Earlier this week we saw that increasing enterprise demands for different kinds of business intelligence is stretching vendors to come up with software that will keep business users happy. The result is a software space that is currently characterized by innovation and change, according to Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence 2012.

BI Magic Quadrant

Unlike other software areas, when we look at the Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence, there are only two categories of players: Leaders and Niche players (with the notable two exceptions of Tableau and Tibco that made it into the Challengers Quadrant.)

Gartner has some interesting thoughts on this worth looking at before looking at the Leaders Quadrant.

The BI market, Gartner says, is a mature market that is expanding at a rapid rate. The result is a high level of innovation across the market, coupled with significant and widespread acquisitions over the past five years.

Notable among those acquisitions is the Oracle buy-out of Siebel and Hyperion, SAP and Business Objects, and the IBM purchase of Cognos. In all cases assets and technologies were incorporated into the relevant technology portfolios.

Parallel Trends

But it seems like the market has a way to go in this respect, and acquisitions still abound. In 2011, for example, Oracle acquired Endeca, and IBM purchased Algorithmics, and has already announced a number of analytics related acquisitions since the beginning of this year.

The larger vendors also bring wide-reaching experience with thousands of customers that help shape their development experience with mobile applications and in-memory platforms.

Running in parallel with this is the work and development being done by speciality vendors that tend to develop one or two areas of BI, like predictive analytics, advanced visualization, geospatial analysis or cloud analytic platforms.

They tend to develop packages for specific verticals like healthcare, consumer or financial services, creating packages that can then be built on to broaden their appeal.

These two trends have had significant impact on the "shape" of the Magic Quadrant participants in 2012, and Gartner says it expects it to continue over the coming year.

The Leaders Quadrant

So who made it into the Leaders quadrant, and what’s more, how do you get into the Quadrant? Firstly, vendors need to generate US$ 15 million in BI-related software license revenue annually.

Vendors were judged on their ability to turn concept and vision into a market reality. On top of that, Leaders are vendors that can implement enterprise-wide implementations that support a broad BI strategy and have the operational capabilities to deliver on a global scale.

In alphabetical order, the companies that fall into the Leaders category are:

IBM

Strengths

According to Gartner, IBM has maintained its position on the completeness of Vision axis, mainly as a result of its holistic vision of unified BI, analytics and performance. It has built up the IBM BI portfolio over the past five years and has added information management software into the mix to make it one of the most robust offerings on the market. The result is that it can offer both a tools-based and/or a solution-driven offering, along with significant vertical expertise, to customers and prospects.

Cognos 10, which was introduced in the fourth quarter of 2010, really started to gain traction last year as Big Blue added capabilities. While some indicated that upgrading from Cognos 8 to Cognos 10 had some complexity, the majority rated it as straightforward or very straightforward. This bodes well for IBM's future ability to execute, providing the firm delivers superior service and support and problem-free software.

Cautions

Twenty-three percent of Cognos users are still having performance problems, while a below average number of Cognos 10 users have performance issues. As a result, Gartner says, IBM needs to encourage users to upgrade to Cognos 10. In addition to this, Cognos is more difficult to implement and use than the products of competitors.

Information Builders

Strengths

Information Builders' customers are buying its BI product WebFocus because...well, because they like it. It got higher than average reviews in 10 out of the 14 capabilities listed in Part 1, with very strong reporting abilities listed as its most attractive feature.

The most commonly cited reason for choosing it as a product is because of its ability to integrate with other parts of information infrastructure like databases and middleware.

Cautions

According to Gartner, Information Builders revenue is falling -- with a 6% fall in the calendar year 2010 alone. It is being squeezed between data discovery tools and mega vendors’ stack-buying agendas. WebFocus deployments, while easier to implement, are also more limited in scope.

Microsoft

Strengths

Microsoft, because it has as many irons in the fire as it has, has a big appeal to Microsoft developers as well as to its independent distributor channel. It has, and continues, to develop BI for three of its core products: Office, SQL Server and SharePoint. By doing so it has practically guaranteed uptake of its BI product.

It has a low licensing cost that makes it appealing to organizations that want to make it attractive to a wider range of users, with market success also driven by its IT oriented, BI authoring tools in SQL Server, which are based on Visual Studio and widely adopted by developers.

Cautions

However, according to Gartner, this is the first year that Microsoft has scored below the survey average on its ability to execute measures, including overall product functionality. It also trails behind most other BI vendors in delivering mobile BI capabilities. It has, instead, relied on partners to build them.

It has recently announced support for Hadoop. However, it has not articulated a comprehensive vision around delivering analytics for diverse data. At the time of the FAST acquisition, however, FAST was gaining some traction with its BI search capabilities.

MicroStrategy

Strengths

MicroStrategy is a specialist in BI deployments running on top of large enterprise data warehouses with customers citing functionality, performance and support for large data volumes as the main reason for selecting it. Its deployments are among the most complex in terms of large numbers of users. Social data is another forward-looking area of focus for MicroStrategy, with a Facebook connector this year.

Building complex analytic applications is another of MicroStrategy's strengths. With each release it continues to streamline developer and modelling activities and enhance proactive tools for managing and supporting MicroStrategy deployments.

Cautions

While the development environment is robust and flexible, there is a steep learning curve even for seasoned report developers. Even though usability enhancements were delivered with MicroStrategy 9.x, its customers continue to rate the platform below average for ease of use. Its customers also report above average license and implementation costs per user.

The company will also have to strengthen its sales and marketing capabilities for business users and line of business owners in order to fully realize the potential of its mobile, data discovery and cloud offerings.

Oracle

Strengths

The Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite recorded the highest aggregate Ability to Execute scores this year.

Along with BI, 85% of its userun Oracle Database as their data warehouse, nearly 75% run Oracle Applications, and a majority utilizes Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Oracle customers say that they select Oracle principally for functionality, enterprise application integration and data access capabilities. Through Oracle Business Intelligence Applications (OBIA) it provides horizontal analytics across business processes including finance, procurement and sales analysis.

Cautions

Garter says that users are finding OBIEE difficult to implement, while it has been slow to respond to the data discovery trend. Only a little more than 25% of customers Gartner surveyed are using the current version of the BI suite, significantly below average for vendors in this analysis.

QlikTech

Strengths

In Gartner’s words, “QlikTech is a marketing juggernaut”. It features in a large number of Gartner inquiries and evaluations, which is constantly adding to its momentum. Its self-contained BI platform is based on a wholly in-memory data store, with a set of well integrated BI tools.

Deployment of its BI product QlikView has grown over the past two years in terms of reach and in terms of the number of customers using it.

Many of QlikTech's customers say that it is often used alongside SAP and IBM and report strong delivery of business benefits, particularly in making better information available to more users and expanding the type of analysis undertaken.

Cautions

There is a genuine concern over customer experience as the company grows with the first notes of concern appearing in 2010 and gaining ground in 2011.

Gartner also says QlikTech customers, more than for any other vendor (with the exception of Oracle), said that QlikView became less successful in the previous year (that is, the product is being used by fewer users, or is being replaced by other tools). It also faces increasing competition from larger BI vendors offering in-memory offerings

SAP

Strengths

Between BusinessObjects and NetWeaverBW, SAP has the biggest share of the BI platform market with both platforms providing support for large enterprises. Also, a higher percentage of SAP customers cite "corporate standards" and "integration with enterprise applications"  than other vendor's customers as among the top reasons why they chose SAP for BI.

It has one of the largest global direct sales, support, and channel and services ecosystems, while the combination of SAP and BusinessObjects is the largest installed base in the BI platforms market.

Cautions

According to Gartner there appears to be confusion among SAP’s customers about the roadmap for BusinessObjects, SAP BW and HANA road maps, given the product and concerns about the unknown costs of migrating to the new road map.

This is the fifth year in a row that the market survey data shows ratings for SAP's customer experience the lowest of any vendor in the survey.

SAS

Strengths

SAS's solution-oriented analytic application approach to the market is a differentiator. As a result, it is in a position to offer a wide variety of cross-functional and vertically specific analytic applications out of the box.

Clients say that the primary drivers for customers choosing SAS remain functionality and data integration. In addition, users said that they select SAS because of availability of skills.

SAS has also partnered with a number of database vendors (such as Teradata) that moves the execution of its models directly into the database management system without moving the data.

Cautions

Client enterprises report that SAS is difficult to implement, with some saying that it is difficult for business users to execute. Gartner also says that its dashboard capabilities were rated lowest of all the vendors in this research.

However, SAS has listened to these criticisms and has started a major initiative to improve usability and implementation activities. Improvements are expected to be recorded this year.

SAS's dominance in predictive analytics and statistics continues to be challenged on many fronts. In addition to the SPSS suite, IBM also acquired Algorithmics in 2011 to bolster its portfolio

And that’s the leader quadrant for this year. Again, it should be pointed out that Gartner suggests potential customers examine all options in all quadrants before making a decision.

Just because a product fall into the Leaders quadrant does not make it necessarily the best option for all enterprises. If you want to see the full report, you can get it here after registration.