To see the past five years of Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics Platforms vendor performance ratings, check out the excellent Pivotstream analytics showcase. There are three different reports at this link that you can review to analyze vendor performance over time. UPDATE: Ramon Martinez just shared another one of these with me that is great.

This past month Gartner released the latest Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics Platforms. As always, it is an excellent read to get a feel for current market conditions, players and trends. They notably changed the vendor result “dots” from the cute little yellow ones to the blue ones making it a little harder to compare year over year results this time. There are a few things to keep in mind as you do analyze these results. This report combines and compares what I would call “apples and oranges” vendor BI solution offerings. Having been part of the Gartner submission process in the past, I can tell you that all the BI players go through the same, fairly lengthy and detailed evaluation process that includes hundreds of RFI questions, series of interviews, demos, futures/vision discussions and customer surveys. Niche and all-encompassing solutions are literally scored side-by-side even though they may be light-years apart in the available breadth of offerings. It is a little odd… but it is what it is. Regardless, each year I anxiously wait for these exciting results.

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Tableau
This year the Data Discovery players clearly came out on top with all traditional players slipping at least in one aspect. That result does indeed reflect the BI market pulse out here that I monitor. It was no surprise to me at all to see Tableau skyrocket over everyone else this year. I saw that coming all the way back from the TCC 2012 keynote. No one else is close to Tableau right now in regards to really, truly delivering on top customer requests. Tableau listens and delivers elegant, gorgeous, solutions with depth that make a quick, positive impact. These results reflect it. Reading through Gartner commentary, I agree customers remain extremely happy with Tableau for the fourth year in a row. Customers do totally love Tableau. I have never seen BI as beautiful, feature-rich with analytic depth, highly scalable, easy, sooooo super fast to set up and fun to develop. Tableau is a BI game-changer, period.

I did think that 42% of customers saying Tableau was the BI standard was actually a little high. I work with many enterprise accounts and they are usually combining Tableau with another primary BI platform. However, I have seen Microstrategy, Information Builders and IBM Cognos replaced by Tableau now. I don’t feel that Tableau has the breadth of offering to completely replace those other traditional BI platforms but clearly someone is finding the Tableau niche offering more useful than other vendor solution breadth or they would not be replacing / rebuilding.

The Gartner comment about Tableau’s customers reporting a below-average sales experience does not shock me. I saw a few bumbled deals this past year: inflexible contracts, low willingness to negotiate and over-zealous sales tactics. The Tableau sales force is exceptionally aggressive. I used to pick on Qlik about that and now I feel Tableau sales is just as intense. I warn prospects that they will get a lot of calls when they register for a trial, ignore the sales annoyances and focus on the true beauty of the Tableau solution. It seems like there are far too many Tableau sales reps these days with tiny, reduced market areas. At the local Tableau User Group meeting that should have been a warm, fuzzy, safe place for the Tableau community to meet, there were about four or five Tableau sales reps for only 18 attendees from about six accounts – waaaaaay too many Tableau sales reps created a weird vibe and I hope actual users will come back. Sales is sales and well…Tableau sales is not slacking.

*** UPDATED 3/16/2014: A Tableau VP did call me about these next comments. We had a great conversation about my honest feedback – he liked my article. Thank goodness since I do adore and respect Tableau. It is always a risk to report the facts when they are not happy tid bits. It is part of the reason why I do think this blog is popular – I am honest. He agreed that there have been some weaknesses in Tableau Partner Program and growing pains. Tableau is actively addressing these issues and also stands by their position as a premium solution in every aspect from software to training to certification. I have included their responses below in my original article. ***

I may get kicked out of Zens for my comments even though I do dearly LOVE the Tableau solution. My tough love is intended for the good of Tableau in the long run. Note that I have tried non-public means to escalate my gripes for nine months now and get nothing but crickets…yes, I am biased. So here goes, let the lashings begin. The other ding that I have with Tableau right now that I do hope improves is the Partner Program. Unlike other BI vendor Partner Programs, there is not much for Tableau partner education, collateral, sales incentives, partner collaboration, no reduced cost software with the exception of Tableau Server or other goodies for the steep program fees. (Feedback from Tableau: They are actively addressing this known issue and it is already improving in 2014.) This year Partners are supposed to pay even more for certifications at all levels from selling Tableau software to getting certified in Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server. The certification fees are higher than most other BI vendors. (Feedback from Tableau: Tableau is a premium solution – they want to be the best. They have done an exhaustive search on Tableau Certification platforms to have the top, most respected certification program that their customers can rely on will accurately evaluate Tableau skills. They have invested a lot of time and energy into developing a world-class certification program and thus the higher fees. For Partners, there are certification and training discounts available.) Combine that with Tableau keeping services business to themselves or driving it all to a tiny, select group of three or four services partners that “write services deals on their paper”, it makes almost no sense these days to become a Tableau Partner if you are a services provider. It makes more sense to just buy the Tableau software. If Tableau wants to quickly scale globally and cost-efficiently, services partners can make that happen for them. The expensive, massive “Tableau FTE sales feet-on-street” approach with a mere three or four beloved services partners at overpriced billing rates will hinder their ability to scale globally. I feel Tableau is getting a bit too greedy in this specific area and it may hurt them in the long run if it does not improve. Microsoft and other global BI vendors excel in global services partner scale out strategies and make their partnership fees worthwhile.

Spotfire
Tibco Spotfire also fared well in 2014. I said last year that Spotfire was a group to keep an eye on. I really like the Spotfire solution. It is less elegant for dashboard development and has longer build times than Tableau BUT it does have excellent, point-click, predictive capabilities baked right into the solution. Spotfire also has great depth of capabilities and breadth if combined with other Tibco solutions. Spotfire has a strong history in the pharma and sciences markets but it is not as well-known as the other data discovery players in other verticals. Customers have mentioned that Spotfire is easy to work with, helps develop POCs and is reasonable in negotiations. I rarely hear about Spotfire outside of their emailed newsletter that I subscribe to or the Spotfire reps that I follow on Twitter. I never have seen one Spotfire sales rep in the wild nor one book on the shelf at a bookstore. This group seems to be missing a window of opportunity by being a little too quiet in the market. I could foresee them stepping it up this year now that marketing guru Patrick Husting, formerly of Extended Results, is on their team. I can share that when I recently vented to them about being far too secretive and difficult to buy that they immediately contacted me, resolved the issue, and went above and beyond to ensure that I got what I needed. Most of Gartner’s comments about them were pun intended = “spot on”.

QliView
Qlik fared better than I thought they would in the midst of completely rearchitected vNext that is late. It is hard not to like dynamic Donald Farmer and he is a master at selling a vision. Qlik may have blown away Gartner reviewers with current solutions and futures. They do undeniably have an intriguing persona-based user interface approach in their next release being labeled Natural Analytics. In the past I have been very hard on them for their sketchy sales tactics and exceptionally long solution build times. They are addressing the build time issues in vNext but I am not sure yet if vNext is still an IT-build first tool or not. I simply do not know. Gartner saw something in Qlik vNext that must have been excellent to keep them rated so highly here while a few other BI vendors dropped dramatically this year.

MSFT BI

Microsoft
This year Microsoft took a tumble from the coveted top spot that they occupied last year and slipped back to the lowest score that they have received in several years. The “cloud first, cloud only” Excel Power BI engineering focus did hurt them. There are simply too many huuuuge gaps right now even though the Microsoft Excel focus vision has significant BI industry disruption potential. Gartner gave them kudos for embedding Power View in Excel but also gave them a hard time about mobile fairly so. A few years ago mobile was supposed to be delivered H1 2013 and we are still waiting for native iOS. The HTML5 for Power View release is a really pivotal accomplishment. The front-end BI competition will truly begin now versus rebuilding a different, basic ad-hoc, reporting UI over and over again. I was super excited to finally see the SAP Business Objects Universe connectivity released for Power BI. I had lobbied with a few other people at Microsoft in 2011 and 2012 to make it a priority. SAP Business Objects Universe connectivity from Microsoft BI products was a top feature request from many enterprise accounts. YAY! Now it is key for Microsoft to stay committed to the front-end BI UI tool direction and still love BI pros too. Microsoft front-end BI is lagging behind the top data discovery players and top traditional BI players though it is implemented everywhere. Right now they are even behind SAP with SAP Lumira having more functionality than Power View today. The professional Microsoft BI tools have been neglected since 2012 and need to keep improving to keep up. However with the mega-money power of Microsoft Office behind Microsoft BI now, I don’t count them out. On the contrary, I expect that in the next three years competition will get quite intense with the future of Excel Power BI, Power Query and Power View being “good enough” creating a lot of pressure in the whole BI market. Look at all the marketing they are doing now since Power BI is lucrative for them! Microsoft does a GREAT job with user experience and simply needs to add a lot of depth and fill holes. I wonder if many of the small BI players on this list like Pyramid, Infor, Actuate, Arcplan and a few others will survive when Microsoft Power BI matures.

I do feel that Power BI is too expensive right now for the current offering business value. Like many other things Microsoft BI, it will improve over time. I literally heart-ached over spending more than $720+ a year before March 8th when my trial expired for just me, one person, to host small Excel files (less than 250MB) in the Power BI cloud. The coming soon external Power BI use case is exciting to me. Tableau, SAP Lumira, Spotfire and other players already offer external facing BI for less money per year. As a tiny business, I do not need Power BI features to survive so that $720+ price tag for E3 + Power BI add-on is tough for me to justify. Since I also have a Office 365 P1 plan that does not migrate to an E plan (grrrr…), I am now double-paying Office 365. I am a fan of Microsoft BI and LOVE Office 365 but uuuugh, the cloud BI costs are horribly expensive. I have been scrambling to find a Partner Action Pack discount or anything else to get a better deal with no luck. There are NO deals for those of us out here that promote and help Microsoft BI. There used to be discounts in the past with programs like BizSpark and MVPs.

SAP
SAP
SAP fell back in vision for an improved ability to execute. At the end of the day, being able to deliver is key and this in my mind was a good result for SAP. I bought SAP Lumira last year and like it a lot. I do see some great things happening in the SAP free training that they are providing and other goodies. SAP Business Objects is still miserably slow to implement but I know that they know it. I also know that they are trying to improve the whole BI, analytics and big data experience. As Gartner cited, “the release in late 2013 of SAP InfiniteInsight (based on the acquired KXEN product), which is bundled with SAP Predictive Analysis, confirms SAP’s strategic direction and commitment to embedded and accessible advanced analytics and smart data discovery by combining the capabilities of Hana, KXEN and Lumira in a single platform that delivers sophisticated (in some cases, automated) predictive and prescriptive analytic capabilities to a broad range of business users”. I have been DYING to get my hands on SAP InfiniteInsight and even begged an SAP rep that called me over the holidays to tweak my SAP Lumira blog to add the cloud visualization capabilities. I am passionate about predictive and intrigued by KXEN. I can only imagine how awesome this combo is… come on SAP, let me try it. Pretty please. : )

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Microstrategy and Oracle
Honestly I can’t believe both these players have fallen again this year. Microstrategy used to be a premier BI player with a feature-rich offering. The past three or four years now they have been dropping, losing market share, stumbling….what is going on? I liked the new, FREE Microstrategy Desktop and blogged about it last year. The shared semantic layer build is a looooong, complex process and the licensing prices are crazy expensive. However, they have added a few lower cost SKUs to the mix and do have stellar mobile BI. Apparently Gartner cites those long builds, high price and poor support as serious issues for them. I have seen them losing to Tableau more than once last year. Think about it, with Tableau you can get similar if not better dashboards with one bazillionth of the work effort. Often build time costs are not considered but they should be in vendor selections. Someone over at Microstrategy needs to make some serious changes over there soon.

Oracle has never seemed to be strong in BI and I have yet to meet anyone that loves OBIEE ever. Personally I think they did a great job with in-database predictive analytics early on. Oracle Endeca is interesting but I don’t know of anyone using it. To be totally fair to Oracle, I have done very little with Oracle BI solutions in general since 2003. Back then Oracle Discoverer was ok. I did notice in my Oracle World blog that they have added a nice collection of Oracle BI VMs for folks that want to learn it.

IBM
IBM used to be another top BI leader. They have fallen in these rankings BUT I am not discounting them. IBM Cognos is a good solution though customers do complain of poor performance even on the latest releases. TM1 seems outdated to me now but I do completely adore IBM SPSS predictive, IBM Watson and their Smarter Planet initiative. I watched a televised, inside look at IBM innovations and how IBM Watson was developed several years ago. IBM is brilliant and uses the best and brightest talent that can reside anywhere in the world. At the time, the inside look showcased virtual teams and meetings. They showed IBM buildings as ghost-towns. It was an interesting futuristic look at virtual workforces. There is a lot to be said for the office smiles and water-cooler talks but having worked remotely for a long time, I do know that it works. If IBM can get the best talent in the world with this virtual work model while other players are still trying to woo people to gloomy Redmond, WA, IBM may have an upper hand advantage at some point down the road.

SAS
SAS historically has been a strong statistics and predictive player. I also don’t know of anyone using their BI tools. I have seen and played with SAS Visual Analytics and also SAS JMP. I can’t really figure out where SAS JMP fits and there seems to be some overlap with a few of their analytic solutions. I did feel their mobile BI app was certainly one of the better ones in the market. I don’t really know enough about SAS BI to comment but I do know when it comes to statistics and predictive that they are best in class! I have some presentations on my SlideShare for combining Tableau with SAS and other predictive solutions.

Surprise Players

Other Surprise Player Results
WOW! So the biggest surprise for me was seeing the major positive movement by Alteryx who is also riding along the Tableau Wave. They do have a fantastic self-service ETL solution with R embedded into it that I really like. Other large shifts were from Panorama. I feel that their new contextual data discovery is quite innovative and unique. I rarely run into them but used to in the Microsoft BI world.

GoodData and Birst have been making some waves and I have seen their market momentum. They are coming up more often in vendor selections. I recently reviewed both vendors for a Cloud BI selection and thought they were quite nice but pricey. In my review, Birst fared better than GoodData because I was not crazy about GoodData’s ETL and I was impressed with Birst’s SCD Type 2 Data Warehouse wizard capability that I have not seen anywhere else. I liked GoodData’s pretty UI and their mobile BI better than Birst. Any vendor that uses a Flash UI will never get my blessing after seeing the long delays of Silverlight rebuilds in the Microsoft BI realm. Regardless, both are leaders in the Cloud BI space and Cloud BI is finally coming to the forefront.

Jaspersoft was another surprise. I am seeing a lot more Jaspersoft inquiries than I did in the past. They are a bit better than their main competitor Pentaho. For the low cost gains from using commercial and open source community solutions, you end up paying the price with Jaspersoft in development time, effort and skills needed to do anything with it. These open source, low cost solutions are popular with ISVs and are finally good enough looking for more folks to embed them into their software solutions. Since Microsoft forced SharePoint into the mix for Power View, Jaspersoft has been an alternative that traditional Microsoft BI ISV shops that used SSRS have been migrating to recently.

Summary
I know there are many other BI players in the Gartner report…too many players. It is a must read for anyone purchasing or renewing BI software licenses. Cindi Howson’s BI Scorecard is also a fantastic value if you are investing in a BI tool/performing a vendor selection. It has over 300 criteria and she is a former BI implementer like me that knows what it is truly important in a BI solution. Keep in mind that this report and many others are created by analysts and not BI users/customers. The other BI tool research report that I think is key to review is the one called “Customer’s Rate their Own BI Platforms”. That report has real-world BI platform implementation results feedback from real users, not industry analysts.