Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Jason Carlson, CEO and founder of Forerunner Software. Jason got me up-to-speed on what he's being doing with the company's Mobilizer 2.0 product, which leverages SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to deliver mobile business intelligence on any device or browser. He also provided some great insight into the SQL Server industry as a whole, which I thought SQL Server Pro readers would find to be invaluable. Here's what Jason had to say:
BG:I know you've worked in the Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services division for eight out of 15 years at Microsoft. Can you tell us more about what that experience was like?
JC: Building a new product at Microsoft was a great experience. At Microsoft I got to work with so many smart and passionate people to deliver an industry changing technology. The SQL Server business was an amazing support structure of experienced leaders, leading engineering infrastructure, and a fast growing business. One of the biggest challenges for a new product is actually getting it out the door. Because Microsoft is such a big company there is a lot of internal competition and overlap of target markets and missions. With Reporting Services the potential overlap was with Access, Excel, and SharePoint. These are very large businesses with a lot of influence in the company. While it is clear in hindsight that Reporting Services is a very different technology early on, each of these teams was experimenting in BI. I spent a lot of time justifying to senior executives and Bill Gates how the product was different and belonged as part of SQL Server. In the end, we shipped the product and with the support of the Microsoft ecosystem, grew adoption at a tremendous rate. To this day, I rarely talk to a customer in any industry that does not have some SSRS reports in their company.
BG: What influenced your division to leave Microsoft and start your own company to build a product that works in conjunction with SQL Server?
JC: I left Microsoft after 15 years to work at smaller companies and be more agile. What I found outside of Microsoft is that the world of technology is very different than what we see from the inside. When you work at a company like Microsoft you can talk with tens of thousands of companies and they are all pro Microsoft using everything Microsoft ships. Because that market is so large, it is easy to miss everyone else. Spending time outside of Microsoft, I found companies are more heterogeneous and most new startups are not using Microsoft technology exclusively. What I did find though is that SQL Server and SSRS are still very widely used even in these non-Microsoft startups. It was also clear that the technology shift to mobile applications, multiple screens, HTML5 and MVC had happened, and SQL Server did not play.
BG: How does Forerunner Software’s Mobilizer business intelligence product fill the gap in the vendor space?
JC: Mobilizer fills the gap by providing the current-generation technology and user experience that's missing from the Microsoft offering. Customers are demanding support for mobile devices, HTML5 and MVC-style programing. Mobilizer fills all of these gaps with a modern, easy-to-use product.
BG: Can you tell us more about your thoughts on Microsoft’s current direction for SQL Server today?
JC: Microsoft and SQL Server are focused on moving everything to the cloud. With respect to BI, SQL Server and Office are also focused on empowering the knowledge worker with sophisticated powerful tools that can operate on massive amounts of data in real-time. These are great markets with lots of opportunity. What Microsoft is missing is that most employees and customers are not sophisticated knowledge workers, they are not Excel gurus or have intimate knowledge of all the business data and relationships. Most employees are busy doing their job and need access to easy-to-use tools to help them make better more informed decisions wherever they are.
BG: Anything else you'd like to let us know about?
JC: Mobilizer is the first of many products from Forerunner Software. We want to help companies reach all of their employees with the critical information they need to run their business in today's hyper-competitive environment where decisions need to be made in real-time, not when you get back to your desk.