Yellowfin, a BI tool that is not trying to turn the business user into a BI developer

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There are a number of interesting trends within the marketing of Business Intelligence (BI) tools at present. The first very popular trend is to insist that your tool is designed to enable the business to write their own functionality without the need for IT intervention, and the second is to claim that BI tools will soon be pervasive within the organisation. Whilst understanding both themes, I have always thought they were overstated. I work as a Scrum Master / Project Manager delivering BI projects and I see no demand from the business to take over writing their functionality. They struggle to even take on the responsibilities of being a Product Owner, which involves attending a daily stand up for 15 minutes and a fortnightly showcase of what we intend to deliver to solve their problem for an hour. The business sees data as belonging to IT, they want IT to deliver them their information in a useable state, in a tool which they can use readily, and which will produce results consistently and rapidly. That IT has over the years failed to do that, has indeed led to dissatisfaction with what they have been served up. But, does that mean they want to do it themselves? That’s certainly not something that I see. The business may recruit their own IT staff, but DIY is not on the agenda!

We then have trend two, which is the concept that BI should be pervasive. This idea is still pushed hard today because rates of adoption are struggling to even reach 20% of the potential user base for a BI tool – so 100% adoption is a pipe dream. Now, I don’t disagree with the notion that everyone should have access to a BI tool. In fact, I do believe that is the ultimate goal. But, in order to achieve it, a marketing message is not enough. You need ease-of-use, you need education on what to do and how to use the results, and, above all else, you need a price that makes the goal cost effective.

So when I came across Yellowfin, I was very pleased to see a tool that appeared to be really easy to use, and which still appeared to include the vast majority of what most users will need. I think that most BI offerings include the kitchen sink and more, and, as a consequence, are overly complicated and put users off. With Yellowfin, I could, at last, see a tool that could start to rival Excel as a truly pervasive BI solution of choice for the majority of business users. Importantly, Yellowfin’s isn’t a BI tool attempting to make the business user a techie. It is about presenting data to users in an attractive visual representation, backed-up with some of the most sophisticated collaboration tools embedded into a BI platform on the market. Simultaneously, the complex part – such as data preparation and report building – is still done by IT. This is good for a few reasons: it means that people who understand what is required to perform and produce useful data analysis and reporting are doing things according to the right standards, while also ensuring the right processes are followed to maintain a low total cost of ownership.

Most BI vendors recognise that data, information and outcomes need to be shared. But, all too often, what they are offering is an ability to export a model, or to include screenshots in an email – methods of collaborating with static information, outside of a BI solution and away from the latest data analysis. Yellowfin, on the other hand, are offering a model that enables a dialogue to be maintained in a secure environment from within the BI tool. The Yellowfin way enables not a one-way visibility, but a truly collaborative environment. Yellowfin enables commentary and views to be recorded and be visible to all. It’s a real differentiator and one that more than makes-up for any missing analytics techniques as far as the vast majority of users are concerned (in my opinion).

So, here we have a new product that has the USPs that others talk about, but rarely deliver, with an open costing model that certainly looks affordable. Additionally, Yellowfin certainly looks to be able to deliver the visual analytics representations for reports and dashboards that everyone talks about. Given that it is affordable, I was very pleased to hear from Yellowfin Managing Director for EMEA, Peter Baxter, that they encourage users to adopt an evolutionary path – growing use in a stepwise fashion over time. I am a great believer in evolution rather than revolution: Big bangs tend to be big failures in my experience.

I have been impressed by what I have seen and would encourage those who feel that they need a more responsive, and easier to use solution that nails the need to share BI outcomes out-of-the-box, to evaluate Yellowfin. It looks like it could be just what many people need, rather than the “emperors new clothes” being offered by the majority of vendors. Better still, I see that they are now developing a real support presence outside of their core market and home, which is based in Asia Pacific and Australia – so they should be taken seriously as a contender in the Americas and EMEA as well. Definitely one to watch.