Last year when we looked Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Business Intelligence and Analytics it held 24 vendors, which by any measure is a crowd.

Though the number hasn’t slimmed since then, new vendors have been added and others are no longer included. To be fair, Gartner has changed its rating criteria. So don't assume that those who were cut from this year’s MQ have fallen from grace.

Business users no longer want to wait for IT to serve their analytics needs, instead they seem to prefer a self-service approach, according to Gartner analysts Josh Parenteau, Rita L. Sallam, Cindi Howson, Joao Tapadinhas, Kurt Schlegel and Thomas W. Oestreich, who wrote the report.

We have now entered the modern analytics era, they declared.

Only 3 Leaders

“Most new buying is of modern, business-user-centric platforms forcing a new market perspective, significantly reordering the vendor landscape,” wrote Gartner.

What’s most notable about this year’s 80-page report, aside from its size, is that last year the Leaders Quadrant held nine vendors, now there are three. Only Redmond, Wa.-based Microsoft, Radnor, Pa.-based Qlik and Seattle-based Tableau earned top marks for their completeness of vision and ability to execute.

What the Winners Did Right

Microsoft was the clear winner in terms of vision. Power BI is both end user friendly and powerful. Its core is in Azure, Machine Learning, Azure HDInsight and Stream Analytics. The analysts noted that Microsoft is investing in and innovating on the product line. Windows’ mouthpiece, Cortana, makes analytics super-user friendly.

Qlik won high marks for its ability to wrangle and analyze data and ease of use. What’s notable, according to Gartner, is that its “modern architecture” empowers power users to be content developers. In other words, at least some business users won’t have to wait for IT to run reports. This is significant because complexity isn’t sacrificed along the way. Qlik supports multiple data sources, a robust calculation engine and associative filtering and search according to the analysts.

Tableau, which was the clear winner last year, still has a nose-length’s lead on Microsoft and Qlik when it comes to execution. But it might behoove the vendor to raise its game, wrote the analysts. They offered that Tableau might be a victim of its own success because its users are asking taking-on more and more complicated tasks. It’s worth noting that the viz vendor slipped in position in the completeness of vision category, namely because competing products offer more complex analysis.

Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms

Almost, But Not Quite

Irvine, Calif.-based Alteryx has almost edged its way into the Leaders Quadrant, falling just short in its ability to execute. When it comes to completeness of vision, only two of twenty-four vendors exceed what it offers. Alteryx aims to “make hard things easy” and it seems to succeed given that it got the highest marks, among all vendors, in complexity of analysis and was in the top quartile for overall ease of use. The downside? Alteryx made its mark in data blending and doesn’t yet have the broad range of capabilities that the Leaders do. The analysts do note, however, that Alteryx is developing them now.

In last year’s MQ for BI and Analytics, Cary, NC-based SAS led in the completeness of vision category and was placed just below this year’s leaders, Microsoft, Qlik and Tableau, on execution.

Using Gartner’s new criteria, SAS falls to fourth place in vision (still high enough to rate as Leader), but drops out of that Quadrant because of its ability to execute. Where does it miss the mark? The sales experience it provides to its customers including presales, contract negotiation and post sales need improvement, wrote the analysts.

It also ranks in the bottom quartile, among all vendors, for operations, which includes product quality, technical support and migration experience. On a more positive note, when it comes to interactive visualization, SAS Visual Analytics rules. SAS’ modern analytics platform rates highly as well. It includes forecasting, decision trees and goal seeking as well as a visual, point-and-click interface.

Who’s New?

This year’s BI and Analytics MQ includes, in alphabetical order, six debutantes: San Mateo, Calif.-based BeyondCore, Menlo Park, Calif.-based ClearStory Data, American Fork, Utah-based Domo, San Mateo, Calif.-based Platfora, San Francisco-based Salesforce and New York City-based Sisense.

Though they are all, to some extent, self-service, the users that they target and the depth to which they analyze data differ.

Salesforce Analytics Cloud, for example, is (for now) being marketed to Salesforce’s large customer base and its end users are more likely to be sales and marketing professionals who need their queries executed in the moment and on the spot.

In contrast, Platfora’s data analysis solution leverages Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), cloud and Spark and, in most cases, trudges through a lot more data. Gartner calls it the “gold standard on this year's Magic Quadrant for direct Hadoop and Spark”.

Gartner makes it clear that we’ve crossed the chasm from where BI and analytics are provisioned by IT to where they’re the province of end users. The analysts do, however, caution customers against making radical moves that might interfere with day-to-day business processes.

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