Dashboard Insight recently spoke with TIBCO Spotfire's Mark Lorion about his company's place in the BI market, industry innovation and finding business opportunities "when times are hard."
Dashboard Insight: Tell us about the history of TIBCO Spotfire.
Mark Lorion: Spotfire was founded in 1996 and was acquired by TIBCO Software Inc. in June 2007. The company has a history of innovation, being the first to market with many technologies, including in-memory analytics, guided analytics, real-time/event-driven, closed loop analytics and more. TIBCO Spotfire products offer a visual and interactive experience that helps professionals quickly discover new and actionable insights in their business information.
DI: Where does TIBCO Spotfire fit into the business intelligence market and how is it different from other business intelligence companies?
ML: TIBCO Spotfire allows organizations to equip every employee to quickly discover new insights in the information they work with every day. Unlike traditional BI, TIBCO Spotfire software shifts the power to ask and answer virtually unconstrained questions to previously "non-traditional" users – front-line users and the people who make decisions every day, without requiring countless new reports or custom queries from IT. This type of speed and flexibility is difficult to achieve quickly with traditional BI solutions.
DI: Can you talk about the intersection between BI and analytics?
ML: Although BI tools are becoming somewhat easier to use, they remain a challenge for most nontechnical employees, especially if the suites require deep knowledge of underlying data models, schema and metadata.
If BI is to enable quick, daily business decisions on issues such as allocating resources and inventory, users shouldn’t be forced to waste time sifting through irrelevant data for answers. Analytics takes the user’s role and responsibilities into account, serving as a key ingredient in a company’s business strategy by driving innovation, competitive advantage, and fact-based decision making. If empowering business users to measure, monitor and manage business performance is the end game for BI, then analytics is an area where vendors – and organizations – must excel.
DI: Are you running into a perception that business intelligence is at the end of its innovative period? What do you say when you hear that kind of statement in the market?
ML: Business intelligence is not a new market, but it is in need of a new approach. Just look at how many people rely on spreadsheets to analyze data that comes from traditional BI because the tools are still hard to use, it takes too long to get answers to new questions, and there is no clear path to action from the tools. At the same time, never before have businesses been faced with making significant use of BI and analytic applications for timely, critical business decisions. To face these challenges, the industry must continue to innovate – it hasn’t fulfilled the promise of true BI yet.
Next-generation BI leaps these obstacles, delivering rich visual and highly interactive tools that are easily deployed and adopted by any business professional, “free-dimensional” ad hoc querying enables insights not possible in spreadsheets, the speed of in-memory data encourages new questions, and extensibility provides a path to integration and action in the context of a business process. This is where TIBCO comes into the picture. The Spotfire Enterprise Analytics platform leverages that real-time infrastructure and process management environment to deliver the next-generation BI platform.
DI: Speaking of innovation, TIBCO Spotfire recently announced Spotfire Miner 8.1 and TIBCO Spotfire S+ Server 8.1. Can you tell me more about those offerings? What makes them unlike any other offerings on the market?
ML: Predictive modeling – long the mainstay of statisticians and vacant from traditional BI applications – is now available to all business professionals in any business process. From within a Spotfire data analysis, users can conduct more thorough predictive modeling powered by Spotfire S+ Server. Users can then share their interactive analyses, including guided workflows, via a local library or web-based application.
The introduction of TIBCO Spotfire Miner adds data mining capabilities directly to our leading in-memory enterprise analytics platform. The release incorporates new functionality for accessing, cleaning, transforming and reducing data, enabling the application of data mining, statistics, and predictive modeling in Spotfire applications. This new functionality allows Spotfire to crunch and clean data in ways that were never before possible, scaling up to handle very large data sets.
To sum it up, by combining the power of these statistical tools with the Spotfire Enterprise Analytics platform, customers get a rapid prototyping environment for analytic applications that combine highly interactive, exploratory analysis with the power of statistical and predictive modeling.