Pre-Sales Engineers are the stage performers of the IT world; immensely capable, adaptable, confident, excellent communicators who are equally cool in front of large crowds and intimate groups. If you are in a Pre-Sales role, you have the absolute pleasure of showcasing what your product / service / solution can offer to help prospects make an informed decision. Pentaho Pre-Sales Engineers, have numerous discussions everyday with qualified prospects that want to evaluate Pentaho and prove that the software can satisfy their goals. Most prospects are looking for a solution that will help them reduce costs, increase profits and make their businesses function efficiently. Part of my job is to identify a "fit" for these objectives and recommend an approach to take when evaluating. During these discussions I am asked many questions that have definitive answers and some questions that have more than one answer. I thought it would be helpful to share the 3 most common questions asked to my team and I and our responses.
Question 1: What is the most common reason an evaluation or implementation will not be successful?
That answer is quite simple. So simple in fact I wrote a blog entry about it in March 2009. You can view it here. However I will summarize it for you in one word.
People involved in the evaluation process of anything, are the lead cause for its success or failure. There are those who are self sufficient, "read" the provided materials, have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done with little assistance....then there are those that expect everything to be done for them. I elaborate more about this in the fore mentioned blog entry. However, for those who need a lot of hand holding, please be prepared to present clearly identified evaluation criteria to those you will be working with.
Question 2: What skill sets are required to use the Pentaho software?
Answer: I will first state that having Java Engineering skills are not necessary. You do not have to be a Java developer to use Pentaho. This stigma can attach itself to not just Pentaho, but to other "Java" developed platforms. Someone sees the word "Java" somewhere in the Wiki or on the Web and they automatically assume they need to know Java. This is not true. Pentaho is built on modern open standards that are written in Java. All this should mean to you, is that Pentaho provides a cost effective alternative that can run almost anywhere that supports Java.
Primarily, Pentaho training is the #1 skill set needed to really exploit all of the power that the software provides from the GUI design suite. Just like learning anything new, you should attempt to pick up the manual. I certainly wouldn't start driving a car without learning how to operate it first. Other skills that can help are a general understanding of BI technologies and terminology. Relating to terms such as KPI (Key Performance Indicator), RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) metrics, dimensions, operational reporting, analyitcs, dashboards, and even a little acronym known as ETL (Extract Transform and Load). Furthermore, if you want to dive deeper and start embedding, integrating and enhancing the applications...having a Java background or even a simple web development skill set is always a plus.
Question 3: How scalable / performant is your solution?
Answer: I love this one. What answer do you think I am going to give? - Simply stated, your mileage is going to vary and greatly depends on what products you are using. Are you using the software for data integration or content delivery or perhaps both? I don't care if you have the beefiest machine on the block or are paying for the largest cloud, your scalability and performance are going to be dependent on numerous factors. Prospects are usually looking for exact sizing statistics. They want to have some predetermined knowledge of application performance as well as what hardware and software infrastructure they may need to provision. Fortunately, Pentaho has produced the Pentaho Linear Scalability White Paper for the BI platform, and an independent consultancy has created the PDI Scaleout White Paper for Pentaho Data Integration. These documents can give additional insight in setting those expectations. Pentaho Services can also conduct capacity planning sessions with prospects to give an estimate of what can be expected. In addition to the white papers please note that there are a number of real-world scalability customer success stories you can read about on our website.
Thanks for your time, I look forward to answering your questions in person.