high wave
Forrester said BI innovations of even a few years ago are now table stakes, requiring new criteria to judge the wave PHOTO: Levi Morsy

Take most of what you've read about ranking enterprise business intelligence (BI) platforms and set it aside. Forrester Research introduced new criteria to select its leaders for its latest Enterprise BI Platforms With Majority On-Premises Deployments Wave.

According to analysts and report authors Boris Evelson and Martha Bennett, "BI technology (along with all related ones, such as big data and artificial intelligence) has evolved at lightning speed over the last two years so the criteria used in 2012 or 2015 no longer holds."

What has happened is that the powerful, highly scalable enterprise BI solutions introduced two or three decades ago — think IBM Cognos and SAP BusinessObjects — have become end-user accessible and modern (think self-service and visualizations). At the same time, the visualization and cloud enabled solutions that were built and embraced by end users in the 2000s, such as Qlik and Tableau, have become more powerful, scalable and enterprise grade.

Raising the Bar for Best in Class BI

In other words, the cutting-edge or best-in-class features that made these vendors category winners in years gone by have now become table stakes.

The Forrester analysts who researched and authored the report, The Forrester Wave: Enterprise BI Platforms With Majority On-Premises Deployments (fee charged), suggest that BI solution shoppers focus on what makes each vendor’s solution different (such as human-to-machine interactions, insights-to-execution capabilities) rather than on what made them winners in previous years (even as recently as 2015).

The authors assessed 15 vendors for this wave: BOARD International, IBM, Information Builders, Looker, MicroStrategy, OpenText, Panorama, Pyramid Analytics, Qlik, SAP, SAS, Sisense, Tableau Software, TIBCO Software and Yellowfin.

Four companies landed in the Leader Quadrant: MicroStrategy, IBM, TIBCO Software and Qlik. Tableau had a foot both in the Leaders and Challengers part of the Wave. It is worth noting that Tableau did not fully participate in Forrester’s study. It's also impressive that Looker, which has very little market presence, won top ratings for Strategy among the 15.

Forrester's Business Intelligence Leaders 

Without further ado, here is a closer look at the Leaders, in alphabetical order:

IBM

Armonk, NY-based IBM, with its three BI solutions (Cognos Analytics, SPSS, Watson Analytics), is the easy winner in terms of market presence. The analysts highlighted the presence of AI via Watson Analytics in the BI solution, which accounts for the "I don't know what I don't know" factor when users look for insights. 

IBM's SPSS Statistics, which addresses the entire statistical analysis process — planning, data collection, analysis, reporting — received recognition for its predictive analytics capabilities.

On the downside, one vendor providing three analytic solutions presents a bit of a juggling challenge for end users and getting service from an organization as large as IBM proved difficult for some users.

MicroStrategy

MicroStrategy rules the roost when the ratings for "current offering" and "strategy" are combined. Among other things, the report authors championed the relatively low number of clicks a user needs to make in the software to receive an answer, as well as its "drill down" capabilities into heterogeneous databases, which busts silos and minimizes the number of reports and dashboards that need to be run.

The analysts had no negative feedback to share about the Tyson Corner, Va.-based firm. 

Qlik

Qlik was singled out for its associative BI engine which, instead of running queries, allows users to simply select a slice of data, start typing, and then begin to visually explore the data via bar charts, line charts, pie charts, scatter plots, treemaps combo charts and such. The win here is discovery. Forrester also highlighted its high degree of business value in terms of ROI.

The analysts pointed out a gap in Radnor, Pa.-based Qlik's portfolio, namely actionable BI.

TIBCO Software

Palo Alto, Calif.-based TIBCO Software, which is now owned by Vista Equity Partners, earned high marks in the "current strategy" category, excelling in features like advanced analytics, cross product integration, ease of use and text mining. The analysts wrote that "TIBCO Spotfire is back in the market as a formidable player in full-spectrum analytics, from basic descriptive analytics to advanced data visualization and predictive analytics," crediting recent management changes and the fact that it has regained its footing after privatization.

It is worth noting that Evelson and Bennett recommended another TIBCO product, Jaspersoft, for "mass-scale, pixel-perfect report distribution and for embedded analytics (a key BI market trend)."

Tableau Software

Tableau Software won high praises from the analysts in spite of the fact that it did not participate in the Wave research. Evelson and Bennett noted, "Forrester has few interactions with clients on the topic of BI where clients do not bring up Tableau." Not only that, but they also warranted its high position, pointing to its "clean, intuitive, easy-to-navigate UI and insights presentation" among other features.

This is not to say there aren't gaps in Seattle-based Tableau's portfolio such as sophisticated data prep, predictive analytics and actionable/suggestive BI. Some of these gaps will likely be filled by Tableau's Project Maestro and what it builds as a result of its recent ClearGraph acquisition.