I wrote about future business intelligence and analytics trends back in May 2014.  At that time, I was keeping a pulse on the following trends:

  • Embedded Analytics (already prevalent today and simply growing)
  • Cognitive BI (the IBM-Watson effect, Siri, Cortana, Natural Query, etc.)
  • Automation of BI and Analytics
  • Hyper-Individual Experiences
  • Marketplaces
  • Cloud (also widespread today and growing rapidly)

Fast-forward a few months and we are already seeing these trends come to life. More new players have entered into the already crowded, “analytics for everyone” market.  New solutions like IBM Watson Analytics, Salesforce Analytics Cloud “Wave”, ZoomData, FICO Analytics Cloud, Looker, DataHero and DataRPM are on the development fast-track with strong initial releases.  Add a sampling of new players to the growing list of top niche players such as Tableau, Qlik, TIBCO Spotfire, DataWatch, Advizor, SisenseGoodData, Birst, YellowFin, DOMO,  Datameer, Platfora, Logi Analytics, Antivia, Targit and the list of established traditional players like Microsoft (Power BI), SAP (Lumira and InfiniteInsight), SAS (Visual Insight), Oracle (new Oracle Cloud Analytics) and Microstrategy … and what you see today is BI and analytics market madness.  Cloud, big data, niche and traditional analytics solutions are all merging together at a light-speed pace into analytics commoditization.

The analytics market is flooded today with similar, browser-based, mobile-friendly, analytics for everyone – no need for IT – solutions.  Most players showcase grid-like, boxy-looking dashboards with HTML5 data visualizations (often D3.js based) and KPI components that non-technical users author. To the untrained eye, all of these solutions seem exactly the same. Same look, same marketing story, minimally different dashboard development experience that is partially automated with varying degrees of “smart analytics” aka automated predictive.  Differences today seem to be in the areas of implementation model options (cloud, on-premise or both), licensing fees (many use subscription models now, even a unique token usage model by Qlik), available data connectors and data connection options – copy data or direct connect, user experiences, ability to customize, secure, integrate and how natural language, search, recommended visualizations and predictive features are baked in.  All of these solutions are targeted for non-technical users though Looker and Oracle’s offerings do appear more complicated, not really optimized for non-technical users.  A few players have already completely automated initial dashboard builds including automated predictive analytics.  The BI and analytics game is indeed changing with these recent innovations.

Compelling New Players

Out of the newcomers, IBM Watson Analytics and ZoomData both seem to stand out to me but for different reasons. IBM Watson Analytics has cooked in predictive analytics and fully automated dashboard design. Instead of a business user spending hours or even minutes trying to identify influencers and patterns, instant “intelligent insights” are shown following a simple point-and-click data upload. I liked the excellent IBM Watson data profiling features. (Fun fact! I recommended adding a quick data profile feature to Tableau last year. This is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to see at TCC 14.  IBM’s data profiling implementation is a little like Predixion and Weka data profiling but a bit better with data quality estimates.) Easy data exploration, visualization and the “smart” recommendations are totally fantastic. Here are a few screenshots of IBM Watson in action:




Note IBM Watson Analytics is still in beta with an imminent public trial release. Rumors are this cool new offering will include a freemium option. I have no idea what the enterprise solution costs but I have to imagine that it will carry a premium price tag much like IBM Cognos and IBM SPSS do today.

ZoomData is a v1 big data visual analytics offering that already has a v5 or v7+ feature set. I have been incredibly impressed with this quiet new player. They don’t even reply to my nice-gram emails.  Oh well…   One of the leaders of the company is a former Microstrategy exec that “just gets BI and analytics”.  ZoomData has automated dashboard builds with big data and streaming real-time data sources. They are also an early Spark adopter with Spark certification via DataBricks. ZoomData gave a fantastic session at the DataBricks conference last year that you can watch on YouTube if interested in a deeper dive. Their speed of development, depth of v1 feature sets, micro-query design, early success with Spark data loading and elastic search, strong library of data and data search connectors (DataBricks, Spark, Impala, Redshift, AWS Kinesis, RDS and S3, Cloudera Search, Elastic Search, Solr, MongoDB, Hadoop HDFS, relational DBs, flats files, APIs and others), rich data security integration (LDAP, SSO via SMAL, etc.), agile, flexible and customizable visualization library, branding, color schemes and JavaScript API are a few reasons why I find them compelling.  Like many other players, they have attractive, mobile-ready, HTML5 visualizations and dashboards that non-technical users can create in a simple drag-and-drop interface. You don’t hear much about ZoomData today but you will in the future.


Who will Survive?

With an ever growing list of “analytics for everyone” options, low differentiation, quite a few decent freemium solutions AND Microsoft’s Power BI in Excel getting much better, I expect BI and analytics marketing to get exceptionally aggressive and sophisticated in the coming year.  The sales battle for market share will get extremely intense!  In a game with this many small players, expect heavy partnership plays and future consolidation. In commodity markets, mega-players do have an advantage.  We are already seeing mega-vendors Microsoft and SAP making monthly analytics product release updates – leapfrogging a few niche player offerings.  It is going to be truly interesting to see the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics Platforms…who makes the cut, who does not and how they all stack up.  It will be even more interesting to see who survives to see a Gartner Magic Quadrant 2017.