Category Archives: MicroStrategy World

MicroStrategy World 2014: Facebook CIO Tim Campos Keynote Presentation

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Facebook CIO Tim Campos

MicroStrategy World 2014: Gucci CIO Simone Pacciarini Keynote Presentation

Click on Image to Watch PresentationGucci CIO Simone Pacciarini

Blurred Lines: A Tale of Two Dashboard (Contests)


This is an important read for anyone who works in the data visualization profession. I ask you to be reflective as you read this. I use myself as an example of what not to do.

For the past two years (2013 and 2014), I have submitted an entry into the MicroStrategy World Dashboard Contest. In both years, I was named one of the winners of this competition. I have written about my work and about the competition on this blog. But I did not tell the whole story. I did not mention that my entries were reproductions of the original ideas and designs of other people. I took liberties that, at the time, seemed innocent. As an academic pursuit, I attempted to recreate these originals using a different tool set (in these two cases, MicroStrategy Report Services and the Visualization SDK) to see if it could be done. I spent time trying to develop methods to allow me to recreate the original visualizations almost exactly as their authors had idealize and developed them. I meant no harm, but what I did was wrong.

There are lines and sometimes we cross them. There are lines and sometimes we don’t see them. There are lines that are bold and there are lines that are blurry. The line that I crossed appears bold in retrospect but was blurred at the time. I had spent a considerable amount of time developing these visualizations. It is quite possible that I spent more time trying to recreate the original than the author spent developing the original.

I know now that this does not matter.

I took the ideas and content and submitted it as my own. I am sorry for this and I have learned a great deal as a result. I now want to use this discussion as an example for others.

2013 MicroStrategy Dashboard Contest

My entry in the 2013 Dashboard Contest was a Student Performance Dashboard, which was based on portions of the top three entries in Stephen Few’s Dashboard Design Contest that was held in late 2012. The majority of my dashboard was based on the original design of the first place winner, Jason Lockwood, who had developed his dashboard in Photoshop.

At work, several of us were talking about Jason’s winning entry and how you could probably develop it fairly easily in Tableau, but probably not so easily in MicroStrategy. Being a strong proponent of MicroStrategy, I argued that I could develop that exact dashboard using MicroStrategy’s Report Services and their Visualization SDK. My co-workers challenged me to try it and I began my mission. Unexpectedly, MicroStrategy soon announced their 2013 Dashboard Contest and I thought this would provide me additional motivation by developing the dashboard for their contest.

Back to Stephen’s contest. Back in August of 2012, Stephen Few, data visualization evangelist and author of the seminal book, Information Dashboard Design, announced a contest to design a dashboard following best practices and principles. The contest required participants to design the dashboard using student performance and assessment data that Stephen provided. Any graphic design tool (e.g., Photoshop, InDesign and Excel) or BI tool could be used to create the dashboard.

The winners were announced in October of that year. There were 91 entries. The contest focused more on innovative dashboard design principles rather than the use of BI tools. The winners and the tool they used are:

1st Place:           Jason Lockwood     Photoshop
2nd Place:          Shamik Sharma      Excel 2010
3rd Place:          Joey Cherdarchuk   Excel 2010

To the best of my knowledge (and Stephen’s), none of the 91 participants in the contest used MicroStrategy to create their dashboard. A few of the participants did use Tableau and SAS. This fact alone made me want to create an innovative dashboard to demonstrate the capabilities of MicroStrategy.

Below are examples of the first, second and third place winners entries.

Jason’s entry (first place)

Jason - First Place

Shamik’s entry (second place)

Shamik - Second Place

Joey’s entry (third place)

Joey - Third Place

Below is a screenshot of my entry developed using MicroStrategy and Stephen’s sample data.

Michael - MicroStrategy Version 2013

As you can see by comparing my dashboard to Jason’s. I tried to follow Jason’s entry very closely since my goal was to reproduce his entry as close as possible using MicroStrategy.

I have emphasized the word “reproduce” because in my goal to prove the capabilities and functionalities of MicroStrategy, I now realize, in retrospect, that I crossed a line in using Jason’s original idea, design and work to create my dashboard. Now, if I was doing this in my basement for my own edification and learning, that probably would have been o.k. since it was not being viewed by a public audience. However, when I entered the dashboard in MicroStrategy’s contest, albeit developed using my own skills in MicroStrategy, I was presenting someone else’s original ideas and design work without their permission. This, I now understand, was wrong.

I have had several e-mail conversations with Professor Alberto Cairo about this. Alberto is considered by many (including me) to be one of the industry’s leading experts on infographics and a person I respect and view as a mentor. I was seeing grey areas in what I had done where Alberto was correctly seeing things more in black and white.

Below are some of Alberto’s thoughts on what I did and some analogies he made. I have included his comments completely in quotes to indicate these are his thoughts and have not been modified by me at all.

“There are not really clear-cut rules about plagiarism in visualization in infographics, which is a shame. It’s an area in which a lot of thinking and writing needs to be done.

But when doing ethical reasoning you can always use analogies. When in doubt, imagine that your graphic is a news article or a research paper. Would it be appropriate if anyone took what you wrote and then just make it interactive without getting permission from the author (you) first? Would it be enough to mention you in a description of what was done? It wouldn’t. Quoting a few lines from someone (in between quotation marks) is fine. Copying and pasting paragraph after paragraph is not, if it’s not without proper permission.

In visualization, things get really tricky sometimes. For instance, if someone creates a simple bar graph based on ten data points, do I need to get permission to create a similar graph? Probably not if a) the graphic form is so common, b) I can have access to the underlying data. But when you copy an entire layout, or an unusual graphic form, then things become problematic. Again, going back to my analogy before, it’d be equal to copying an article, a newspaper story, or a blog post. Even if you mention the source, it’s not something you can do without asking for permission. It would be a clear case of plagiarism, and it could even get you into legal trouble.”

Now, I take full responsibility for what I did and apologize to Jason, Shamik, and Joey. I do need to say, my primary purpose was to create recreate cool dashboards or infographics I had seen, in my tool of choice which is MicroStrategy. The key thing I was trying to do was show clients and business partners that I could create the same thing they see in Tableau and Qlikview using the MicroStrategy platform.

 To continue with Alberto’s thoughts on this, I again include an exact quote of what he said.

“I understand it, but copying the layout, the structure, the content, and even the headline and intro copy (on top of everything else) is not the only issue, but also submitting the results to contests with no permission from the original authors, and without mentioning them.

Again, analogy: Imagine that I take one of the wonderful posts you have written about historical visualizations –some of them are indeed great,– and I reproduce it with no permission from you, but I casually attribute it to you once: “Hey, I’ve just found this great post in Michael’s website; I’m building on top of it, adding some pictures, and making it interactive.” You’d certainly feel uncomfortable if I didn’t contact you first. And you’ll probably get really upset if, besides that, I get a writing award thanks to that post (without mentioning you,) to which I just added a few visual elements, and interaction.”

Alberto is correct. I would be upset too.

2014 MicroStrategy Dashboard Contest

My entry in the 2014 Dashboard Contest was An Exploration of Tax Data. It was based on an original idea, text and design by Jim Uden, one of my classmates in Professor Cairo’s MOOC course on Data Visualization and Infographics.

I really liked the An Exploration of Tax Data visualization created by Jim. I liked it so much in fact, that I wanted to make a working example for our development team at work using MicroStrategy. I create a lot of dashboard “templates” for our development team in MicroStrategy, which is our enterprise standard BI tool.

So, using Jim’s data, text and format exactly, I created a dashboard in MicroStrategy with some tweaks to it.

Below is a screenshot of Jim’s original work.

Jim - Taxation

Below is my version created using MicroStrategy Report Services and their Visualization SDK.

Michael - MicroStrategy Version 2014

I used horizontal stacked bar charts instead so that the viewer can visually see how social security and income tax rate add up to the total and explains visually why the countries are ordered the way they are on the dashboard. I also separated out $100K and $300K percentages into separate visuals.

In addition, I added the flags of the countries.

Now, you don’t see any numbers on the data points in this dashboard. The reason you don’t see them is because they appear when you mouse over a bar where you then see the country, category and the percent value as a tooltip.

However, by using Jim’s data, text and design exactly from his original, and without getting his permission first, I again crossed the line. I have emphasized the word “exactly” because in my goal to prove the capabilities and functionalities of MicroStrategy, I now realize again in retrospect, that I crossed a line in using Jim’s original idea, data, text, design and work to create my dashboard.

I also discussed this with Alberto and his comments were,

“If this were just a class project for the MOOC, you should have asked for permission from Jim Uden, but I don’t consider it a huge ethical problem. After all, when you submitted it to the forums, you mentioned that it was an interactive version of Jim’s project, and you thanked him publicly in your message. You didn’t let him know about this directly, by contacting him (which is, again, the appropriate thing to do,) but you were transparent when you credited “Jim Uden” for the original idea. The true ethical problem arises when you didn’t do the same in your post about the exercise in your blog, and when you submitted it to a contest.”

I again take full responsibility for what I did and apologize to Jim.

I approached Professor Cairo again with another question: What are the ground rules for the use of another person’s materials. For instance, a lot of blogs (including mine) will post an infographic they have seen in a magazine or on a site like and discuss it. Are we plagiarizing if we cite the author, magazine, etc.?

Professor Cairo responded,

“As for (this) point, there’s something called “fair use” in US copyright legislation. It’s quite fuzzy and controversial, but it basically says that if you reproduce a piece of art just to comment on it or to review it (not to build on it or to change it, not to get profit from it, etc.), you are fine. Academics and bloggers do this all the time. However, some media organizations are known for having asked bloggers to withdraw images of graphics in the past. They have the right to do so, although I think that it’s a bit silly.”

In Summary

I feel this was an important topic for me to discuss and clear my conscience. I would not be honest if I did not say this was very difficult and embarrassing to write. Professor Cairo reminded me it takes courage to do this. Maybe so, but I don’t feel very courageous at the moment.

Next year, if MicroStrategy has another Dashboard contest, I plan to create the entire thing from scratch. Data, text, design, colors, fonts, etc. It will be from my vision only. However, over the next year, I think this is an important topic to discuss in our data visualization community with social media like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. growing in use every day. At what point have we crossed the line? Or are they blurred lines?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and opinions. I may not like what I will hear, but I will hear and reflect on what you have to say.

Thank you for reading this very long post. I hope you see the value in it as much as I do.

Best Regards,


Michael Saylor’s MicroStrategy World 2014 Keynote Presentation

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PRIME: MicroStrategy Announces Release of Cloud Based, In-Memory Analytics Service, Running at Multi-Terabyte Scale

MicroStrategy Cloud’s New Parallel Relational In-Memory Engine (PRIME) Provides High Performance On Big Data Allowing Companies to Build High-Scale, Easy-to-Use Information Driven Apps

Las Vegas, NV, January 28, 2014 – MicroStrategy® Incorporated (Nasdaq: MSTR), a leading worldwide provider of enterprise software platforms, today announced the availability of its new Parallel Relational In-Memory Engine (PRIME) option for the MicroStrategy Cloud™ at its annual user conference, MicroStrategy World 2014, in Las Vegas. MicroStrategy PRIME™ is a massively scalable, cloud-based, in-memory analytics service designed to deliver extremely high performance for complex analytical applications that have the largest data sets and highest user concurrency. Facebook has successfully built high value information-driven applications with the technology that powers MicroStrategy PRIME.

“Rising data volumes are fueling demand for compelling, easy-to-use analytical applications with the power to revolutionize existing business processes for thousands or tens of thousands of employees, customers, or partners,” said Michael Saylor, CEO, MicroStrategy Incorporated. “MicroStrategy PRIME has been built from the ground up to support the engineering challenges associated with development of these powerful new information-driven apps. This innovative service will allow organizations to derive maximum value from their information by making their Big Data assets actionable.”

Most organizations struggle to harness the value of the information in their Big Data stores due to poor performance. Big Data technologies can store large amounts of information, but distributing that information in an interactive manner to thousands of users with existing commercially available technologies is a huge challenge, often resulting in risky, multi-year projects. MicroStrategy PRIME breaks new ground by tightly coupling a state-of-the art visualization and dashboarding engine with an innovative massively parallel in-memory data store. This architecture allows companies to build highly interactive applications that deliver responses to hundreds of thousands of users in a fraction of the time and cost of other approaches. MicroStrategy PRIME acts as a performance accelerator, opening up the data in databases to a much larger user population, driving new demand for information.

MicroStrategy PRIME combines:

  • Massively parallel, distributed, in-memory architecture for extreme scale. MicroStrategy PRIME is built on an in-memory, highly distributed, massively parallel architecture, designed to run on cost effective commodity hardware. Complex analytics problems can be partitioned across hundreds of CPU cores and nodes to achieve unprecedented performance. MicroStrategy has worked closely with leading hardware vendors to take full advantage of today’s multi-core, high memory servers.
  • Tightly integrated dashboard engine for beautiful, easy-to-use applications. MicroStrategy PRIME includes a state-of-the-art dashboard and data exploration engine, built on the MicroStrategy Analytics Platform™. The visualization engine includes hundreds of optimizations designed specifically for the in-memory data store. This engine enables customers to build complete, immersive applications that deliver high-speed response.
  • Cloud-based delivery for rapid deployment. MicroStrategy PRIME is available as a service on MicroStrategy Cloud, MicroStrategy’s world-class Cloud Analytics platform. MicroStrategy Cloud offers a complete service, including the infrastructure, people and processes to enable customers to quickly and easily develop and deploy high-scale, information-driven applications.

About MicroStrategy Incorporated

Founded in 1989, MicroStrategy (Nasdaq: MSTR) is a leading worldwide provider of enterprise software platforms. The Company’s mission is to provide the most flexible, powerful, scalable and user-friendly platforms for analytics, mobile, identity and loyalty, offered either on premises or in the cloud.

The MicroStrategy Analytics Platform™ enables leading organizations to analyze vast amounts of data and distribute actionable business insight throughout the enterprise. Our analytics platform delivers reports and dashboards, and enables users to conduct ad hoc analysis and share their insights anywhere, anytime. MicroStrategy Mobile™ lets organizations rapidly build information-rich applications that combine multimedia, transactions, analytics, and custom workflows. The MicroStrategy Identity Platform™ (branded as MicroStrategy Usher™) provides organizations the ability to develop a secure mobile app for identity and credentials. The MicroStrategy Loyalty Platform™ (branded as MicroStrategy Alert) is a next-generation, mobile customer loyalty and engagement solution. To learn more about MicroStrategy, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MicroStrategy, MicroStrategy Analytics Platform, MicroStrategy Mobile, MicroStrategy Identity Platform, MicroStrategy Loyalty Platform, MicroStrategy Usher, MicroStrategy Cloud and MicroStrategy PRIME are either trademarks or registered trademarks of MicroStrategy Incorporated in the United States and certain other countries. Other product and company names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

MicroStrategy to focus on customers, not ‘PowerPoint slides,’ at MicroStrategy World conference

Source: Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service, PCWorld, Business & Finance Software

Paul Zolfaghari
President, MicroStrategy

While some vendor conferences can end up mired in technical minutiae, MicroStrategy believes it’s better to show, not tell customers how its BI (business intelligence) software works, according to its president, Paul Zolfaghari.

”More than 50 MicroStrategy customers will deliver presentations at the event, which has about 130 sessions planned in total, according to a statement. They include BMC Software, Flextronics, Nielsen, Panda Restaurant Group and Publicis Touchpoint Solutions.

Scheduled for keynotes are Facebook CIO Tim Campos and Gucci CIO Simone Pacciarini, who will discuss their use of Microstrategy technology.When it does discuss products at the event, Microstrategy plans to showcase its recently released Analytics Desktop, a self-service BI tool that is available at no charge, as well as its push into mobile BI, Zolfaghari said.

Mobility has transformed the BI market, in Zolfaghari’s view. Five or six years ago, companies largely ran some internal reports and rolled the results up the corporate food chain, he said. “What’s happened is BI has now moved massively outside of HQ.”

It’s also likely MicroStrategy will discuss the massively parallel in-memory computing architecture it’s been working on with Facebook. The technology should be commercially available from MicroStrategy later this year, showing up first in MicroStrategy’s cloud BI offering, according to Zolfaghari.

The conference comes as MicroStrategy, the industry’s last remaining large pure BI vendor, faces ever-stiffer competition from platform companies such as Oracle and SAP, as well as upstarts like Tableau and Birst.

But MicroStrategy is keeping an edge thanks to a number of key strategic decisions, according to a recently released Forrester Research report on the BI market.

”MicroStrategy has grown organically and architected its entire suite as a single platform,” analyst Boris Evelson wrote. “Forrester clients find that, after making the initial investment and effort in MicroStrategy, the reusability of all objects and the relational OLAP engine with drill-anywhere capability often result in a lower long-term total cost of ownership.”

Forrester clients are also having success rolling out mobile BI based on MicroStrategy’s platform, Evelson said.

But there’s some cause for concern over MicroStrategy’s “high reliance on a largely disappearing network of partners, many of which have been acquired,” for architectural components such as ETL (extract, transform and load), data quality and MDM (master data management), Evelson added.

Zolfaghari downplayed the impact of its partners being acquired, noting that Informatica, a major provider of such tools, remains independent. MicroStrategy also maintains “robust relationships” with companies such as IBM, SAP and Oracle, he said.

MicroStrategy World runs from Jan. 27-30.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. More by

Data Archaeology Selected as One of the 2014 MicroStrategy World Dashboard Contest Winners

Click here to learn more about MicroStrategy World 2014Hello Readers:

Data Archaeology, Inc.I just found out I am one of the 2014 winners of the MicroStrategy World Dashboard Contest. I was also one of the winners last year.

I get a free pass to MicroStrategy World in Las Vegas which is the last week of this month. Last year, they gave us awards too. Not sure yet if they will do the same this year.

An Exploration of Tax Data

My dashboard is an exploration of tax data. It explores taxes rates for the top ten counties in terms of GDP.

I used horizontal stacked bar charts instead so that the viewer can visually see how social security and income tax rate add up to the total and explains visually why the countries are ordered the way they are on the dashboard. I also separated out $100K and $300K percentages into separate visuals.

In addition, I added the flags of the countries. Yes, I know, chart junk!

Now, you don’t see any numbers on the data points in this dashboard. The reason you don’t see them is because they appear when you mouse over a bar where you then see the country, category and the percent value as a tooltip.

Here is a screenshot of my entry. It was written with MicroStrategy v9.3.1, Report Services and the Visualization SDK.

Best regards,


Click on image to enlarge


MicroStrategy “Data Science to Business Value” – Arpit Agrawal

Note: I received this blog posting in an e-mail. I generally and in principle agree with Arpit in his assessment of MicroStrategy. I thought I would share his thoughts and, if time permits, offer my thoughts in a future blog.

Best Regards,


MicroStrategy “Data Science to Business Value” by Arpit Agrawal (blogged on IT Central Station on August 14, 2013)

When a customer wants to implement BI, there are lots of options available in the market to choose from. The decision depends on various parameters such as  scale of implementation, costing and  performance. They can either go with the open source options, or they can plan towards a paid BI tool. The decision can  also be driven based on strategic factors of the company. I personally don’t believe in tool agnostic approach, I feel every customer has his own BI needs and has some specific requirements. No tool in this world can meet each one of these requirements, but in my experience MicroStrategy provides a complete product, which meets most of the customer requirements. This would be my first product review on a Business intelligence tool “MicroStrategy”

MicroStrategy is a solution provider for enterprise software platform on business intelligence. When we talk about MicroStrategy the first thought that comes into my mind is the core focus of the company, which is to deliver Business intelligence solutions, unlike other companies, which have their focus on different horizons. This, in my opinion, is the core strength of MicroStrategy as a company. Mike Saylor (CEO) gave similar insights in the MicroStrategy World conference. According to him the biggest advantage of MicroStrategy as a company is that they are the largest independently owned BI platform. There are a lot of companies in the market who acquire small firms to improve their technology and product, but MicroStrategy is not one of them. The fact that MicroStrategy has resisted the temptation to build a technology portfolio through acquisitions has become their core strength. They always believed in their core framework and everything was developed by their own team. According to the BI Survey 12, conducted by German-based Business Application Research Center (BARC), MicroStrategy has received the highest ranking in numerous KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) such as  total Performance, user Recommendation, mobile, query performance, data volumes and  big data.

MicroStrategy has a deep market penetration and is regularly used for industry level solutions in different domains such as  Retail, Healthcare, Banking, Manufacturing, Social Media etc. There are lots of key advantages of using MicroStrategy which I will elaborate verbosely.

  • Core functionality and Ease for Development – Having worked on different reporting platforms, I feel that most of the functionality is directly available out of the box in MicroStrategy. MicroStrategy platform supports distributed development so many developers can work on the project at a given time. Most of objects are reusable and their definition can be reused across other business areas. It also has extensive control on formatting of reports / dashboard. It supports as many number of databases and next generation database along with multi sourcing. The security architecture of MicroStrategy makes designing and implementation very powerful. You can have row level, object level, application level, and all different forms of security. Any developer with a fair amount of development experience in MicroStrategy would be able to list down product features and limitations. Although limitations of the tool are not much but there are functionalities which can be handled using SDK.
  • Visual Data discovery – For any BI tool, the ease-of-use is very important along with the sophisticated analytics which can be presented using the best visualization framework. As the size of data is increasing day by day, this is not going to decrease in the near future as well. It has become very important for a BI to analyze these enormous data volumes in a best representable format. Data visualization is driving demand in the business intelligence (BI) market because it’s intuitive and accessible to business users who aren’t schooled in query languages or statistical analysis. MicroStrategy has a strong stand in these areas due to large number of visualizations in their library. This separates MicroStrategy, as a tool, for visual exploration from other competitors. Features like flash widgets and interactive flash PDF export make it very versatile tool. The advance dashboards visualizations make the dashboard appealing and are best way to represent data in a more intuitive format.
  • Impromptu BI – There are customers in the market who look for Impromptu BI as a solution for their BI needs. MicroStrategy provides a solution called as visual insights which meets this purpose and is best suited for such cases. MicroStrategy Visual Insight empowers you to discover insights from your data using compelling visualizations. Users can use any of the out of the box Visualizations or they can create their own custom Visualizations using SDK. Once the base cube is developed it hardly takes 10-20 minutes to create visualizations for the analysis and this is what most business users want these days. They are the people who understand their data and want to play around with the data. Other than visual insights there are solutions developed using Object prompt where user has an option to select what they want to view in a report. This makes MicroStrategy stand out in front of other competitors.
  • Mentoring and support offering – For any business intelligence tool the level and depth of customer support is becoming increasingly critical as BI becomes more integrated into organizations’ operations. Better product support results in higher application success rates and helps to ensure customers get full value from their Investments. MicroStrategy on that note has one of the best customer support offering in the industry. This helps you to report your issues and business cases enhancements to MicroStrategy which can be taken into consideration for the subsequent release/hotfix/patch depending on your business impact. The support offering also helps in providing solutions to MicroStrategy developers and Administrators for the issues they face during the development. Striving to maximize the business benefits of a MicroStrategy one should prioritize customer support strategy. Apart from the excellent customer offering MicroStrategy hosts customer trainings events at different Geographic locations as it is important to keep decision makers across the company educated on the tool. End user training and mentoring is very important for success of any BI tool. MicroStrategy also hosts their annual user conference called as “MicroStrategy world” which consists of lot of sessions; it is also a good opportunity for individuals looking for more networking opportunities in MicroStrategy.
  • Performance and stability – MicroStrategy provides unmatched Performance and Stability on a Consolidated BI Platform
  • Social media and big data – MicroStrategy is one of the first vendors to certify integration with Amazon Redshift. MicroStrategy constantly demonstrates leadership and innovation in both major dimensions of Big Data analytics. They are one of the leading innovators in big data space. When we talk about BI, social media analytics cannot be neglected. Many market research firms rely on data from social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get some insights. MicroStrategy’s social intelligence platform includes a number of applications that help enterprises harness the power of social networks for marketing and e-commerce.
  • MicroStrategy Mobile – Michael Saylor, who is the founder of MicroStrategy, has also written a book called “The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything” and I believe that its Saylor’s vision on the Mobile technology that has made MicroStrategy to grow on the Mobile Side. The Mobile App Platform transforms business intelligence reporting from paper or the desktop, to the mobile device.  Workers are no longer chained to their desk, or reliant on paper-based documents that are obsolete by the time they reach their target audience.  Mobile applications provide functionality that is unmatched by paper or a web browser. MicroStrategy has created some really amazing apps for IOS and Android users. They also have a program called Mobile Quick strike for 10 days where they would come up with a fully functional app. It gives customers the confidence in the overall strength of the tool. MicroStrategy’s mobile intelligence platform helps companies and organizations build, deploy, and maintain mobile apps across a range of solutions by embedding intelligence, transactions, and multimedia into apps.
  • Integration and certification with other platforms – MicroStrategy tool is certified with various reporting databases and platforms which makes it easily usable across the organizations. MicroStrategy team adds new certification and support with every release of the product.

Although every tool has some limitations, MicroStrategy is no exception. I will list down a few:

  • Sometimes it can be hard to quantify the ROI (return on investment) on software as the returns come indirectly through the better informed workers and decision makers across the company. The tool can be of limited use for some companies. MicroStrategy system still cannot be afforded by most of the companies. When they plan to buy this product they have various purchase options wherein the cost would be around some hundred dollars per user if they plan to go for a user based license or it can go as high as a million dollars for a CPU based license depending on the performance they want from their system. Although, in the past few years MicroStrategy has started modifying their services towards medium and small-sized industries, but the fact is that many of such firms do not consider them to be highly essential as its hard to quantify the ROI.This stands true for other paid tools as well and that is the reason open source tools are getting some market share these days
  • Having worked as a developer on MicroStrategy, I see Impact Analysis as a pain point area in MicroStrategy. MicroStrategy is an object-oriented tool and in this world of business, change is something which is inevitable, so in case there is a request for change and you need to find the impact of the object in MSTR, it does a recursive search and doesn’t give the list of objects in one view which makes very difficult for any developer to know the overall impact of the object inside a big project implementation. Unlike other BI tools which list down all the objects dependent on a particular object in a single view which can be exported into excel for tracking the change and validation of test cases.
  • Version control is not a strong point for MicroStrategy and I feel there is a scope of improvement in this area.
  • Development in MicroStrategy is done mostly using desktop though they have included lot of features with their latest release in web but I feel full support of web-based development is important and would improve with  the future release.
  • A pain point for some organizations these days is to find a good MicroStrategy resource. Getting a Cognos/BO/OBIEE expert from the IT market is comparatively easier than finding a good MicroStrategy resource.

These are some advantages and disadvantages of the tool. Compared to the advantages the disadvantages are some minor improvements which i feel would be taken care in future releases. I haven’t listed granular details as I wanted to keep this review at a high level for product understanding. There are lots of features which one can explore. When you do the contemplate MicroStrategy is a great product over all. To conclude you should never forget “Owning a supercomputer gives you a special feeling but the question is, Are you really using it for what it is intended to?”

Hope this review helps customers who are preparing their BI strategy. In case you need more insights, or you are planning for a BI implementation and have some questions do write to me on my e-mail. I would be more than happy to help.

Disclosure: The company I (Arpit) work for is partners with several vendors.

The review is based on my professional experience and in case you feel that any information is inaccurate please do point it out so that i can rectify the same.

MicroStrategy World Europe 2013 – CEO Michael J. Saylor Keynote Video

This past week, MicroStrategy World Europe 2013 was held in Barcelona, Spain. As usual, Michael Saylor, Founder and CEO of MicroStrategy, Inc. provided the keynote address of the conference.

I have listened to Michael’s presentation today and want to think about it a bit before I post some commentary.

In the meantime, here is a link to the video of his presentation. Just click on the image below.



[Click image to watch video presentation]

[Click image to watch video presentation]

Apollo Group Wins Excellence in Dashboard Design Award at MicroStrategy World 2013


On Tuesday evening, January 29th, 2013, Apollo Group was bestowed the Excellence in Dashboard Design Award at MicroStrategy World 2013. Their entry, a Student Performance Dashboard, was based on portions of the top three entries in Stephen Few’s Dashboard Design Contest that was held last year. Unlike those entries in Stephen’s contest, which were designed in Photoshop and Excel, Apollo Group’s entry was design using MicroStrategy v9.2.1 and the Visualization SDK (Adobe Flash Builder Professional v4.0.1/Flex SDK v4.1). Apollo Group’s entry was one of the top 5 entries (no order given) based on 89 submissions; There were also several other entries that received Honorable Mention.


My entry for the MicroStrategy World 2013 Dashboard Contest is a prototype of a Student Performance Dashboard. This dashboard will be part of a new suite of higher education products and services that collect and organize key operational and performance data that deliver actionable metrics and analytics. This new suite of products is known as Apollo’s Education-as-a-Service (EaaS) and is referred to as AES.

The actual implementation of this dashboard would be used by faculty to show all of the student performance data, for a specific class, on a single screen with the goal for the instructor to immediately visually understand the key performance metrics and take action on them.

Back in August of this year, Stephen Few, data visualization evangelist and author of the seminal book, Information Dashboard Design, announced a contest to design a dashboard following best practices and principles. The contest required participants to design the dashboard using student performance and assessment data that Stephen provided. Any graphic design tool (e.g., Photoshop, InDesign and Excel) or BI tool could be used to create the dashboard.

The winners were announced in October of this year. There were 91 entries. The contest focused more on innovative dashboard design principles rather than the use of BI tools. The winners and the tool they used are:

1st Place:           Jason Lockwood     Photoshop
2nd Place:          Shamik Sharma      Excel 2010
3rd Place:          Joey Cherdarchuk   Excel 2010

To the best of my knowledge (and Stephen’s), none of the participants used MicroStrategy to create their dashboard. A few of the participants did use Tableau and SAS. This fact alone made me want to create an innovative dashboard to demonstrate the capabilities of MicroStrategy (Disclaimer: I am not an employee of MicroStrategy and chose to use this tool since it is our internal standard BI tool. I am not endorsing MicroStrategy or any other tool for the purpose of creating this dashboard).

Each of the three winning designs contained elements the Apollo Group was interested in for our proposed Student Performance Dashboard for EaaS. I wanted to be able to incorporate elements from each of these winning dashboards into a single dashboard so that I had a prototype to show our internal business partners. In addition, I wanted to be able to demonstrate to them the capabilities of MicroStrategy.

Stephen Few is using the examples from his contest in the second edition of his book, Information Dashboard Design, which should be out later this year. I have been a big fan of Mr. Few’s for many years and encourage you to purchase this book once it is published to see and read more in-depth insights on the dashboards created for his contest. I also highly encourage you to visit his blog at

Below is a screenshot of our award-winning MicroStrategy version of this dashboard. I have also attached a PDF file of my summary overview of the dashboard that I submitted as part of my entry to MicroStrategy.

Apollo Group Student Performance Dashboard - Large

Click on Image to Enlarge


My next goal is to create this dashboard in Tableau v8.0. Part of my reasoning for using v8.0 is to take advantage of their new JavaScript API.

Best regards,



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