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Michael Saylor Focuses on the Platform at MicroStrategy World 2017

Selective Focus
Selective Focus

tl;dr: in the world of 2017 where these practical BI issues still reign supreme, a practical Michael Saylor has shown up to preach on MicroStrategy’s capabilities. Both the stock market and MicroStrategy competitors should take notice.

On April 19th, MicroStrategy World 2017 had its executive keynote session in DC. I’ve attended MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR) World in the past as an industry analyst and was interested in seeing how the keynote would come across from afar as an Amalgam Insights (AI) Principal Investigator.

The keynote started with an introduction by CMO Mark Gambill and an interesting demonstration of MicroStrategy Usher being used to track attendee movement across the exhibition hall.

This embedded tracking capability as part of MicroStrategy’s enterprise security solution is an interesting addition from what I had seen in previous years when Usher was initially positioned as a biometric access, authentication, and identity solution. Attendee location and movement is a logical extension that AI believes will be especially helpful for industrial, retail, and enterprise environments with highly trafficked facilities.

As Founder and CEO Michael Saylor took the stage, I was interested in the perspective he would take. In past years, Saylor has been very forward-facing in speaking about the future of mobility, the need for self-service contact centers, and the development of security solutions. Saylor is known for being a strategic thought leader who was prescient in understanding the importance of both mobile and social (in the case of Facebook, especially) very early. But the question is always how focused Saylor can be on the core business.

Saylor started by talking about over 200,000 downloads of MicroStrategy Desktop since October 2016, MicroStrategy’s free data discovery and data preparation tool that serves as a launching point for the MicroStrategy analytics platform. And Microstrategy also claimed 16,000 Jump Start trainings for MicroStrategy 10 since August of 2016.

MicroStrategy also announced a new community that brings MicroStrategy experts and users together. AI will be interested to see how this community is adopted. Like most successful enterprise software solutions, MicroStrategy has matured from the initial stage of excitement and rapid internal adoption to an advanced stage where MicroStrategy is now treated as a core or established product. This maturity leads to the dual challenges of having significant enterprise-grade functionalities (with both the power and complexity inherent in being enterprise-grade) as well as a level of inertia associated with the current level of adoption and utilization. AI believes that this community presents an opportunity both to re-invigorate the customer community and to introduce the significant advancements MicroStrategy has made both as a platform and especially in its mobile and collaborative capabilities where MicroStrategy has been a functional leader in the analytics world for some time.

AI was also interested in seeing the emphasis on MicroStrategy APIs to support a wide array of third-party tools such as Informatica, Paxata, Alation, Colibra, Tableau, and Qlik. In the past, MicroStrategy has sometimes been guilty of trying to do everything by itself. And to some extent, AI believes that this may still be the case when MicroStrategy spoke about not using Excel or PowerPoint internally at meetings. By taking employees away from the tools that the majority of their customers use, AI worries that MicroStrategy may artificially design for the world that they would like to have rather than the world of their customers.

As the keynote continued, Saylor painted more of the picture of the innovation that MicroStrategy could provide across newer use cases such as the Internet of Things focused on the user as well as the practical aspects of how MicroStrategy has been a profitable and cash-positive company over the past decade at a time when competitors have not done so. AI believes that this performance speaks to MicroStrategy’s ability to invest in the future, but wonders how the almost-$600 million in cash will translate into future-facing investments. AI has little doubt that MicroStrategy can continue to be a steady and dependable BI provider for the short and medium future, but believes that the enterprise software space is becoming increasingly aggressive and requires continuous reinvestment both into the platform and partner ecosystem. MicroStrategy faces an interesting challenge in that regard in deciding which areas are best served as potential areas for expansion.

One of the most interesting aspects for AI was the relative lack of attention paid to machine learning at a time when both analytics and software vendors are providing a combination of products, roadmap, vaporware, and hype. To be honest, AI thinks that there are point products that are executing on machine learning well, but that the use of machine learning as an enterprise application development or analytic toolkit is still one-to-two years away because the skill sets are not widely available in the general enterprise world. Saylor and MicroStrategy are not known for being shy or for avoiding key trends, so AI assumes that MicroStrategy is staying deliberately quiet until they have a real product and toolset in place that aligns with enterprise needs for both guided user experience and enterprise analytics usage, especially for using Python in developing embedded machine learning products.

Overall, AI believes that MicroStrategy provided a compelling vision for its ability to support enterprise users as a core BI and reporting product as well as serving as the hub for enterprise analytics around an ecosystem of data prep, data integration, and other self-service analytics products. The continued expansion of Jump Start, community, and Desktop users will be important in expanding the adoption of MicroStrategy in the future. MicroStrategy maintains its strong mobile, embedded, and collaborative BI capabilities and is in a strong position to pursue innovative projects and acquisitions.

The most important takeaway from this keynote was Michael Saylor’s focus on MicroStrategy as a platform and on the fiscal success over the past decade. This was a responsible and practical Saylor, which bodes well for the near-future of MicroStrategy’s execution. MicroStrategy already has a strong offering across core BI, integrations, predictive analytics libraries, cloud-based hosting, embedded BI, mobile BI, collaborative BI, and related data partnerships. The need for enterprise reporting and insights across every department still exists and is restricted both by the challenge of report building and the inability of companies to accurately render reports and dashboards on mobile devices. And in the world of 2017 where these practical BI issues still reign supreme, a practical Michael Saylor has shown up to preach on MicroStrategy’s capabilities. Both the stock market and MicroStrategy competitors should take notice.

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