Business Intelligence Leaders - Interview with Yellowfin's CEO Glen Rabie
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Business Intelligence Leaders - Interview with Yellowfin's CEO Glen Rabie

July 15, 2010 -- Glen Rabie is CEO of Yellowfin Business Intelligence, recognised among 25 rising companies that CIO’s must know about, Yellowfin is an innovative and flexible solution for reporting and analytics, providing a full range of data access, presentation and information delivery capabilities.


Hello Glen, Thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.

GR. No problem, good to talk to you.
Q. Yellowfin has just released a major release in 5.0, can you tell us about the new features?

GR. The main features for 5.0 include in-memory analytics and integrated excel or spreadsheet reporting.  Both of these will add a tremendous level of value for our end users – both in terms of speed and flexibility for business users to do the types of analysis that they demand.
Q. Is Yellowfin's in-memory an evolutionary or revolutionary step in BI delivery ?

GR. I think it is evolutionary.  Basically in-memory analysis addresses the issue of speed.  Traditional BI deployments simply are not agile enough for the changing needs of business users.  With the development of in-memory users to not have to compromise with the development of aggregated data marts but are free to browse their data with on the fly analysis at the most granular level.  It is really thanks for hardware developments that this has been made feasible.
Q. Speed is king, but Can you give us a real world example of a customer who would greatly benefit from your in-memory technology ?

GR. Well any customer that has had to aggregate their data prior to analysis is a winner.  The problem with the traditional model is that when aggregating you need to anticipate the type of analysis you wish to conduct. 

The draw backs of this approach is that one it took time to build data marts, and if you got your assumptions incorrect you would have to start again – and all this time the business users is waiting for answers.  Not a satisfactory outcome.

With in-memory you do not have this constraint.  So if you wish to analyze 3 years of invoice details you can.  It is as simple as that
Q. Yellowfin had a lot of momentum in 2009, What are some of your key priorities for 2010 ?
GR. So 5.0 was release in May for the rest of the year we have a couple of releases planned – enhancements to our mobile platform in August, and a minor dot release of Yellowfin scheduled for November.

Q. Mobile BI is certainly becoming a hot topic what are Yellowfin’s plans?

GR. The new mobile release is certainly something that we are looking forward to.  We were one of the first to release an iPhone app and now thanks to all the feedback from our users we are about to release v2 of that platform with iPad support as well.  I think in this space we have the right strategy. 

Other vendors have created a secondary platform with their mobile play.  Ones where the user has to migrate content on to a specific mobile server – which is crazy when you think about it.  The Yellowfin approach is that any content created via the browser is immediately available to the mobile user – who needs the frustration of having to know where your content is?

The second difference is that we continue to view the mobile platform as a consumer of content role.  What I mean by this is that users are not going to use their iPhones to analyze data.  They just want access to simple answers.  There is no point trying to build complex analytical functionality when the user is working on a postage stamp – this sort of functionality is better left to the browser.

Q. What part do channel partners play in your growth strategies for 2010 and beyond ?

GR. We are a channels company – 90% + of sales originate through our channels – both ISV and reseller.  We have no intention of deviating from this strategy as it is something that we continue to focus on and continue to develop our business model and processes around.  Our goal is to become the premium vendor to partner with, and certainly we have started this year with some significant new partner acquisition that is giving us additional global reach and deep knowledge of specific regional markets.
Q. Are you focusing on Resellers, OEM's or system integrators as channel partners ?

GR. It’s a mix.  A strong partner eco-system will have all three.  That said we do have a strong focus on the OEM/ISV segment as I think we have an especially good value proposition for that part of the market.  We understand the ISV market really well – their needs both commercial and technical and certainly have a fantastic value proposition for them.
Q. How are you competing these days with the old established proprietary BI companies ?

GR. The world is a big place – the BI market is still not highly consolidated so you get to see all sorts of competition.  In the ISV OEM space we hardly see the traditional vendors – and quite frankly I do not think they are interested in that market.  In the direct space it really depends on the style of the deal.  Our platform and partner mix means we play at all ends of the market – from enterprise to SME.  As a result we seem to touch on most vendors in the industry.
Q. Yellowfin markets itself as leading edge and a easy product to use, given that can Yellowfin also be accepted as an enterprise class product suite?
GR. The concept for Yellowfin was borne out of a failed enterprise deployment of a traditional vendor.  The goal of making BI easy is directed at the enterprise.  In fact it has been hard work to make Yellowfin so easy to use.  We have a continuous improvement model with a customer feedback loop that has a goal of always improving the way in which Yellowfin works at all levels.  A large part of each release is actually infrastructure improvements not just “sexy marketing UI”.  As a result we have some very big deployments in excess of 10,000 end users.  Currently we are working on a 200,000 end user deployment – so I think we can safely assume that Yellowfin is enterprise scalable.
Q. The perception exists that to access company data you need to have very specific competencies, how is Yellowfin approaching that perception ?

GR. I think this is partly true.  There are different user roles that have various levels of analytical skill sets – from a consumer of data all the way through to your quants.  What is happening though is that generally users are becoming more analytical – in the same way that the average IQ levels are rising generation after generation.

So you have a greater demand by users for access to analytical applications.  More business users want to do their own analysis – whereas in the past this was left to the experts.  And this is where solutions like Yellowfin come into play, applications that are really easy to use and that allow business users access and analysis of their data.
Q. The business workspace is evolving very fast , laptops, iphones, ipads, wireless, etc, these technologies are transforming the way people work and even transforming traditional jobs. How is Yellowfin transforming itself to meet these challenges.?
GR. Ultimately what is changing is the delivery channel.  The fundamentals have not changed.  Users want access to data but now they are device independent.  Yellowfin’s goal is to ensure that users can access their data from their preferred device.
Q. With these platforms, has come the expectation of instant knowledge access, “stale data” just won't cut it anymore, workers want realtime. Can you tell us how Yellowfin can support this.
GR. Real time analysis is an interesting challenge.  I could pay lip service to the trend and say yes it is critical but its not.  Think of it this way.  Are the actions you take as a result of your analysis real-time?  If your actions are not real time or do not have a real time impact then the latency of your data is actually less of a concern.  Long term trends I would argue should be more of a concern to a CEO than last hours web traffic.  Yes there are some very good examples of real time BI but I think this is a small segment of the market.

So having said that Yellowfin does have some interesting technology to enable real-time reporting and especially with its in-memory database and the ability to incrementally load the database in minute by minute intervals.

Q. As you move towards a 6.0 release of your software what will be the technology focus of Yellowfin’s ?

GR. 6.0 is still a long way off.  I think we have a lot to do in 5.0 especially around collaboration and changing the way people work with data. This is going to be our focus over the next 18+ months.

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