At its recent customer event held in London, Actuate CEO Pete Cittadini outlined a major overhaul of its market messaging. It’s an effort designed to give more clarity to Actuate’s position and focus and includes, amongst other things, a new positioning statement (the company now refers to personalised analytics and insights), a revamped website aligned to the look and feel and UI of its tools, and a condensed set of marketing messages focused around the three core market segment it targets.
The latter initiative is, I believe, a particularly worthwhile endeavour. The company’s gradual growth and evolution over the years has left it with a surprising amount of brand and product names. The upshot of which meant it wasn’t always clear and easy for some to grasp the company’s core capabilities and what it actually delivers to the market. Actuate wants to change this and so, as part of this marketing effort, it has distilled what it focuses on down to three target segments:
- Personalised Business Analytics – comprising Birt Analytics, a visual analytics offering designed for business analysts or advanced users who need to pinpoint trends and patterns in their data;
- Customer-facing applications – targeted at developers, IT managers, software development engineers and OEM’s that want to embed reporting artefacts within rich media or web applications using BIRT (the report designer and runtime engine) and BIRT iHub (Actuate’s Integrated Development Environment for building and deploying reporting and visualisation applications);
- Content Services – provides content management architects with capabilities (using Birt Content Services) for archiving, storing, distributing and managing high volume print and online output.
The last two capabilities reach out and target what could be considered Actuate’s legacy audience—that is, developers, OEMs, data architects and the like, many of whom operate in the embeddable Java development market and community. For example the company has 40,000 BIRT community members and provides software to more than three million BIRT developers and OEMs. But these aren’t necessarily the people it needs to target for its personalised business analytics offering.
Based on technology acquired from Quiterian in October 2012, Birt Analytics is a relatively new venture for the company. It signals a move towards supporting business analysts and power users—typically marketing users—who need a visual and interactive interface for performing activities such as building customer segmentations, campaign analysis and targeting, market basket analysis and forecasting.
The problem is that this audience are unlikely to have heard of Actuate (or Birt for that matter) and therefore don’t automatically associate the company with delivering and supporting analytic offerings. This remains the challenge for Actuate. Its size and general market awareness mean it has its work cut out, especially when you consider it’s up against players that range from big advanced analytics vendors such as IBM and SAS, to those who focus on the data visualisation and discovery such as Qliktech and Tableau. That said, Actuate does recognise this challenge and is investing in the recruitment and re-orientation of its sales force to build up its marketing analytics domain expertise and target more business users and departments.
But if Actuate gets it right it has the potential to fill a much needed requirement in the market—the need to bring the power of analytics into the hands of less specialised users (those who are not data scientists or statisticians). Visual analytics is certainly one way to do this and, while the company is never really going to compete with the sophisticated analytic capabilities of SAS and IBM SPSS, it has the potential to provide a more niche, but nonetheless valuable, function for marketing campaign targeting and analysis. In doing so it will also need to improve the integration and handover points between the Birt Analytics platform and other third party marketing operation and automation systems such as Marketo and Neolane, which are also responsible for campaign planning and execution.
Increased traction and success in the market will also bring customer validation and proof points that build awareness and credibility in the space. We look forward to monitoring the company’s progress toward achieving these aims.