one dog leading another
Gartner analysts said three vendors lead the BI and analytics platform market. PHOTO: Ulrike Mai

The business intelligence and analytics platform market's multi-year transition to modern agile business-led analytics is now mainstream — and the market is still evolving.

That's the word from Gartner in its latest Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Platforms. Data and analytics leaders now face countless choices, Gartner analysts conclude, noting that by 2020 the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of data scientists.

It's no wonder software vendors of all sizes are scrambling to make data search- and visual-based data discovery analysis easier for ordinary people.

3 Market Leaders & More

In a crowded BI and analytics market — which includes everything from legacy technology players to well-funded startups — three vendors were ranked as leaders.

Tableau "continues to be perceived as the modern BI market leader — still slightly ahead of Microsoft on overall execution," Gartner analysts concluded. They
ranked Microsoft furthest to the right for completeness of vision within the Leaders quadrant — the 10th consecutive year Microsoft has been positioned as a leader. Qlik, which was taken private by Thoma Bravo last September, slipped since last year but retained its spot in the Leaders quadrant.

Gartner analysts Rita L. Sallam, Cindi Howson, Carlie J. Idoine, Thomas W. Oestreich, James Laurence Richardson and Joao Tapadinhas, who co-authored the report, expect artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing and natural language generation capabilities will soon be standard in these platforms.

If the analysts are right, knowing how to write SQL queries won’t be as vital a job skill in the future as it is today: they project 50 percent of analytic queries will be generated using search, natural-language processing or voice, or will be auto-generated by 2020.

Outside of the Leaders quadrant, the race to win customers in BI and Analytics is between well established, entrenched technology players like IBM, Microstrategy, SAS, and Tibco; large vendors that have gained a foothold in the space through acquisition, like Salesforce with BeyondCore; and disruptive innovators like ClearStory Data, Sisense and Zoomdata.

Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms
Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics PlatformsPHOTO: Gartner

24 Contenders, No Challengers

With 24 vendors qualifying for this year's MQ, it's notable that the Challengers quadrant is empty. It suggests many vendors are spending more of their resources innovating and adding new features than executing on their strategies.

But the niche players the analysts selected are worth a close look. Unlike in other MQ reports, where enterprises centralize on say, a single ERP solution, companies almost always use several BI solutions.

Alteryx and Birst fared especially well in the Niche Players quadrant with Datameer, Domo, Information Builders, Logi Analytics, Pentaho, Pyramid Analytics and ThoughtSpot singled out for their applicability to specific use cases. What is most surprising here is that mega vendor Oracle was categorized as a niche player, suggesting that customers in its large, broad install base are up for grabs in terms of BI and analytics.

A Look at the Leaders

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft rivals only Tableau when it comes to delivering on its promises. Since 2013, Power BI has gone from new and barely palatable to user-friendly to embraced while Cortana, which successfully called the winner of the Super Bowl as far back as 2015, is quickly becoming a trusted adviser. The Cortana Intelligence Suite offers machine learning capabilities which the analysts found to be visionary. Microsoft needs improvement when it comes to support.

Seattle-based Tableau earned recognition for its "achievement of business benefits," including its exploration, visualization and analytics dashboarding capabilities from "almost any data source." Tableau could stand to improve its enterprise features (it called them "a work in progress").

Radnor, Pa.-based Qlik was recognized for the high level of satisfaction its customers enjoy, its ease of deployment, the breadth of its offerings, and its fine-tuned user enablement. Analysts expressed concern about software licensing and costs.

It's worth noting that the analysts predicted that smart data discovery capabilities would be the next disruptors in BI and Analytics. Here, Gartner spotlighted SAP's vision of delivering planning, analytical and predictive capabilities in a unified, single platform — SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. Singled out too, was SAP’s “Boardroom of the Future,” which empowers executives with big data crunching and fine line data drilling capabilities in real time.