Sunday, January 22, 2006

Other Open World Mumbai 2006 Vignettes

This (the photograph below) is the Discoverer pod at the left, and the Reports pod to its right. I had a laptop with 2GB RAM with all the software needed installed on it (10.1.2 infrastructure database, a 10.2 database, middle-tier, Add-Ins, and more), so that I didn't have to rely on a network connection. Network connectivity was quite good and I don't think I would have had problems with network speeds, but anyway. Each pod also had a 17" LCD monitor, so I could have the presentation/demo on two screens - the laptop and the monitor. This helped. Not everyone likes peering into a laptop screen.


I had prepared a set of slides that ran in autoplay mode so that people walking by would get to see something interesting and hopefully stop by to see the software. The presentation itself ran for less than 4 minutes in autoplay mode and had lots of screenshots and very big font size text. In the end it turned out that I walked only a few people through the presentation. Most were interested in seeing the software as you can see below. I think the lady in the photograph below is from India's largest airline and are using Discoverer 9i. She was very interested in the new features of the 10.1.2 release (thanks to Navneet Singh, Oracle Reports PM, for snapping this photograph).


Over a period of two days at the demogrounds I spent close to 14 hours on my feet at the Discoverer pod and showed different parts of BI 10.1.2 to what seemed like a never ending stream of visitors to the Discoverer pod. I am waiting for the final scan numbers from marketing so I may be able to put a number to infinity. Most of the software I demoed was production, but two components in various stages of development that I showed to people were the update to Discoverer Plus OLAP with custom-member support, and a new work-in-progress to our BI-Office integration suite.

If I were to categorize visitors to the Discoverer booth (and this holds true for the BI spectrum as a whole I would hazard) I would put them into four groups:

  • Those who were either using Discoverer or a competing product, or those who were in the process of evaluating a BI tool, and therefore had an understanding of BI and BI Tools and their capabilities. About 15% of the visitors were in this category.
  • Those who were implementing Oracle Apps and wanted a reporting tool and had heard of Discoverer as an option available. There were a lot of people who fell into this category, probably close to 40%.
  • While demoing to these first two categories my comments on the user-friendliness of the tool, its export capabilities (Excel and PDF were the most popular), and the ability to create powerful OLAP calculations without writing or seeing any SQL was met with appreciative nods (nods are very important when demo-ing software..., as opposed to shakes of the head, or worse, blank stares and not too stifled yawns).
  • Those who had or were in the middle of integrating and migrating legacy systems to the Oracle platform and were looking for reporting solutions. This group is sort of similar to the first one, but I have separated it into its own group based on user profile and a needs-based distinction. Whereas the first group had already passed the stage of need identification and had moved into the evaluation/adoption stage, this group was still in the needs-discovery stage. Size: about 20%
  • Those who really weren't aware of BI as a domain in itself, much less the different segmentations within BI like relational vs OLAP, adhoc vs enterprise, historical vs real or near-real time. Size: about 25%

I interpreted the fact that close to half the visitors were new to BI in the following way:
1. The BI market in India is small, very small in fact, but growing fast.
2. The push for BI seems to be coming predominantly from customers implementing an ERP solution and then looking for a BI tool. Oracle and PeopleSoft have a proportionally large install base in India, so this acts as a pull for BI tools. These companies have small budgets and rule out independent vendors like BO and Cognos on the price factor alone.
3. As more companies in India reach a size where they feel the need for an ERP solution and can afford one, the number of BI customers will only increase.

Questions
Some of the more interesting questions asked by visitors who saw Discoverer, its capabilities, ease-of-use, Office integration capabilities (especially the Excel export and Add-In):

  • Discoverer is free???
    This was a fairly common reaction from many visitors. Some of them had bought licenses for the Oracle App Server and had deployed it but were unaware that Discoverer was part of the app server and available without any additional licensing costs (not counting the iDS components of Administrator and possibly Desktop)
  • I can download it free???
    People were skeptical that even within the constraints of a developer license and mult-gigabyte download sizes the product could be downloaded free, that there were no built-in expirations, that the software was not a crippled version, and that the version of Discoverer I was demoing was the same as was available on OTN (10.1.2.0.2). Of course if I were given to cynicism I may think that they wanted to make sure they could use the software and not pay for it. Possibly. But I think I would be happy dealing with a compliance problem rather than an awareness problem.

Quotable Quotes

  • "Arey, this is good" (translated: "hey, this is good")
  • "I could use this" (as in "this is so easy I could use this")
  • "My CIO/boss/manager will love this"
  • "That's it? This is all that is needed to publish this report to portal??" For some visitors I went through the steps of creating a Discoverer worksheet, adding a Discoverer portlet and configuring it to display the worksheet just created, all in less than 3 minutes (maybe four or five at the most, but then, no one was timing me).
  • "Discoverer is free with the app server?"
  • "There is no ActiveX here?" - looking at Viewer and Portlet customization capabilities and its cell selection and formatting capabilities.
  • "This runs on Firefox also?" i.e. can I run this on Linux also?