MicroStrategy is a long-standing business intelligence and analytics vendor that operates worldwide. Founded in 1989, this publicly traded company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue recently held its first in-person conference since prior to the pandemic. Similar to previous in-person events, the event was well attended by about 2,000 attendees and exhibitors. The theme, “MicroStrategy One,” is a way to explain the breadth of capabilities the company offers. The breadth of the product offering is one of the company’s greatest strengths, but also one of its biggest challenges.
MicroStrategy initially offered reporting and dashboarding, and these capabilities continue to be the most important type of analytics used today. Its original claim to fame was its relational online analytical processing (ROLAP) capabilities. While many other vendors were developing and marketing multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP) products, MicroStrategy invested in performing analytics directly on relational databases. To do this requires very complex SQL operations which are generated automatically by the product. Over time, others adopted a similar approach, particularly as big data became more prevalent and MOLAP products had trouble scaling to meet these requirements. MicroStrategy now includes highly optimized MOLAP structures as well, but its foundation of database independence and partnering with database vendors as the keepers of the data remains one of its core tenets.
The company recognized and has kept up with evolving market requirements and developments over the years. MicroStrategy’s expanded analytical capabilities include interactive visualization, alerting and notifications, distribution and subscription services and integration with Microsoft Office via add-ins. MicroStrategy also supports augmented analytics in several forms including automatically generated insights and natural language processing. Users can create visualizations with natural language queries by typing their questions into a search bar and seeing charts and graphs with the results. Natural language generation is also supported through integration with third-party products. To bring artificial intelligence (AI) together with BI, MicroStrategy offers integration with RStudio and Jupyter notebooks to support developers. And to support embedded analytics, the product provides a robust set of APIs including RESTful APIs and embedded Python capabilities.
One of MicroStrategy’s more innovative offerings is HyperIntelligence, which enables users to access analytics via pop-up hypercards directly within other applications. We found this capability interesting enough to name MicroStrategy the 2019 Overall Digital Innovation Award winner. HyperIntelligence capabilities can be accessed from browser-based applications, Microsoft Office Applications and mobile devices. These new mobile capabilities complement MicroStrategy’s native mobile applications for iOS and Android. The company was also one of the first to recognize the need to integrate analytics with transactional systems and to provide a set of transactional services that can help drive insights into actions. The product also includes collaborative analytics capabilities with threaded discussions and comments on analyses.
While the company has always been open to various data sources on the back end as noted above, they have more recently become open on the front end as well. MicroStrategy has always had a rich semantic model in order to create an abstraction from the underlying databases. The semantic model is also used to generate the SQL to access the various data sources. And the semantic model can now be accessed via Microsoft Power BI, Qlik and Tableau. Our research has shown the value of semantic models in analytics with correlation to a range of benefits including more satisfaction with analytics and a greater percentage of the workforce using them.
At the event, MicroStrategy shared a roadmap of a broad range of enhancements across three categories: core analytics, augmented intelligence and AI. In the core analytics area, highlights include enhanced governance and reusability in the authoring process, more personalization to tailor analyses to individuals and the ability to author analyses within Microsoft PowerPoint. In augmented intelligence, highlights include assistance and suggestions while authoring analyses, a hub that generates insights on the changes in the data since it was last reviewed and on streaming data. In the AI category, the focus was on using generative AI to enhance many aspects of the product and its usage. MicroStrategy will combine generative AI with the semantic graph and chatbot capabilities to create SQL queries. Generative AI will also be used to help build schemas, create sample/test data and workflows. These roadmap items are planned for the second half of 2023 and subsequent releases.
We didn’t hear about planning or decision intelligence at the event. As I have pointed out, analytics vendors need to provide additional planning and decision intelligence capabilities to support the needs of organizational decision making. I would also like to see MicroStrategy and others using generative AI to provide multilingual NLP capabilities.
You can’t mention MicroStrategy these days without mentioning its adoption of and investment in Bitcoin. The company has adopted Bitcoin as its primary treasury reserve asset and has also borrowed more than $2 billion to invest in Bitcoin. The company’s Bitcoin holdings were recently valued at $3.8 billion. As a result, the company’s stock price tends to follow the fluctuations in Bitcoin value very closely and is no longer a good measure of how the company is performing in the analytics market. It also explains, in part, the separation of the CEO role from Executive Chairman. Michael Saylor, CEO since the company’s founding, will serve as Executive Chairman, focusing more of his attention on Bitcoin related activities while Phong Le, President and CEO, will be running the company’s operations.
MicroStrategy World 2023 reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the BI and analytics markets. It continues to invest in its product portfolio and shared a roadmap of competitive and innovative features. I recommend that organizations seeking an analytics provider that is independent of database management systems and cloud providers consider MicroStrategy.