Although Switzerland is a relatively small country, there are four distinctive cultures speaking four different languages within its borders. There are French, German, Italian and Rumantsch regions all speaking their respective languages.
This leads to some interesting situations as I discovered when meeting with perspective partners there. The first partner was primarily based in the French region and most of their clients were also based in the French region whereas the second partner was from the German region as were most of their clients. Even more fascinating was that the French Swiss prefer not to speak German to the German Swiss and vice versa even though they learned the respective languages growing up. Ironically they often end up speaking to each other in English which is not a native language to either of them!
When I enquired about the Italian region of Switzerland, I was referred to another partner that is Swiss Italian based!
In the world of Business Intelligence, we find a similar situation with the different vendors’ product suites. BusinessObjects, Cognos, Oracle and Microsoft BI all have their native tools that communicate very differently and there is no easy way to dialog between them.
In many customer situations that is changing as the demand and desire to use multiple vendor tools has become a necessity for many businesses. The common dialog in this case is the portal or the main application where the user first logs in. The most common portals I encounter are either the homegrown kind or Microsoft’s SharePoint. Through this portal, it is possible to seamlessly connect with different applications and different vendors Business Intelligence tools. Reports, dashboards and ad-hoc queries can all be accessed and viewed as if they were coming from the same application. Utilizing single sign-on also makes it possible to transparently pass authentication credentials to the various applications and tools without the user having to tediously log on to multiple systems and applications.
I end up discussing with my perspective Swiss partners how many corporations in North America are using mixed Business Intelligence tools through portals like SharePoint and how key solutions like Web Intelligence, Xcelsius and InfoBurst integrate easily.
As I head to Geneva airport, I spot a chocolate store and have to go in to browse and inhale the smell of heaven (I have a weak spot for chocolate). As I float through the store in my element, I cannot help wondering that while the Swiss may speak different languages, they have their chocolate as their portal to universal communication!