Twenty four is a crowd -- yet that’s how many vendors made it into Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics circa 2015.

For enterprises that are shopping for BI and Analytics solutions, choice may seem like a good thing until you consider what evaluating that many vendors might look like -- most of us wouldn’t even consider trying on 24 pairs of jeans.

To be fair, this is how many BI and analytics vendors met Gartner’s criteria, and that’s no easy feat. Gartner defines BI and Analytics as a “software platform that delivers 13 critical capabilities across three categories -- enable, produce and consume -- in support of four use cases for BI and analytics.”

Use cases range from centralized BI Provisioning, to decentralized analytics, to governed data discovery to providing OEM embedded APIs. 

Required capabilities in the “Enable” category include: Business User Data Mashup and Modeling, Internal Platform Integration, BI Platform Administration, Metadata Management, Cloud Deployment, and Development and Integration.

The “Produce” category considers Free-Form Interactive Exploration, Analytic Dashboards and Content, IT-Developed Reporting and Dashboards, and Traditional Styles of Analysis.

The “Consume” category looks at Mobile, Collaboration and Social Integration, and Embedded BI. 

The common trends Gartner analysts uncovered center around decentralized and bimodal governed data discovery approaches to BI and a call for self-service capabilities beyond data discovery and interactive visualization of IT-curated data sources.

It’s worth noting that most BI and Analytics vendors are placed in the same quadrant as in 2014, but several have changed positions within them because of their more limited vision or ability to execute.


Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms

Tableau Leads the Pack

It should come as no surprise that Tableau’s results last quarter thrilled investors. Why? Because enterprise IT bosses, business analysts and quants all love the results its products produce. Tableau is the product to beat in the discovery space and no one else even comes close.

Moreover, as we’ve written time and time again, Tableau users love Tableau -- they are literally enthused when they talk about it. Not just that, but you can also take data from someplace like an Excel file and make beautiful visualizations that tell stories.

On the downside, Gartner’s report says that Tableau’s dashboards, traditional styles of analysis, metadata management, development and integration, BI platform administration, embedded BI and collaboration are weaknesses. It could also use a few improvements when used in centralized environments.

These may, or may not, be functions and features that Tableau wants to provide.

It’s also worth asking if any particular vendor can be the “go to” for every BI and Analytics endeavor.

SAS Wins When it Comes to Completeness of Vision

SAS has been around since 1966 so appearing as the most visionary vendor in the Leaders quadrant is impressive. Not only that, but SAS is also further to the right on the “Completeness of Vision” axis than any other vendor, even those in the Visionaries quadrant. It’s worth considering, though, that SAS offers what Gartner calls a “vast array” of integrated components, so they’re not exactly comparing it apples-to-apples when it comes to vendors like Tableau. 

That being said, SAS Visual Analytics -- which has been around for just a few years -- is gaining traction against data discovery leaders partly because it has done a good job of differentiating itself and partly because its pricing model is more appealing. Gartner also praises SAS’s forward thinking in areas such as embedded advanced analytics within SAS Visual Analytics, ease of navigation between SAS Visual Analytics and SAS Visual Statistics, and integration across the SAS platform and other core analytics which makes governed data discovery simpler.

Within the Enterprise, SAS doesn’t seem to be as widely deployed as it could be because of cost, but Gartner says the vendor is addressing the issue. This could be a win for SAS not only in deeper penetration at current customer sites but its ability to win business at smaller companies.

Improved Vision and Execution for SAP

SAP sits almost neck and neck with SAS in the Leaders quadrant. Gartner likes its vision, citing the direction it is taking with SAP Lumira and its simplified strategy for BI platform components.

What’s especially notable is that Gartner researchers found that SAP is the BI standard (81 percent) in the companies in which it is used. (In other words, it’s not one of several tools). SAP has an advantage in this regard, because in many cases those companies also use SAP’s widely deployed ERP systems. SAP does, however, claim to have BI and Analytics customers who don’t use its ERP products.

Learning Opportunities

That being said, SAP’s BI tools offering leaves plenty of room for improvement in terms of customer experience at almost every level -- ranging from the buying process, to the UI, to providing business user data discovery capabilities.

We should note that SAP’s new management team has pledged to take action on all of these fronts. We should have an indication on how that’s going by this time next year.

Watson Gives IBM Vision, But There’s More to Consider

Gartner says that the Enterprise likes the pitch that IBM Watson analytics makes but that it’s still too early to see how widely adopted it becomes. On the other hand, IBM Cognos, IBM’s integrated BI platform (it offers capabilities for Web-based ad hoc query, report and dashboard authoring and consumption, OLAP, scorecarding, production reporting, scheduling, alerting, data discovery and mobile) is embedded and sold in over 130 IBM applications. What a great way to gain market presence.

IBM’s challenge is the same one that many legacy vendors face with their existing (and quite often market leading) products -- delivering a positive customer experience and meeting important business-user-centric market requirements. 

Qlik Rules Where It Plays

Some of the vendors that rank lower (actually further left on the “Completeness of Vision" axis) in Gartner’s Leaders quadrant do so because they are more narrowly focused. Qlik falls into that category. It has two BI & Analytics products based on an in-memory associative search engine.

Gartner calls QlikView,

a mature, self-contained, tightly integrated development platform used by IT or more technical users for building intuitive and interactive dashboard applications faster and easier than traditional BI platforms.” 

Qlik’s newer product, Qlik Sense (released in September 2014) is business user friendly and provides a  way for them to build their own dashboards while giving IT the ability to govern, manage, scale and embed them. Gartner likes what it sees in it.

Qlik’s challenge, according to Gartner, will be in selling and supporting two products at once without sacrificing customer experience.

Business-User Enablement, A Clear Focus for Microsoft

Microsoft is big enough and smart enough to leverage SQL Server and SharePoint to support IT-developer-centric data management, reporting and administration requirements and to provide Power BI for end users. Gartner likes the approach and the possibilities that it holds, stating that Microsoft has,

a clear understanding of the market's desire for a platform that can support systems-of-record requirements and deliver easy-to-use data discovery capabilities, with support for promotability of business-user content and governance.”

Though Power BI has yet to be widely adopted (its new availability in browser should help), it could alleviate a lot of problems. But Microsoft would still need to simplify its license models for that to happen.

According to Gartner,

the fact that many of the newer capabilities that are important to buyers in this market require current versions of Office, SQL Server and SharePoint adds to the complexity and represents a barrier to adoption for many organizations that are on older versions and are not yet willing to buy Office 365 and deploy BI and analytics in the cloud.”

Further, it says that the workflow between Power Query, Power View and Power Pivot is not yet completely seamless. Not only that, but there are also questions about the role of SharePoint dashboards and Reporting and the fact that the latter is not supported in Azure.

There also seem to be difficulties with the customer experience. Gartner says that they have “historically found it difficult to engage directly with Microsoft during the sales cycle, which was a major complaint from IT but is an even greater concern for Microsoft as it attempts to appeal to business buyers that have high expectations of simplified license models and purchase options.” 

Other Leaders to Consider

We should note that these are but six of the nine MQ Leaders (we took the top 3 from the “Completeness of Visions" Axis and the top 3 from the “Ability to Execute”). Oracle, Information Builders and Microstrategy were also named Leaders.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  kismihok