Big Data, Analytics, BI for Data-Driven Enterprise

OpenBI is a professional services firm focused on helping our customers extract maximum value from their growing data assets. Our transformative services and solutions combine expertise in big data architecture, advanced analytics and best-practice business intelligence system design/deployment. Our staff of experienced data and analytics professionals integrate modern data science techniques with a proven business intelligence approach to deliver results quickly.

We’re considered both innovative and pragmatic by our customers – delivering top-tier intelligence solutions efficiently and economically.

OpenBI is committed to delivering data-driven intelligence to the marketplace through the use of low-cost big data, business intelligence and analytics technologies. We measure success from the business performance improvements of our clients, who attain benefits by leveraging OpenBI’s unique mix of veteran consultants, low-cost technology expertise, and disciplined performance management and data science methodologies.

 
$10,000+
 
$100 - $149 / hr
 
10 - 49
 Founded
2006
Show all +
Chicago, IL
headquarters
  • Inquidia Chicago, IL 60601
    United States
    312.863.8660

Portfolio

Key clients: 

New York Times

edo Interactive

Intelligent Insites

BradsDeals

BlueCava

Reviews

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Data Warehousing Work for Major Newspaper

"They combine product development and a strategic mindset into their solution design."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
4.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$1,000,000 - $9,999,999
Project summary: 

OpenBI created a Pentaho business information system to create detailed reports for advertisements of a major newspaper. The team has worked on several projects in this relationship.

The Reviewer
 
1001-10,000 Employees
 
New York City Metro Area
Head of Business Intelligence, Major Newspaper
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The team has obvious experience in the field and knows reporting capabilities and options inside-out. OpenBI has an extensive knowledge of corporate environments and is able to hone in on the specific needs of each project and provide great advice.

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company.

We are a major American newspaper with subscribers around the country and world.

What is your role and responsibilities?

I’m the head of the business intelligence department. Underneath business intelligence, there are five sub-departments that make up the business intelligence department. There are the acquisition, which is your traditional data warehouse, governance, and auditing. We have built custom, proprietary tracking technologies. We also have a data visualization and reporting team. We also have a machine learning data group as well. 

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge did OpenBI help your organization address?

We got involved with OpenBI in approximately 2009. We have an internal advertisement system that we maintain, and we wanted to provide reporting capabilities on that platform. In the past, developers have created some reporting capabilities, but they’re very bare-boned and minimal. When people think of reporting, they think they’ll calculate some numbers and out comes a report. Obviously, that wasn’t meeting the need. Our stakeholders and users were getting frustrated because they wanted to get more insights out of their reports, not just understanding the number crunching and the numbers at their face value.

They wanted to look at things in aggregate and by a couple of other dimensions that they had. So, we started looking at different platforms. One of the early contenders was Pentaho, so we decided to use that for our digital advertisement revenue business.

We didn’t realize that until our engagement with OpenBI because we were trying to look for the best partner in putting these together. We didn’t want to hire a consulting firm that put up a couple of reports. We wanted to provide a fully stacked BI [business information] system for advertisement folks due to the frustration. It wasn’t just putting in reporting capability and calling it a day. We had to solve the business problems.

Overall, OpenBI is not like a traditional staff augmentation company. If you already know what you want, I don’t know if OpenBI is the right team to engage. They don’t provide manpower, although they can. They don’t really enjoy just the staff augmentation piece of it, and it’s not where their expertise is, either. They’re not necessarily the people crunching through data just to produce results. Where they do bring in a lot of value is they obviously have a lot of experience in the field. They have done BI for so long that they know inside and out what it really means to put a reporting capability on top of any platform.

With their experience, they can navigate corporate environments easily because they’ve seen so much of it, whether it’s run by technology owners or business owners. They can have that conversation in a very productive way. They combine product development and a strategic mindset into their solution design. They set up the customer interviews and try to understand what the customer is trying to do and wants to do. The days of traditional reports are pretty much ended now. People don’t want to look at the number. There is always an underlying story that they’re really after. If you are a product owner or a decision maker, it’s rare that you check the numbers just for their face value. You can check to see if the promise of, say 35,000 users being redirected really occurred. This is different from trying to understand how you prioritize the product development, and how you take the insights from your data to come up with better and more compelling products. To me, that is the hardest part.

A very experienced analyst who has been with the company for a long time, or who has been in that situation for a long time, can really tease out those questions from product owners, business users, or stakeholders, and business intelligence is very much a technology department. By stakeholders, I really mean business users who are essentially funding this work. It’s hard to get them to get them to tell us exactly what they want. Often, business users think they need to speak your language, the language of data and technology, in order to get what they want out of it in that process.

The problem is that they turn their questions into technology solutions, which isn’t what they want in the first place.

Many times, when people talk to technology people, they say they want to be able to see the distinct users by any ad campaign on any particular content type, or content category that’s on our side by the author of that content. Because of the nature of BI, you really can’t do that because that means that if you want to count users, you have to keep data at the lowest grain. The volumes that we deal with for the users, the cardinality of that data would have been impossible to accomplish a few years back.

This is opposed to really understanding what data is needed by the trafficker of the advertisements, operations manager, or ad sales staff, so they can do their job better. They don’t necessarily need data in every single permutation. Because they’re trying to fold it into a technology question, they end up designing a solution that may not necessarily work for them. On the other hand, OpenBI was able to hone in on customer satisfaction.

Also, they look at open source technologies more favorably than closed source technologies. It’s a tremendous benefit for any organization to go toward an open source solution. Obviously, saving money is a big win. There is a bigger win than that. Many people don’t realize that the newspaper is more of a technology company than a media firm. Any company that has a big reliance on technology will have a big developer shop. In that engineering culture, open source technologies are part of the culture for retention, for creative development, for growth. This is what excites engineers. I think that was the best investment we made, in looking into a lot of open source tools. Our company has released many open source tools.

In our experience with OpenBI, they are slightly more expensive than an offshore firm. I think the quality certainly speaks louder than words. They bring so much quality to the table.

SOLUTION

Please describe OpenBI's work in more detail.

OpenBI was able to tease out what the KPI, or key performance indicators, and key performance metrics should be. We have built a lot of cubes for understanding our revenue, how the flight was performing through advertising systems. We built certain cubes to do forecasting if our inventory is really matching up to our expectations.

OpenBI has provided resources on site to handle these data needs. They also provide great advice about our BI efforts and how to harness the data. 

Independently, we engaged OpenBI, and it turned out that they were partners with Pentaho. They recommended OpenBI, and we told them we already engaged them. OpenBI helped us put together a full BI stack. It was a small data warehouse that essentially maintains our internal advertisement data and the ability to combine data sets.

What was your process for selecting OpenBI with which to work?

We started looked at whether we could engage with a consulting firm. When we were looking at a variety of consulting firms, OpenBI was prominently mentioned by some of our colleagues, some friends we have in our network, and as well as by Pentajo as well.

Can you provide a ballpark dollar figure for the size of the work that they’ve done for you?

Because we put this reporting capability on a very foundational pillar of our system, they had required three full-time OpenBI people for about a year to get to where we were. From that point on, to maintain that footprint and continue to deliver value to our customers, we had one full-time OpenBI staff here as well as some architects on a part-time basis. We have two full-time and one part-time OpenBI staff members helping us out on different projects.

When was the latest milestone completed for that work?

It’s been about five years, since about 2009. The projects have been fairly sizable, meaning that it’s a reporting capability for a very mainstream technology that’s in the middle of our business line. It’s not a new CRM [customer relationship management] that we’re putting together and just needs some reports for the call center. It has been fairly complicated and more involved work.

That was the pleasure; the quality versus quantity. We had a similar project where we were redoing our CRM, moving from one CRM to another open source CRM. As part of that project, we engaged with another consulting agency, and that agency ended up engaging about five full-time people. That was for about seven months when we had about five engineers.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Do you have any statistics or metrics to track improvement from the project?

The level of satisfaction with most vendors, on a scale of zero to 10, is about six. With OpenBI, it’s about nine or 10. To a department head, that’s what you really want. You want your customers to be very happy and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Is there anything unique about them that really makes them stand out, compared to other companies?

If I look at other consulting firms, there are a few things that stand out between OpenBI and other consultants in this space. They definitely have a lot more experience than a lot of consulting firms out there claiming that they have BI experience. They have a very heavy emphasis on statistics and data. You have a lot of data engineers rather than software engineers. It’s a very different mindset. If you’re in the BI field, you live and breathe it. It’s hard for someone to see from an outside perspective that it’s very important to have data engineers rather than software engineers. This is because you’re solving for data problems, not necessarily software problems. It’s hard to explain to a lot of people, but for somebody in the BI space, they tend to appreciate it very much.

To me, their focus on open source platforms and software definitely makes them more favorable to me than any other organization that is trying to sell us on different things, such as Talend or Informatica. Using open source technologies where applicable is fantastic. I think it’s a fairly small shop, and I think they communicate effectively to each other. If there’s anything happening in OpenBI because it’s a small company, they don’t have that communication barrier yet. They are very effective and are up to date on the newest technologies much sooner than other consulting agencies.

They are not overly salesmen. In a lot of consulting firms that I deal with, they are always trying to get the fish on the hook. They are different. If their contract ends tomorrow, they just need to know that, and they can move on. They’re not trying to milk it so they can stay here as long as they can. It’s in our contracts that they can’t talk about us as a client. They are not overly pushy, and they don’t start giving us pitches on what needs to happen. It’s very refreshing to have people just come in and say, “Here’s a problem. We’re going to crush it like a walnut,” and just leave it at that. They don’t try to sell me on what they think we need throughout the year. They make their capabilities well known, and it’s up to the company to figure out what happens next.

Looking back on the work so far, is there any area that you think they could improve upon or that you might do differently?

In some cases, that lack of salesmanship could hurt them. If they’re capable of putting in Tableau on the server that we were thinking about, but never thought to discuss it with them, those are the things you tend to miss. The other side of it is the cost. They are expensive, and they are more expensive than traditional consulting companies in that space.

They also have younger staff, not in terms of age, but staff that doesn’t have a lot of experience in the past. That means the people are passionate when they’re learning new things, and they are passionate and enthusiastic. But, the downside is the retention. We have had some of the OpenBI team members who came to New York from Chicago to help on the New York Times project, and ended up leaving for a bigger and better company within New York. That was a small negative, but it was not to the point where it has impacted us greatly, but it was there.

The positive side to that is that they deal with those issues much more professionally and adequately than other consulting firms that I have encountered. Some of these firms were fairly large. These are not mom-and-pop shops. OpenBI is good about bouncing back and having a plan. If someone is leaving, before they announce it to us, they have a fully worked-out plan that they are putting in place, so we don’t have to pay for the fact that someone has to be replaced. OpenBI is very good about dealing with those issues.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 4.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    We’ve had some projects that we missed deadlines on. We recognize the fact that there are deadlines. Many consulting firms would rank two or three.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    The quality is the biggest driver and the biggest distinguishing factor that they bring to the table. They are outstanding at using existing tools to solve the problem cleverly. That’s number one.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    We have recommended OpenBI to a lot of people, both internally and to some friends of mine outside the organization as well.

Hadoop Implementation for Cross-screen Marketing Firm

"What attracted me to OpenBI, is that they are very focused on their customers."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
4.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
Project summary: 

OpenBI has worked on several projects for a B2B company using Hadoop, including improving data infrastructure, setting up a cloud distribution, and creating a system for external customer reporting. 

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
Los Angeles Metro Area
VP, Data Services, BlueCava
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The team worked through a lot of stored data on a system that was adding millions of records a day. OpenBI is flexible and has skill sets which match any data need. The team is small but dedicated, and willing to change tools to best meet what is needed. 

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company.

We are a cross-screen advertising technology company that has been in business for more than four years. We primarily offer a service to our customers where they want to understand their consumer behavior across different channels and devices. Imagine a digital advertising world that is fairly reliant on cookies and siloed by a device at a time, but a consumer population that is using multiple devices on a regular basis. We provide the insight so that our customers can better understand their user base, as well as better target their user base based on the cross-device analytics and insights that we provide.

What is your role and responsibilities?

I’m a vice president of data services. I manage creative data solutions and data products, or anything related to our cross-screen data and packaging solutions around it for our customer use cases.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What was your goal for working with OpenBI?

We’ve been engaged with OpenBI for a while. Our first engagement with them was around the setup of our big data infrastructure. At the time, we were convinced that we would have to move to a Hadoop platform, given our scale. We had one or two resources that were good at Hadoop, but not experts. We wanted to bring in a firm that had experience with the two different technologies that were prevalent at the time, in about mid-2012, in the Hadoop space. We brought in OpenBI to help set up our cloud distribution at the time, along with a Pentaho suite for ETL [extract, transform, and load]. They helped set that up and created a lot of processes that were used for internal performance monitoring, and for external customer reporting.

SOLUTION

Please describe the scope of their work.

They did not necessarily provide training or support, but after that initial engagement on that side, we started an engagement with OpenBI on the data sciences side. We brought in people who were experts with Ph.D.s in the data sciences side to help with our approaches on algorithms, or statistical approaches on creating these cross-screen associations. For about the last six or nine months, OpenBI has been more involved on the data sciences side as opposed to the data development side, even though they do get involved with the development work as it arises.

What was your process for selecting OpenBI?

We consulted the engineering department, and I did some due diligence around some companies that were offering solutions on the big data side. One of our co-founders had a previous connection with OpenBI from a past company, and they were highly recommended, so we evaluated the skill set that they brought in. We had an initial consulting services agreement to lay out their plan on how the architecture needs to be on our side. That gave us the confidence about the tools that they had as well as the knowledge that they had regarding that tool set so they could come help us set the environment up from the ground up.

Has Hadoop been the best platform for your organization's needs?

Definitely. Given the scale that we have and being a visual advertising space, you’re talking hundreds of millions or billions of transactions a day. We definitely need a big data infrastructure, and Hadoop is fairly well suited for the processes that we need to run. We don’t do this in isolation, so we have other columnar databases and other relational databases as part of the mix as well. But, a large portion of our initial data intake and processing happens in Hadoop.

Can you provide a ballpark dollar figure for the size of the work that they’ve done for you?

Our initial engagement was three people over a four- or five-month period. The third person was involved in the last two months for Tableau reporting and visualization. They were all resources from OpenBI.

Recently, we have had a data science project for three months, and we are currently in a data science engagement with OpenBI, which is two people on schedule for two months. It most likely will be extended, depending on our needs.

When was the initial Hadoop work completed?

The initial Hadoop work was completed in May of 2013.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Do you have any statistics or metrics to track improvement from the project?

At the time, when we were implementing this, we were ingesting hundreds of millions of records a day into our SQL-based warehouse at the time. The uptime on the warehouse was no more than 80 percent because of the scale and the limitations we experienced with those processes every time. It was backfilling some of the data, catching up on the processes, and so on. We needed help with the big data front, to have a system that set up and hums at that volume or higher; it had to be set up to scale.

From a statistical standpoint, we had an uptime on our warehouse, processed the data, and spit out the reports that we needed at a 95 percent to 99 percent rate. That’s what we experienced in a relational warehouse model.

Are you satisfied with OpenBI's general performance?

I am very satisfied with OpenBI's general performance. The reason we have some multiple engagements with them is that depending on our changing needs, given the start-up alignment that we have, they are able to provide support on multiple fronts. Their skill set is not limited to data engineering on the big data front, but data sciences as well. As the technology evolves on this big data front, we have evolved as well. We have moved from being less reliant on a system for ETL and moving more toward workflow processes with scripting and so on. The good thing is that OpenBI has skill sets on both fronts. We are able to tap into those as we evolve in our solutions.

Is there anything unique about them that really makes them stand out, compared to other companies?

What attracted me to OpenBI, is that they are very focused on their customers. They are a small company, but they are very dedicated to the success of the project that they take on. For us, there was flexibility that we could change things in midstream depending on how our customer requirements change. They were very receptive to that. We have changed our tool set a little, and they have been able to adjust to that. They are not bound by their choice of tools, and they have been able to adjust according to our needs. I really like that.

Looking back on the work so far, is there any area that you think they could improve upon or that you might do differently?

This is not a reflection on OpenBI, but rather on us. We want to be able to line up some of the hardware needs well in advance and try to put processes around it. That is natural when you’re scaling a big data environment from the ground up. You evolve your space and processing needs as you go. What happens in the research and development phase of that is that you run into the same bottlenecks when you have to use the system for production purposes, and do new work on it. Thankfully, we have evolved to the point where we have made that separation and expanded our infrastructure a great deal. I wish we had done that about a year and a half ago. The project would have gone more quickly.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 4.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer