Computing?

A. These concepts have accelerated the BI market into rapid growth that it has not seen in awhile.  It’s a bit like the perfect storm. First, the businesses that had become accustomed to business user agility of cloud solutions like lost patience with slow and costly legacy BI platforms and demanded fast, agile ways to get answers from data.  This dynamic brought us the rise of successful companies like Qliktech and Tableau who make BI easier for business users. Ironically, neither of these platforms are cloud-based or enterprise focused; they are desktop applications targeted at individual users. The users got agility, but lost power and the enterprise was left with multiple silos of discovery analytics and an old crumbling legacy BI application. Along comes “Big Data” – and the same business users, now armed with discovery tools, cannot get the hard questions answered – because these questions come from multiple large data sets with complex relationships.  The results are massive demand for a platform with agility of data discovery and the power of legacy BI – all born in the cloud – so that it can be utilized by an enterprise to answer hard cross-functional business questions and still give the business user the agility they demand. That is what we are experiencing at Birst.

  • Q. In your opinion, is Big Data a somewhat new phenomenon? Or has it been around for a long time in some shape or form?

A. Big Data is not new.  Companies like WalMart, American Airlines, and Harrah’s have been doing analytics on Big Data for years.  However, it has been costly and required deep expertise.  With the advent of new technologies such as Hadoop, the price point to analyze large data volumes has fallen, opening up Big Data analysis to a much larger audience.  Successful businesses have become more data driven and want answers to hard questions.  Fast.  In the past, businesses would analyze relatively small data sets like orders and campaigns.  However, now businesses can and demand to understand the financial impact of concepts like social media on other parts of the business, and that requires analysis of Big Data.  Not only does this require a platform to handle large data, but also a more efficient platform that understands how to query, manipulate, and bring together data from different sources.  So in short, the sea change is in the reduced costs and business thirst for more analysis on data, regardless of size, location, or type – not necessarily just Big Data.  Instead of Big Data, a better term may be Smart Data or the Acceleration for Knowledge, because it’s not just about Big Data – it’s about types, where and how it is stored, who needs it – and most importantly, how it will improve business performance.

  • Q. What do you view as the ultimate business value of being able to analyze data in “real time” from anywhere and at any time of day?

A. Fast answers to time sensitive impactful questions.  Faster time-sensitive decisions can help companies outperform their competitors.  Citrix, one of our customers, makes supply chain decisions in real-time based on over 215 data sources being fed into Birst continually.  They make time-sensitive decisions on what to ship, to whom, and when.  Analyzing all of that data through Birst in real-time has enabled them to increase inventory turns over five-fold.  That is outmaneuvering competition in a highly competitive market.  However, this should be distinguished from fast answers to non-time sensitive questions.  For example, real-time analysis on market share for new product launch that will happen next quarter is not necessary.  Real-time analysis is only as valuable as the timeliness of the decision that you are making with that data.

  • Q. Data analytics tools are no longer created specifically for IT. In fact, they are geared towards users from all different backgrounds. What advice can you offer to organizations implementing these tools and trying to juggle the data management challenges that arise between business and IT?

A. IT and business obviously need to work together – and clear roles and responsibilities will definitely help in that process. However, what we have seen are two factors that contribute to successful cooperation: a common goal shared at the executive level between business and IT, and a platform that enables IT to support the business without making sacrifices in data security, application reliability, and compliance.  For example, when we integrate with we automatically bring in the security for each user and maintain it through time as it changes, so that data security for all users in Birst matches that in  By providing this type of data security, business can get answers to opportunity aging without sacrificing data security issues.

  • Q. How is Birst working to help clients measure their true business value, and understand the importance of an enterprise caliber cloud BI solution?

A. We collaborate with our clients to identify specific business KPIs – before we even sign a contract. As soon as we ink the deal, we drive our efforts to improve those KPIs through rapid 4-6 weeks sprints. With our extensive connector framework and data access capabilities, we are able to access all the data that impacts those KPIs (not just the surface data.)  We reach deep into each silo of data, automate the data transformation, add business meaning to that data, and provide instant visibility into the levers and KPIs. Furthermore, since Birst is designed for use by executives and business analyst alike, all audiences get the appropriate visibility on their dashboards and see impact to their department, region, or product lines as new decisions drive increased business results. Only an enterprise caliber tool can reach and process all that data properly. And only a solution built with agility in mind, can provide different views to each end-user.

  • Q. Can you please tell us a little about Amazon Redshift and why Birst is so well suited to work with Redshift?

A. In five years people will look back at the announcement of Amazon Redshift as major shift in BI.  For a while, many businesses were concerned about data warehousing or BI in the cloud.  Now Amazon (in Redshift) has announced a faster, simpler, and much cheaper data warehouse than what you get anywhere else.  For Birst, Amazon Redshift is a perfect fit – meaning Redshift would be the warehouse inside the overall Birst platform all hosted in the Amazon cloud.  Since we do our automated warehouse and transformation in the actual database (not externally) –customers get the full speed and power of Redshift as part of the BI platform – without ever moving their data.  Raw data in Redshift would be transformed into analytic ready data, given business meaning through our logical layer, and exposed through our rich analytic interface.  This type of deployment will disrupt the market and change the scale of the speed, power, and agility of BI.

  • Q. In your opinion, what sets Birst above its competitors?

A. From a strict product perspective, we are the only cloud BI platform that is truly end-to-end from data warehouse to logical layer to pixel perfect reporting to ad-hoc analysis that is pre-built for the business user. We took it step further; we knew customers needed all these capabilities fast and agile, so we automated much of the data management including data warehouse, modeling, and logical layer. No other vendor has done this.Our clients have reaped the rewards with results like 5X inventory turns and 80%+ revenue growth with 30 days deployment times.  From a pure company perspective, our dedication to customer business success exceeds anyone else in market; I would bet that our Net Promoter Score (NPS) is superior to any of our competitors.

Brad Peters, CEO and Co-Founder, Birst

Brad Peters is the CEO and co-founder of Birst. Brad has spent the last 10 years building analytics products and solutions. Prior to working at Birst, he helped found and later led the Analytics product line at Siebel Systems which forms the basis of Oracle’s current OBIEE product family. Recognizing the limitations of enterprise analytics offerings and the revolutionary power of Cloud technologies, Brad founded Birst in 2005. Brad started his career as an investment banker for Morgan Stanley in the New York M&A practice. He regularly blogs for where he writes about Cloud and business software related issues.

Brad received a BS and MS in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Fellow. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

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