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App development a focus of MicroStrategy analytics platform

The longtime independent vendor is making application development and embedded BI priorities in order to enable data-driven decision-making in real time.

MicroStrategy is making application development a priority of its analytics platform.

Like many analytics vendors now prioritizing SaaS versions of their capabilities over enterprise versions, MicroStrategy now releases updates on a monthly basis rather than quarterly.

In addition, the vendor is continuing to build on top of its 2021 release through 2024. So, during the opening keynote Tuesday of MicroStrategy World 2022, its virtual user conference, the company unveiled a strategic approach to analytics rather than a new version of its platform.

"We're here to unveil a new way of thinking about analytics and business intelligence," said Phong Le, president and CFO of MicroStrategy. The company, founded in 1989, is based in Tysons Corner, Va.

Key to the new way of thinking about analytics and BI is enabling developers with tools to build applications.

"There's a chasm growing in the global economy between companies that understand the power that can be unleashed from the waves of data their business create every second and those that are struggling to keep up," Le said. "These organizations understand that the key to unlocking their data is to empower their developers."

Developers with the right capabilities can act as change agents, he continued.

By building action-oriented analytics applications containing key insights, they can empower business users by embedding those applications in the tools they use on a daily basis to enable agile data-driven decision-making.

As part of its increased focus on application development, MicroStrategy recently unveiled a preview of its revamped Embedding SDK Playground. Once generally available, it will enable developers to more easily embed analytics content in custom-built applications and websites.

Hugh Owen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at MicroStrategy
Hugh Owen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at MicroStrategy, speaks during the opening keynote of MicroStrategy World 2022.

Good reviews for MicroStrategy move

Prioritizing application development, meanwhile, is a logical evolution of the MicroStrategy analytics platform, observers said.

Matt Aslett, an analyst at Ventana Research, noted that given the increasing emphasis organizations are placing on enabling end users with applications embedded with intelligence, focusing on developers is sensible.

It was really interesting to hear about MicroStrategy as effectively an application development platform, which makes sense.
Matt AslettAnalyst, Ventana Research

"I think it was really interesting to hear about MicroStrategy as effectively an application development platform, which makes sense," he said in a breakout session during MicroStrategy World. "It's quite different than what people normally think of when they think about MicroStrategy."

Similarly, MicroStrategy's emphasis on enabling developers and embedded analytics is a good course of action, according to Mike Gualtieri, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"Near and dear to my heart is the developer theme and embedding analytics in every application," he said during a breakout session. "The immediate phrase that comes to mind is 'ambient intelligence,' and that's intelligence and insights that are just there when employees are doing their jobs. That raises the collective IQ of everyone in that organization."

Gualtieri added that insights have a life span. If they're not used before the underlying data changes, they become obsolete, and embedded BI delivers insights to business users when the insights are most relevant.

"The speed of business is so fast now that you don't have the time to think about data -- it has to be in those business process applications," he said. "The notion of activating developers to include analytics, including AI and machine learning models, in applications is key."

Enabling application development to drive data-driven decision-making in real time, however, isn't as simple as designing a new software development kit for application developers.

MicroStrategy has developed four strategic initiatives -- what the vendor is calling "transformations for analytics modernization" -- that when combined enable developers to build secure applications that can then be embedded and safely consumed by end users and enable data-driven decision-making in real time.

In addition, the vendor has designed a series of capabilities that enable organizations to adopt the transformations.

The building blocks

The first transformation is to evolve from dashboards to business applications for analytics consumption.

In addition to the SDK Embedding Playground, capabilities that enable the transition from dashboards to applications include: a governed semantic layer; MicroStrategy Library, an application that enables users to view and present interactive displays for consumption and collaboration without requiring code; and a new applications feature in Workstation that enables organizations to create customized suites of analytics viewing portals for their various departments and groups.

"Engagement with an app encapsulates modern workflows and information-driven engagement with the world," said Hugh Owen, MicroStrategy's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "They're not weekly reports delivered on paper or on spreadsheets but interactive and loaded with intelligence to foster collaboration, and they have a bias toward action."

The second transformation is to embed analytics applications in business processes.

Not everyone in an organization works within the same system, and so not everyone has access to the same applications. In 2019, however, MicroStrategy introduced HyperIntelligence, a zero-click embedded analytics system built on augmented intelligence and machine learning that surfaces customized insights via pop-up cards as users hover over text within their workflows.

Third is to adopt a composable approach to analytics and personalize the experiences of different users to suit their needs. Tools to enable that approach include the Library and Embedding SDK Playground.

Finally, to enable real-time insights and action, organizations need a horizontal approach to analytics, with different applications integrated with each other as opposed to a vertical approach with all capabilities housed in a single environment.

It's an approach that breaks down silos and develops trust, according to Owen. Again, for MicroStrategy, the semantic layer is key, as are the ability to personalize user experiences without sacrificing data integrity using the vendor's platform and its stated commitment to data protection and security.

"We build the platform, and you build the apps," Le said.

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