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Sisense's Orad stepping down, Katz named new CEO

With the embedded analytics specialist recently reaching important financial milestones, the vendor's longtime leader is handing over stewardship to its current head of product.

Sisense on Thursday revealed that longtime CEO Amir Orad is stepping down and Ariel Katz will take his place.

Orad joined Sisense, an analytics vendor based in New York City and specializing in embedded BI, in 2015 and served as CEO his entire eight years with the company, following more than four years as CEO of CX and analytics software vendor Nice Actimize.

He will remain with Sisense as executive chairman of the board, where he will continue working with the company on strategic initiatives and serve as an adviser to Katz.

Katz first joined Sisense as a strategic adviser in 2021 and was named chief products and technology officer in July 2022.

Before Sisense, Katz -- who has 25 years of experience in technology -- spent 13 years at Microsoft, including nearly four as general manager of Power BI and nearly four more as a general manager of the Dynamics 365 CRM platform.

The timing

While there was no obvious indication Orad was preparing to step down, the appointment of Katz as Sisense's new CEO appears to be planned well and makes sense, according to Doug Henschen, an analyst at Constellation Research.

His resume includes ... roles overseeing large and important product lines including Power BI. Those product lines are as big or bigger than many companies in terms of revenue and numbers of customers, so I'd call it a solid foundation for taking the reins at Sisense.
Doug HenschenAnalyst, Constellation Research

"It seems like a routine transition with Ariel Katz having joined through a board advisory role and then serving for nearly 10 months as chief technology and product officer," he said. "That suggests thoughtful leadership succession planning, not an abrupt change."

Henschen added that Orad helped Sisense stand out in a crowded analytics field that includes vendors such as Tableau and Qlik as well as platforms such as Power BI that are managed by tech giants.

Meanwhile, he noted that Katz's professional history suggests he has the potential to be a strong successor.

"His resume includes 15 years at Microsoft, with the second of his two stints there featuring general manager roles overseeing large and important product lines including Power BI," Henschen said. "Those product lines are as big or bigger than many companies in terms of revenue and numbers of customers, so I'd call it a solid foundation for taking the reins at Sisense."

Sisense's CEO transition comes after the company reached some important financial milestones.

In 2022, Sisense, which was founded in 2004, achieved sustained profitability for the first time after making it a priority in 2021, according to Orad; Sisense is privately held and therefore does not publicly disclose its earnings report.

In addition, Sisense said its public cloud embedded analytics platform achieved double-digit growth last year.

Beyond financial milestones, Sisense was among the first analytics vendors to unveil an integration with ChatGPT, the generative AI tool from OpenAI that quickly gained worldwide interest.

It also launched an integration with Git that enables continuous integration/continuous delivery as developers create and update applications. It developed a multi-tenant environment that lets organizations personalize their Sisense deployment in different ways for different users, and it enhanced its embedded BI capabilities so that customers can use the vendor's Extense Framework with any workplace application.

Amir Orad, executive chairman, SisenseAmir Orad

That solid financial position coupled with the vendor's product development trajectory made this the right time for Orad to step down and Katz to take on the role of CEO, according to Orad.

"What I learned over the years is that there are only two times that leadership changes at a company -- when things are good, or when things are bad, and not in between," he said. "Things are good. We are growing. We became profitable at the end of last year, and we are building our next wave of capabilities."

That next wave will center around developers, a new target persona for Sisense, Orad continued.

"Ariel and I have been working together for almost two years and thinking how we can take the company to the next level," he said. "It made perfect sense that when things are good and we're about to [focus on] the developer ecosystem, that the person who has been driving that take over the company and maximize the impact."

Vision for the future

As he takes over as CEO of Sisense, Katz said his vision for the company is to continue to make embedded analytics a priority, while adding tools to better enable developers.

He noted that Sisense already provides APIs for developers, but it will add SDKs that enable developers to not only embed BI products in applications, but also build those applications.

Ariel Katz, CEO, SisenseAriel Katz

"My goal is to take [Sisense] to the next level of growth, and that has to do with developers," Katz said. "Most of the customers ... talk more and more about developer-led growth, about how to enable developers to use our product as part of the natural way they develop software. It's really about driving developer delight as opposed to just delivering APIs. It's about SDKs."

Katz added that he did not envision becoming Sisense's CEO when he joined the company, but was instead attracted to the company because of its focus on embedded analytics.

He spent part of his career at Microsoft working on Power BI, which emphasized reports and dashboards during his tenure. Over time, however, new ways have emerged to deliver data to business users and broaden the use of analytics across organizations beyond about one-quarter of the workforce, with embedded BI one of the most promising.

"I never had a specific ambition to be a CEO," Katz said. "I'm passionate about delivering innovations with software ... and just recently got the offer to be the CEO."

With Katz assuming the role of CEO, Sisense's continued emphasis on embedded analytics with the addition of a new focus on developers is a sound strategy, according to Henschen.

Staff turnover, however, has been a problem for Sisense, so an emphasis on stability could be valuable, he added.

"The embedded push and effort to reach developers where they are -- in GitHub, for example -- has been a big positive for Sisense, so I would keep those efforts going," Henschen said. "There has been a bit of turnover in product management, marketing and communications roles in recent years, so continuity and more consistency in communications and outreach would be beneficial."

Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.

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