Business intelligence (BI) and analytics continue to stake a claim as two of the most important technologies for organizations today. In fact, according to the Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.’s annual survey of chief information officers, analytics and BI are the top technology priority
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Earlier this month, Gartner released its annual Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms, which rates the strengths and weaknesses of the vendors in the market. Each must generate at least $15 million in BI-related software license revenue annually, deliver nine of 14 capabilities (see “Gartner defined”) and obtain a minimum of 30 reference customers to participate in a survey. Vendors are then charted on the graphical quadrant as a visionary, niche player, challenger or leader.
Gartner defines a business intelligence (BI) platform as a software program that delivers 14 capabilities across three categories. Those are listed below:
- BI infrastructure
- Metadata management
- Development tools
- Ad hoc query
- Microsoft Office Integration
- Search-based BI
- Mobile BI
- Online analytical processing (OLAP)
- Interactive visualization
- Predictive modeling and data mining
Like last year, business users are interested in data discovery tools from smaller vendors “despite the risk of creating fragmented silos of data, definitions and tools,” according to the report. Known for their ease of use and ease of deployment, data discovery tools dispel traditional IT thinking, which tends to favor large stack vendors like Oracle, SAP, IBM and Microsoft, all listed as leaders in this year’s report.
“This is a fundamental shift in the way the BI marketplace is developing,” said John Hagerty, Gartner analyst and lead author of the report.
But this year’s analysis is also marked by the rise of mobility, the exploding types of data and the expanding set of use cases. Combined with the attraction to data discovery products, the research indicates that reliance on data is growing as a bigger, more diverse set of users demand tools to help make sense of the numbers.
Data discovery debate
Enthusiasm for data discovery tools provides insight into the different qualities sought after by business users and IT. According to the Magic Quadrant, business users seek flexibility and speed; IT looks for standards, performance and data quality.
Analyzing the 1,364 responses to the survey, this year’s report takes the discussion one step further by identifying the role of respondents and prioritizing their preferred qualities. For IT, represented in almost 38.9% of surveys, priorities start with functionality followed by end-user ease of use and data access and integration capabilities. For business users, represented in 20.8% of the responses, priorities begin with end-user ease of use followed by functionality and integration.
“The business user and IT are trying to get to the same end game, but they’re coming at it from different perspectives,” Hagerty said.
While the ongoing popularity for data discovery tools reflects what Gartner refers to as “a conflict,” Hagerty said it also suggests a positive development: The chasm -- or how greatly the two perspectives differ -- is shrinking.
“There’s recognition on both sides that they need to accomplish this together,” he said.
Small vendors outpace larger counterparts
But this newly popular genre of tools can create some difficulty for businesses that have traditionally leaned on the Oracles, SAPs and Microsofts to satiate their BI needs. That’s because large vendors have been slower to respond, Hagerty said.
In other words, IT may need to move away from the desire to standardize on a single vendor, though Hagerty listed MicroStrategy with Visual Insight, IBM with Cognos Insight and Microsoft with Power View as examples of larger vendors embracing the trend.
“Platform vendors … are stepping up and trying to deliver,” Hagerty said, “albeit more slowly [than data discovery vendors].”
Instead, vendors leading the data discovery charge include Tableau and Tibco Software (Spotfire), both labeled as challengers in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. A third vendor, QlikTech, is listed as a leader. These three were also the only data discovery vendors to appear in last year’s Magic Quadrant.
But Gartner authors also made it a point to include written information on several other data discovery vendors unable to meet all of Gartner’s requirements, including Advizor Solutions and Quiterian. Finally, Gartner’s report includes Endeca, which Oracle acquired during the Magic Quadrant evaluation process. Endeca is described as a unique data discovery vendor because it offers search-based data discovery tools rather than interactive visualization tools, a distinction Gartner refers to as a bifurcation.
“You can take an enterprise BI platform and make it do a lot of things. I’ve seen businesses take those platforms and make them sing and dance,” Hagerty said. “But it becomes an IT project and it takes time to do that kind of stuff and build that kind of functionality. Now users don’t need to wait. … That’s the message from the data discovery people.”
Mobile, data and use case
Business users are hungry for easy-to-use tools, and they’re also hungry to use those tools in new ways, such as on smartphones and tablets. In fact, according to the survey results, 33% of respondents plan to deploy mobile BI in 2012. Numbers like these influenced Gartner’s decision to judge products based on their mobile BI capabilities for the first time this year.
“That’s one of the fundamental directions BI has to step up to: All sorts of data from all types of sources need to be delivered in a consumable way in a mode that makes the most sense to them,” Hagerty said.
But Hagerty noted that mobility is one of several elements pushing the boundaries of traditional BI. Another is the varied types of data and the potential that kind of information offers. For example, while the most popular responses for BI and analytics use cases are still finance, sales and operations analysis, others include risk management, quality management and social media.
The data sources supplying that kind of information come from a variety of places that resides both inside and outside the enterprise, Hagerty said.
“BI and analytics are being asked to address a lot of stuff these days,” Hagerty said. “It’s not just looking at rows and columns of information anymore.”
Hagerty believes this represents a maturity in the BI and analytics market, as businesses push the technology deeper into and wider across their organizations. And it represents a noteworthy pattern in the Magic Quadrant.
Many of the large, experienced platform vendors such as IBM, Microsoft and SAP appear in the leaders square while smaller vendors, such as arcplan, known for its data integration capabilities, or Alteryx, which offers geographic-based applications, appear in the niche and challenger categories.
That could mean another round of acquisitions where larger vendors buy up smaller ones to get additional functionality, Hagerty said.
“BI and analytics are being asked to do a lot more stuff that it has been doing, and the market is expanding to address those different needs,” he said. “BI in 2013 and 2014 will look very different than it does in 2011 and 2012.”