Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix – Part Two

Despite some missteps and a thorough hammering by technology writers and customers alike, we can still learn from Netflix.

Netflix on iPhone

In part one of Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix (see related article, Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix – Part One), I shared a negative lesson about what Netflix is doing “wrong”. In this post, I’d like to look at something that Netflix is doing right. I figured now would be a good time to finally finish this article since Netflix has been declared “broken” (see related CNET article, Netflix is ‘broken’ with no fix in sight) and it’s stock price is spiralling downward.

No, I’m not going to talk about pricing. And I’m not going to talk about selection. Let’s talk about accessibility. You can watch Netflix virtually anywhere. You can watch Netflix on the three popular gaming consoles: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii. You can watch Netflix from an Internet connected HDTV or Blu Ray player. You can watch Netflix on your phone or tablet. You can watch Netflix from a dedicated television appliance like Apple TV, Roku, and Tivo.

Have you thought about all the technology required to make this possible? Ryan Lawler has and wrote an interesting article about Netflix’s innovative use of WebKit and HTML5 (see related GigaOm article, How Netflix uses WebKit and HTML5 for TV devices).

Netflix currently has three tiers of devices based on their configurations, with the lowest tier having zero animation and small cache sizes. On the top end, devices have animations, large cache sizes and frequent pre-fetching of data. According to the presentation, all devices start in the middle tier and are then throttled up or down based on performance.

What are the lessons for business intelligence? Analytics anywhere! For the past year we’ve heard SAP’s co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagermann Snabe talk about “on-premise, on-demand and on-device”.

SAP BusinessObjects can deliver business intelligence to a web browser, to an email inbox, to Microsoft Excel, to the HDTV hanging from the wall in your distribution center, or to a mobile device. But it can only do these things if enabled by you, the organizations that deploy SAP BusinessObjects.

I’ve noticed a bit of reluctance in IT organizations. Mobile? Nope, nobody has asked us for that. We’ll wait until they do and then tell our users that they’ll have to wait months for us to implement a project. Web Intelligence Desktop (formerly Rich Client)? Live Office? Nope, that’s client software. We don’t deploy that here (despite the fact that Microsoft Excel is, um, client software).

Just as Netflix doesn’t care if you own a Nintendo Wii or an Apple TV, you shouldn’t care if your users prefer browsers or spreadsheets. What you should care about is if they are basing their decision making on an accurate, single version of the truth. If your C-level executives carry iPads, you had better carry one, too.  If your users live in Microsoft Excel, decide if Web Intelligence Desktop, Live Office, Analysis edition for Microsoft Office or some combination best meets their needs. Meet your users where they live and give them a tailored experience for their preferred environment.

What steps are you taking to deploy Netflix, uh, I mean, business intelligence everywhere?  Share your thoughts below.

Read Part One of Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix

Author: Dallas Marks

I am a business intelligence architect, author, and trainer. I help organizations harness the power of analytics, primarily with SAP BusinessObjects products. An active blogger, SAP Mentor and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting about business intelligence.

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