My First Users Group Meeting

I think it’s going to be an unusually early night for me, because it was an unusually early morning for me today. Before I crash, though, I did want to talk a little bit about the MicroStrategy Users Group Meeting that was the reason for my early morning. (Just in case you missed today’s flurry of Twitter traffic.)

First, some backstory: I’ve been working with the MicroStrategy application for about eight months now. Before that, my only reporting experience was with MS Access, and I had no real Business Intelligence (BI) knowledge to speak of. Now, I’m finally to the point where I feel I can implement a simple project from start to finish on my own. Just about. So, I knew I wasn’t going to get a whole lot out of today’s presentations, from a technical standpoint, but I also knew it would be helpful to get an idea of how other companies are using the software and what’s possible with it. Plus, despite the four hours in the car, I actually welcomed a chance to get paid to go someplace different and do something besides work at my desk and go to meetings.

There were three presentations: one about Supply Chain Management and BI, by an employee of Spartan Stores; one about using Narrowcast (a proprietary report distribution service), by an employee of Borders; and one about BI and Geography, by an employee of GM.

Frankly, I was surprised that such companies used this software. It’s hard to get much info about MicroStrategy online, since the manuals and help files and training info is all copyrighted material. I guess I assumed that a lack of search hits — besides press releases, that is — meant that the platform wasn’t popular. Apparently I was mistaken, as there were two dozen employees at our User Group meeting, representing eight or more companies, including the three listed above.

The Supply Chain presentation, while informative and interesting, was not something I could translate to my projects and experience at work. The Narrowcast presentation was more potentially useful, but since I’m not a Narrowcast expert, I could only take a few notes and hope that I can get my supervisor a copy of the presentation for later.

GM’s presentation, while generally overarching and not technical, was eye-opening. The presenter basically listed all the things they track in their databases, mainly thanks to the technology of OnStar, coupled with a popular mapping software subscription service. We were proudly told that GM can pinpoint the location of a vehicle so closely as to identify its current parking space. We were told lots of things, most of which had little to do with possibilities for our own BI, and had instead to do with how much data GM has regarding its vehicles and business in general. Granted, we did see the ease with which this data can be aggregated into useful information via MicroStrategy. Mostly, though, our reactions were a combination of, “Wow, you can track how many times the car has cycled from a cold motor to a warm motor and back?” and, “So, you say only a court injunction can force you to disclose all this information you’ve collected?”

I did record audio of all three presentations with my digital point-and-shoot as a bit of an experiment; however, I think the experiment was a bit of a failure, as they’re not entirely listenable. I might go through with my plan to tweak the audio a little and burn them to CD for my supervisor, since she couldn’t make it to the meeting, but I’m not sure.

Either way, it won’t happen tonight. I’m surprised I’m still awake, honestly. I don’t generally get up before the sun. Not during Daylight Savings Time, anyway.