MicroStrategy

MicroStrategy
MicroStrategy
Type Public (NASDAQMSTR)
Industry Business intelligence
Founded 1989
Headquarters Tysons Corner, Virginia, USA
Key people

Michael J. Saylor (Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer)

Sanju K. Bansal (Vice Chairman of the Board, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer)
Products MicroStrategy 9, MicroStrategy Mobile
Revenue $454.6 million USD (2010)
Employees 3,069 worldwide
Subsidiaries Angel (http://www.angel.com)
Website www.microstrategy.com

MicroStrategy, Inc. (NASDAQMSTR), is a business intelligence (BI) software vendor. MicroStrategy's software enables leading organizations worldwide to analyze the vast amounts of data stored across their enterprises to make more strategic business decisions. The platform delivers actionable information to business users via the web and mobile devices, including the iPad, iPhone, Android smartphones, and BlackBerry. MicroStrategy provides an integrated platform for companies to capitalize on the big data, mobile, cloud, and social media trends, and has introduced innovative technologies that enable companies to capitalize on these four major trends.

In 2010, the company has entered into the mobile BI market with MicroStrategy Mobile[1] and MicroStrategy Mobile Suite.[2] MicroStrategy has also been recognized as one of the earliest adopters of the iPad in its workforce, using 2,300 iPads within the company in 2011.[3] The latest release of the MicroStrategy Business Intelligence Platform features MicroStrategy Transaction Services, a product that allows users to initiate actions and transactions from a mobile device. Announced in July 2011, MicroStrategy Transaction Services helps companies increase the speed and productivity of their businesses by building mobile apps that connect to back-end transactional systems and databases.

Also in July 2011, MicroStrategy expanded its focus to the social media market with the social applications Alert, Emma and Wisdom. These apps are built on MicroStrategy Gateway technology, which integrates enterprise applications with the Facebook social graph for rich CRM information.

MicroStrategy introduced MicroStrategy Cloud, a cloud-based platform-as-a-service. MicroStrategy Cloud enables rapid, cost-effective development of business intelligence and mobile and social apps. MicroStrategy Cloud Personal was released in public beta in September 2011. This is a free SaaS-based BI service that combines the company’s latest technology innovations, enabling anyone to easily upload data to the MicroStrategy Cloud, analyze it via rich visualizations and share powerful insights with colleagues or friends as a mobile app or web browser dashboard.[4]

MicroStrategy's customers include Groupon,[5] McDonald's,[6] the U.S. Army,[7] GEICO, Whole Foods,[8] Netflix,[9] H&R Block, and LinkedIn.[10] Their customer base spans numerous industries, with a concentration in data-intensive industries like Retail, Banking, Healthcare, Insurance, Financial Services, Government, Hospitality, and Gaming. (See examples of uses.)

Contents

History

MicroStrategy was founded in 1989 by Michael Saylor (CEO), Sanju Bansal (COO) and Thomas Spahr as a consulting firm focused on multidimensional modeling and simulation.[11] The idea of modeling business with non-linear mathematics was inspired by a system dynamics theory class that Saylor and Bansal took at MIT. Michael Saylor started MicroStrategy with a consulting contract from his boss at Du Pont that provided him with $250,000 and office space in Wilmington, Delaware.[12] The company’s early focus was on data mining software for businesses.

In 1994, Saylor and Bansal moved the office to Tysons Corner, Virginia and the company grew quickly in the years following.[13] MicroStrategy had its Initial Public Offering in June 1998 with an initial stock offering of 4 million shares priced at $12 each.[14] MicroStrategy’s company slogan at the time of the IPO was “Information Like Water”, emphasizing its focus on making business information ubiquitous and readily available both inside and outside the workplace. Its customers at this time included those in industries such as retail, telecommunications, finance, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. Examples were ACNeilsen, CVS/pharmacy, and Xerox Corporation.

MicroStrategy’s tremendous growth in its early years as a public company – nearly doubling its revenue annually[12] – often put the company (and their CEO Michael Saylor) in the spotlight. Saylor made media appearances in Fortune Magazine,[15] on the Charlie Rose show, and on 60 Minutes. He was also interviewed on CNN and invited to the White House.[16]

In March 2000, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company with overstatement of revenues and stated profits that were actually losses. Michael Saylor (CEO), Sanju Bansal (COO), and Mark Lynch (former CFO) settled with the SEC later that year without admitting wrong-doing and the company paid $10 million in disgorgement. Cease-and-desist orders were issued to two accounting employees for reporting and recordkeeping violations. The company stated its intention to undertake changes in corporate governance to ensure compliance with securities laws.[17] The company's stock dropped 61% on March 20, 2000 to close at $86 per share, and lost over 90% of its value within a few weeks.[18] A 10:1 reverse stock split in July 2002 reduced the number of outstanding common shares.[19]

Though the burst of the tech bubble also proved an obstacle in 2000, the company continued to grow quickly afterwards, increasing its revenues and releasing new products like dynamic dashboards.[20][21] By 2003, MicroStrategy began to recover the losses that resulted from this case and the burst of the dot-com bubble, adding over 200 new corporate customers and raising its revenue by 23% in the fourth quarter. The company achieved this by cutting unprofitable business units and focusing on improving its software platform.[22] Since then, yearly revenues have grown steadily and the company has continued to develop its product line and expand its size by hiring new employees.

Also in 2003, MicroStrategy defeated a patent-infringement suit brought against the company by Business Objects for a "relational database access system using semantically dynamic objects." Cognos and Brio Technology were also sued by Business Objects for the same patent, but settled out of court for $24 million and $10 million, respectively. It was ruled that the technology and concepts of MicroStrategy’s products and those of Business Objects had substantial differences and there was no infringement on the patent.[23]

In June 2008, MicroStrategy celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a public company and the "leading independent provider of open systems business intelligence software". Its annual revenues grew over those ten years, from $96 million in 1998 to $351 million in 2008, and the employee base grew from 907 to 1,582 in that same time.

By 2009, MicroStrategy's revenues had exceeded $377 million and the company had offices in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Revenues grew to a record $454.6 million in 2010, a 20% increase over 2009’s revenues. This consisted of a 24% increase in product licenses revenues and a 19% increase in revenue from product support and other services. In MicroStrategy’s 2010 Annual Report, the company stated a total of 2,597 employees. Of these, 1,347 were U.S.-based and 1,250 were internationally based. Over 700 new employees were added in 2010 alone.[24]

In 2010, the company announced a move of its headquarters into the newly built 1850 Towers Crescent Plaza building in Tysons Corner, Virginia.[25]

Technology timeline

  • 1989: MicroStrategy incorporated as a Delaware corporation.
  • 1991: EIS Toolkit, MicroStrategy’s first business intelligence software product, is released.[26]
  • 1992: Microstrategy EIS Toolkit first talks to a client/server relational database.[27]
  • 1993: MicroStrategy EIS Toolkit for UNIX is released.[28]
  • 1994: DSS Agent and SQL ROLAP Engine are released, featuring multi-pass SQL.[29] DSS Agent is used to filter business information based on targeted constraints. DSS Executive, a tool for first-generation dashboards, is also released this year.
  • 1995: DSS Server, a three-tier client/server business intelligence product for ROLAP, is released. DSS Server includes a query governor to manage all end-user queries, report-caching capabilities, and the ability to run queries in a background process.[30]
  • 1996: DSS Web is released, allowing users to conduct online analytical processing (OLAP) via the Web.[31] It features the ability to drill data to view a lower level of information detail. DSS Objects was an programming interface (SDK) on the SQL ROLAP engine.[32]
  • 1997: DSS Administrator, with two components: MicroStrategy Object Manager and MicroStrategy Warehouse Monitor (later renamed MicroStrategy Enterprise Manager), is released.[33]
  • 1998: DSS Broadcaster is the first release of a narrowcast server for BI email delivery service.[34] It sends personalized messages to recipients through their email, fax, pager, or mobile phone. This means users do not need to actively log onto an information analysis application – they can set up pre-defined intervals/thresholds for notifications about business metrics.
  • 1999: MicroStrategy Telecaster and MicroStrategy InfoCenter are released.[35][36] These products add to the number of ways for users to receive information – on a phone (text to speech system) and from a personalized web portal.
  • 2000: MicroStrategy 7.0, a BI platform with a Web (HTML/XML) interface, is released. It features a revised architecture and multi-level caching. This platform includes the MicroStrategy Intelligence Server, MicroStrategy Desktop (formerly MicroStrategy Agent), MicroStrategy Web, MicroStrategy Architect, and MicroStrategy SDK products, and was chosen as PC Magazine Editor’s Choice.[37] MicroStrategy Transactor (later retired) allows write-back and workflow.[38]
  • 2001: MicroStrategy Narrowcast Server is a significant rewrite of DSS Broadcaster. It allows for very high volume report distribution through email, fax, pager, or mobile phone. MicroStrategy Command Manager is also introduced to automate administrative tasks.
  • 2002: The MicroStrategy 7i platform is adds OLAP Services and introduces in-memory cubes with ROLAP.[39] MicroStrategy Web Professional enables self-service report development over the web. MDX Adapter, MicroStrategy’s Excel add-in, is introduced (later incorporated as a feature in MicroStrategy Office). In November, MicroStrategy Web Universal is released for 64-bit BI and UNIX.
  • 2003: MicroStrategy 7.5 is released, including MicroStrategy Report Services for the creation and analysis of scorecards, dashboards and production reports.[40]
  • 2004: MicroStrategy Office, integrating with the Microsoft Office suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint), is released.[41] MicroStrategy 7i Universal Edition delivers 64-bit BI and UNIX capabilities.[42]
  • 2005: MicroStrategy 8.0 is released, updating MicroStrategy's flagship platform. It uses a WYSIWYG design interface for enterprise reports and dashboards. It also uses PMML as a way to integrate predictive analytics and data mining into BI.[43]
  • 2006: MicroStrategy adds multidimensional cube support for SAP BW, Microsoft Analysis Services, and Hyperion Essbase.[44]
  • 2007: MicroStrategy 8.1 release and MicroStrategy Mobile for BlackBerry smartphones[45] are debuted. MicroStrategy Integrity Manager verifies consistency when any changes are made in the BI environment.[46]
  • 2008: Introduces Adobe Flash dashboards and new visualization widgets, including the Bubble Grid, Funnel, and Waterfall widgets.[47]
  • 2009: MicroStrategy 9 is released, with two new products: MicroStrategy MultiSource Option and MicroStrategy Distribution Services.[48][49] The same year, MicroStrategy Reporting Suite is made available, a free reporting software package designed for departmental BI.[50]
  • 2010: MicroStrategy adds Mobile Suite and also announces a new release of MicroStrategy Mobile, which extends business intelligence applications to iPhones and iPads.[51] MicroStrategy 9 Release 3 speeds up performance, with the creation of some reports in under 30 minutes, and allows users to load their own data from Excel spreadsheets or local databases into the BI system.[24]
  • 2011: Availability of MicroStrategy 9.2, including Visual Insight and Transaction Services.[52][53] Announces MicroStrategy Cloud and MicroStrategy Gateway at user conferences in Las Vegas[54] and Monte Carlo.[55] In September, MicroStrategy Cloud Personal is released in public beta.[56]

Recognition

MicroStrategy has earned a number of recognitions in the BI industry:

  • In the BI Survey 9, an independent survey of the business intelligence market released in 2008, MicroStrategy received the highest overall ranking of the 23 BI vendors surveyed,[57] based on key performance indicators (KPIs) for BI success.[58]
  • The company was named to the Forbes 200 Best Small Companies in America List in October 2007 and October 2008.[59]
  • In 2009, 2010, and 2011, MicroStrategy was placed in the Leaders quadrant of Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms report.[60] Gartner describes its BI Leaders as vendors with strong enterprise-wide implementations for a broad BI strategy, and the viability to deliver globally.

MicroStrategy has also been recognized as a pioneer of mobile technology in the BI field, providing Apple’s iPads to over half of its employees within months of the iPad’s release to support its attention to development of mobile tools.[61] In an interview with Forbes, Sanju Bansal (COO) stated that the iPad is "the first of what we think will be a large category of computing devices."[62] It currently has free mobile BI apps for the iPhone and iPad available in Apple’s App Store.

Examples of uses

The MicroStrategy software platform provides business intelligence through data in order to inform a variety of business decisions made by its users. These activities include:

  • Customer segmentation and profitability analysis – Answers questions about which markets are most profitable based on the analysis of different segments of the market.
  • Supply chain management (SCM) – Governs the links between different levels of supply, from point-of-origin to point-of-consumption.
  • One-to-one customer marketing – A more personalized product differentiation which gives insight into who should be contacted for direct marketing efforts, and which techniques are most effective for this approach.
  • Financial analysis – Answers questions like, “How profitable are the existing customers?” and “Which projects or promotional campaigns bring the most return?”
  • Customer acquisition, customer retention, and churn analysis – To retain customers, understand how to prevent defection by understanding customer profiles, and increase customer loyalty to the brand.
  • Merchandising and inventory analysis – Retailers may want to know the optimal amount of each type of inventory to carry, how their product stock has changed over time, or which items they need to carry more of during certain times of year.
  • Product category management – This can answer such questions as “How should we group the products we sell?” or “Which products sell better together?” employing Market Basket Analysis and other advanced analyses.
  • Risk assessment – For example, banks need to know which customers are credit risks. Hospitals, likewise, need to manage information on the effectiveness of certain treatments and techniques.
  • Performance management – For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has used MicroStrategy BI reporting and analytics tools to save on overtime expenses by analyzing payroll and staff utilization.[63]

BI market

In 2010, the technology research firm Gartner forecasted:

The market for BI platforms will remain one of the fastest growing software markets despite the economic downturn. In tough economic times, when competitiveness depends on the optimization of strategy and execution, organizations continue to turn to BI as a vital tool for smarter, more agile and efficient business.

This prediction states that BI as an industry will continue to grow at a high rate and become more essential for companies who want to hold a competitive advantage in their own industries.

MicroStrategy’s partners with tech companies whose products complement its BI platform. Microsoft, Teradata, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Sybase, and Netezza are a few of these.

MicroStrategy’s competitors in the business intelligence market include Business Objects, Cognos, Oracle Corporation, and IBM. As a result of consolidation in the BI industry, MicroStrategy remains one of the few independent BI software providers.[64] When IBM announced plans to acquire Cognos and SAP announced plans to purchase Business Objects, MicroStrategy announced plans to aggressively recruit employees and customers from its competitors.[65] Other remaining independent BI vendors include SAS, Information Builders, and smaller competitors.[66]

Sales and marketing

International sales were reported to account for 42% of MicroStrategy’s revenues in 2010. MicroStrategy uses a dedicated sales force and also sells indirectly through its channel partners. In 2010 there were a reported 760 employees, or 29% of the total number of employees, working in Sales and Marketing.[24]

MicroStrategy holds an annual conference for its customers called MicroStrategy World. The conference includes business and technology tracks, product demos and releases, case studies and strategies by companies on how to implement MicroStrategy software into decision-making.[21]

Research and development

As of December 2010, 504 employees are focused on Research and Development.[24] Recently there is increased attention to development for mobile Internet. CEO Michael Saylor announced in a press talk on MicroStrategy Mobile that the company sees "a revolution afoot in business intelligence as organizations can now empower their executives, workforce, suppliers, and partners with immediate access to business information from mobile devices."[67]

Company culture

MicroStrategy’s technical employees must pass a multi-week technical training program or "bootcamp."[12] The bootcamp culminates in a MicroStrategy Certified Engineer (MCE) exam and certification, which is meant to be the equivalent of a "masters-level course on business intelligence".[68] This is described by some as an intense process, and includes orientation, training, and testing segments.[69] However, it is cited as one reason for the loyalty of MicroStrategy’s employees, familiarly called "MicroStrategists". Fast Company quotes from a talk by CEO Michael Saylor to new employees attending boot camp:

Our mission is to make intelligence accessible everywhere. Call some friends tonight, and ask what their company's mission is. Then ask yourself, Would I follow that organization to the ends of the earth? Or is it simply a place to spend 40 hours a week?[12]

Some former MicroStrategy employees have also gone on to found companies such as CadenceQuest,[70] Claraview,[71] and Visual Crossing.[72]

Offices

MicroStrategy bases its headquarters in the Washington, DC metro area. Other MicroStrategy office locations include Paris, Warsaw, Barcelona, London, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Tampa, New York, and Boston.[73]

Products

The company's most recent release of the MicroStrategy Business Intelligence Platform is MicroStrategy 9.2.1, which was made generally available in July 2011 and features MicroStrategy Transaction Services.[53] Also announced was MicroStrategy Cloud, a cloud-based platform-as-a-service that is architected and optimized for large data volumes, high concurrency and high performance. In September 2011, MicroStrategy Cloud Personal was released in beta.[74] With MicroStrategy Cloud Personal, users upload their Excel spreadsheet to the secure MicroStrategy Cloud Intelligence infrastructure, then customize and analyze their visualization. This SaaS-based tool is free and available online.

MicroStrategy’s full software platform includes the following components:

  • MicroStrategy Intelligence Server is the analytical server for querying, reporting, and OLAP analysis.
  • MicroStrategy Reporting Suite is a free reporting tool for developing and delivering operational and analytical reports.
  • MicroStrategy Mobile Suite is a free Mobile BI tool for developing and delivering reports and dashboards via iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry mobile devices.
  • MicroStrategy Web is an online interface for reports, dashboards, and analysis.
  • MicroStrategy Report Services generates dashboards, scorecards, and production reports.
  • MicroStrategy OLAP Services enables faster queries via in-memory cubes of cached data.[75]
  • MicroStrategy Desktop enables desktop-based use and development of BI applications.
  • MicroStrategy Architect is used to build the centralized metadata for rapid application development.
  • MicroStrategy MultiSource Option extends the function of the Intelligence Server across multiple data sources.
  • MicroStrategy Distribution Services manages report and dashboard distribution by email, file servers, and networked printers. It stems from MicroStrategy Narrowcast Server, which is the original distribution service product for MicroStrategy 7.X and 8.X [76]
  • MicroStrategy Office integrates with Microsoft Office to report and analyze in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint offline and refresh data on-demand.
  • MicroStrategy Mobile is the BI interface for mobile devices such as the Blackberry, iPad, and iPhone.[45]
  • MicroStrategy Object Manager allows users to manage changes and versioning of objects.
  • MicroStrategy Command Manager is a scripting interface to automate tasks.
  • MicroStrategy Enterprise Manager is used to monitor system benefits and requirements.
  • MicroStrategy Integrity Manager compares reports and documents to ensure the integrity of data and reports.
  • MicroStrategy Software Development Kit (SDK) serves as a developer library and allows developers to customize the BI interface.
  • MicroStrategy Visual Insight allows analysis of business data in an interactive and visual interface.[77]
  • MicroStrategy Transaction Services adds write-back and other action capabilities to mobile apps, connecting them with back-end transactional systems and databases.

MicroStrategy’s CEO, Michael Saylor, has stated that the company’s relationship to other BI vendors’ software is based on neutrality: "Our view is to be Switzerland in this business, and to make sure we protect your investment when we give you the ability to tap into lots of different vendors and technology architectures to achieve your goal." As an independent business intelligence software vendor, MicroStrategy has a platform which can integrate with third-party products – such as databases and application servers – for flexibility based on the customer’s BI needs.

The company states that compared to open-source reporting solutions, the MicroStrategy suite requires fewer IT resources, meaning a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) – this is useful for organizations that are restricted from implementing open source code. However, MicroStrategy products work with open-source operating systems, databases, Web servers, and application servers.

Social products

MicroStrategy’s social offerings are built on MicroStrategy Gateway, which connects enterprise systems to the Facebook database.[78] These new social, cloud, and mobile technologies are designed to help businesses capitalize on big data, mobile, cloud and social media trends. Michael Saylor announced several social applications created by a new application development division, whose purpose is "to create applications that integrate the social and cloud networks back into our customers' applications and also our own."[79]

The following applications are based on MicroStrategy Gateway technology.

  • Alert: A mobile app that connects users to news, events and exclusive content from their favorite Facebook Pages, including celebrities, sports teams and music artists.
  • Emma: A mobile app that allows people to trade on a “friendly marketplace”. It links to Facebook and provides greater security and control over transactions with others.
  • Wisdom: A Facebook app that allows Facebook users to organize and analyze their personal Facebook networks. This is also available for enterprise, so businesses can perform analysis of Facebook data and segmentation of their fan page based on psychographic profiles.
  • Usher[79]

Services

In addition to its BI and social platforms, MicroStrategy also provides consulting, training, and technical support. As of December 31st, 2010, 36% of MicroStrategy employees were engaged in these services, and approximately 72% of the company's revenues came from product support and other services. MicroStrategy's remaining revenues came from product licenses.[24]

Consulting

Of the 2010 revenues from services, almost 20% were derived from consultation with customers to plan and execute deployment of the software. Consultants assist the customers' technical staff in migration, testing, performance tuning, planning and implementation of BI projects. MicroStrategy consultants are required to go through a multi-week training "bootcamp" as well as continued training on new technologies.[80]

Training

MicroStrategy education programs for business and technical users include instructor-led courses, certification courses, offered at different locations as well as available for onsite training, and free online training courses. Education revenues totaled 5.3% of revenues from services in 2010.

Technical support

Technical support contracts accounted for much of the revenues from services. Besides direct tech support, MicroStrategy's online knowledge base and community forum are other resources for MicroStrategy users worldwide.

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External links


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