Settting the radar on Visual Sciences
Comment My recent series of articles on next generation business intelligence has created a lot of interest, not least from vendors thinking they fit the required pattern of capabilities. Perhaps the most interesting of the companies to contact me has been Visual Sciences.
Visual Sciences was launched in 2001 but continued in stealth mode until 2004 and even then it missed my radar because the company has been focusing on web analytics and the last time I took an in-depth look at that market was in 2003.
However, one of the things that is interesting about Visual Sciences is that it was not designed specifically for web analytics and the company only chose to focus on that market because it offered the lowest hanging fruit.
In fact, the company takes the approach that a mouse click, or any other activity on a website, is just an event and the product is really an event querying engine. It thus has more general applicability than just web analytics and the company is actively looking to expand out from this market.
I identified a number of different requirements for next generation BI. One was improved graphics. You will have to believe me when I say that Visual Sciences has cool graphics, but if I tell you that the founders of the company started life as games designers then perhaps that won't come as too much of a surprise.
Another aspect of graphics that I didn't discuss in detail was the need for interactive graphics. That is, the ability to select data from one graph and have that automatically reflected in other relevant charts and tables. You can't usually do this with conventional BI tools because they are flash-based. Anyway, there are a number of companies that can do this, including Spotfire, Advizor Solutions and Visual Sciences.
I went on to talk about the need for being able to query any set of data at any time, without being constrained by OLAP cubes and similar structures. Well, both Advizor and Visual Sciences can do this.
Finally, I suggested that you really didn't want to have a separate tool for real-time operational BI and for conventional BI and this is where Visual Sciences distinguishes itself, because it can operate in both of these environments.
Conventionally, it can take batch inputs but it also has support for real-time data feeds from a website, a communications switch or an applications server, for instance. Or it could be capturing details about trades on capital markets for FIX monitoring, as another example.
Apart from the product there are a number of other aspects of Visual Sciences that are worth mentioning. The first is that In-Q-Tel, which is a sort of investment arm of the CIA, was the company's VC and is a strategic partner. This suggests that the company should have no difficulty in penetrating the government and security sectors. Secondly, it merged with WebSideStory earlier this year and, in fact, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of that company, which is listed on NASDAQ.
Finally, there is the question of price. A typical deal size for Visual Sciences is a median price of $300,000 which means that it does not compete directly with other web analytics vendors, which tend to be around 10 per cent to 20 per cent of that price, and it is likely that, for similar reasons, it will not compete with the likes of Advizor.
Indeed, this is a big corporate solution: but if it looks like a Ferrari and performs like a Ferrari then you can expect to pay Ferrari-like prices.
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