Honest Vendor Ratings – Actuate

Introduction

Actuate was founded in 1993, however since 2004 Actuate’s strategy is around providing value-added applications and support for the open source BI platform called BIRT. BIRT was proposed by Actuate in 2004, and this has been the main thrust of the company since that time.

Quality of Information Provided

Actuate has historically provided better than average quality of information to its customers. However, the short-term orientation of the company, combined with the great pressure placed on salespeople is a concern for the future quality of information provided, particularly by sales.

A topic which we discuss in the MUFI Rating & Risk entry for ActuateOne is that Actuate’s management does not seem to know how to position its application during the sales process. Of all the software vendors we analyze, we find Actuate’s one’s decision to position ActuateOne against BI Light vendors, when its strengths are clearly in the BI Heavy area to be the poorest sales strategy we can recall evaluating. This should be of little concern to buyers, as our entry on Actuate recommends that buyers look beyond this flawed positioning, however, it should be a concern to investors in Actuate. Actuate is clearly following a strategy of “what is hot,” rather than based upon Actuate’s actual strengths. We evaluate software for a living, and it took far too long for the picture on Actuate to come into a clear focus. Most buyers are not going to spend as much time as we do evaluate every software vendor, and most will assume – incorrectly as it turns out – that Actuate is simply a lagging BI Light software vendor.

Clarity of Information Provided

We don’t typically have this category for most software vendors, but in this case, we think it’s quite appropriate for Actuate. One issue with Actuate is that it has one of the more complicated messages. There are of course a number of various Actuate products, but then there is the whole BIRT open source issue. Actuate often presents information to prospects as if they want to become deeply attuned to open source, to the BIRT Project, to upcoming BIRT conference, when in fact most are simply looking for a BI solution that can be implemented simply. It took us a significant amount of time to navigate through all of the information regarding Actuate – all to come to the conclusion that it does not matter that much. Actuate has a different way of doing things, but that is less important than the specific performance of their applications. Part of what product marketing is supposed to do is create a clean message. Now, this can be taken to the extreme, such as with SAP or Oracle who is so intent on producing an easily digestible message that their message becomes inaccurate. However, we would have to give low marks to Actuate marketing as they have not been able to simplify a message that really does not need to be as complicated as it is currently.

Consulting and Support

We rank Actuate as better than average in consulting and support. Actuate is not implemented by any of the major consulting companies, a major plus. However, their loss of experienced consulting resources is a cause for concern.

Internal Efficiency

Actuate has a weak management which under revenue pressure has frequently applied low-quality approaches to the company that has come home to roost. Actuate is disorganized internally, and has lost many experienced employees. It is difficult for us to understand what Actuate’s strategy actually is because as discuss with different buyers we get different storylines. We rate Actuate’s internal efficiency as average.

Innovation

Innovation at Actuate was better in the past, but we have scored Actuate as just average in Current Innovation Level because the current management does not seem to understand how to manage a software company.

What Actuate should do in regards to innovation is so obvious it is amazing that Actuate’s management has not made it the dominant strategy for the company. Actuate’s management is wasting its time making acquisitions and trying to offer a “complete offering.” This strategy, we have to admit is marketable to low information buyers, but it has never “worked” in practice for any BI vendor, although it has worked to help software companies market what is a poorly functioning solution. However, the companies that have effectively done this have had major marketing and channel advantages over Actuate. IBM and SAP can push poor quality BI suites because they have these advantages. Large software vendors play by a different set of rules than do smaller software vendors. Actuate is not large enough to follow a strategy employed by the major vendors, and must actually provide solution quality. Actuate’s strengths are in the back end of BI, not the front end. Having Actuate salespeople try to provide demos to customers and impress them with the Actuate’s front end is not working. Actuate needs to rebrand itself as what it actually is, a backend Heavy BI solution that can work in conjunction with a Light BI solution, and can do so at a competitive cost.

Vendor Score

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Software Selection Package for BI Heavy