Once again we enter the most magical, controversial time of the year in the analytics realm. Last year, I delved into understanding this report, why it is skewed, contentious, what it really measures and how it should be used along with Critical Capabilities and the Market Guide for Traditional Enterprise Reporting Platforms. I also shared my perspective on the vendors with tips to improve rankings since I used to participate in these evaluations.  If you have not read last year’s article, it is highly recommended as a must-read supplement to this article.

Do not confuse vendor placement with assumptions on solution capabilities

I noticed the Magic Quadrant industry analyst authors are emphasizing more than ever before not to confuse vendor placement with assumptions on solution capabilities, read this report and the vendor notes. They also are providing elevated warnings regarding total cost of ownership.

This year I’ll be doing something a little different. I can’t possibly share my insights on most of these vendors in one extremely rushed article, so I’m writing a series starting with the top three Leaders. In addition to sharing my perspectives, I also was personally briefed by Gartner, gathered notes from numerous vendors and attended Garter’s Data & Analytics event to get the full scoop. Bruno Aziza of AtScale sent me a fantastic video of Gideon Gartner, a founder of Gartner, that touches on known Magic Quadrant misuses and abuses. It is a fabulous find and a must watch!

Without further delay, let’s dive in.

Top Shockers

All in all, not much surprised me this year. My biggest shocker was the highlighted mentions and lack of mentions for ethics, culture, and diversity for vendors. This is a sensitive topic for me since I have personally seen, experienced and testified as a witness to things that I wish I had not encountered in all of these areas.

New ethics, culture, and diversity data is being collected

Frequent readers know that I have also written about questionable and misleading tactics numerous times. Before I transitioned from implementation consulting to vendor technical sales in 2011, I was trusting and naïve. When I made that move, my account manager welcomed me into the “dark side” of the business. I did not understand what he meant until I was deep into the ugly side. I sense most buyers are also trusting and naïve. The “dark side” information is not usually publicly available. I’ve only found a couple sites that seem to cover it. Thus, I think it is fantastic that Gartner is starting to collect a little more data on ethics, culture, and diversity experiences with vendors.

Here are the vendors with the highest customer ratings that earned diversity, ethics and culture mentions in this report. Other vendors not mentioned received lower scores.

  1. Thoughtspot: Reference customers’ scores for ThoughtSpot’s overall diversity, ethics and culture were the highest of any vendor in this Magic Quadrant.
  2. Sisense: Reference customer scores also placed Sisense in the top quartile for its ethics, culture and diversity, with 100% of its references evaluating the vendor as “excellent.”
  3. Tableau: Reference customer scores place Tableau in the top quartile for ethics and culture, with 94% of reference customers scoring it as “excellent.”
  4. Yellowfin: Reference customers scored Yellowfin’s ethics, culture and diversity above average for this Magic Quadrant, with 91% considering it “excellent.”
  5. Information Builders: Reference scores for ethics, culture and diversity placed Information Builders in the top quartile of vendors for this Magic Quadrant, with 85% describing this as “excellent.”

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant authors shared with me that they were unsure if customers found ethics, culture, and diversity criteria important or if it was just something they felt was important. Surprisingly, 71% of Magic Quadrant reference customers did share that it was highly valued information for technical purchases. Based on those results, I almost anticipate more research will be done in those areas across more Gartner customers.

71% of Magic Quadrant reference customers did share ethics, culture, and diversity was highly valued information

Unpredicted Results

Qlik, Thoughspot, Salesforce and Sisense’s placements were unexpected. I did do my homework on several of these vendors to find out more. I’ll share that detail in the vendor summaries and future series articles. From what I gathered and heard, it seemed like anyone with Augmented Analytics scored high on vision except YellowFin and Oracle. Nevertheless, Gartner shared at the in-person event that Oracle has one of the best roadmaps.

Oracle has one of the best roadmaps

Who’s Missing

Just like the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine-Learning Platforms, I noticed several expected vendors were not included. Gartner eliminated the Other Vendors to Consider section because they publish this as a separate note which allows them to include more vendors.There are so many excellent vendors in this space that either opt not to participate or miss the year-over-year sales growth inclusion criteria when they grow to be a mid-sized company. My LinkedIn post also had the usual rants…legally dismissed case accusations of pay to play, politics and so on.

This year I expected to see Amazon QuickSight make a debut. Although it is not a deep offering, the family of related Amazon AWS cloud analytics is similar to Microsoft’s cloud analytics. Unlike Google Data Studio that is still in what seems to be a forever beta status, Amazon QuickSight has been available all year at a comparable price to Microsoft Power BI. I know Amazon QuickSight has customers since my Getting Started with Amazon QuickSight class sold out every single time it was offered. Ironically, Google was a Leader and Amazon placed well in the Forrester Wave: Insight Platforms-as-a-service, Q3 2017. The differences in ratings between the different industry analysts – Gartner, Forrester, Dresner, and BARC –  is a topic that I’ll be exploring soon with you.

Another vendor that I assumed would be in here is Zoho Reports. I did a “hands-on” Solution Review recently that I am waiting to publish. Zoho Reports fared much better than I expected. Zoho in general touts over 30,000,000 customers. To put that number in perspective, several of the vendors on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant have less than 50,000 customers. Looker cites a 1,200 customer metric in recent press releases.

IT/ BI Pro versus Business

Another theme that popped out at me this year was buried deep within the vendor notes. I noticed Gartner is paying much more attention to who was actually building reports – IT/BI Pros versus Non-Technical Business roles. I loved seeing that because I can’t tell you how many times I have told people asking for my advice that it is my BI Pro peers that are recommending, buying and building self-service BI. I still see the same people that I saw 20 years ago building OLAP cubes today.

As my wonderful peer Sophie Sachet also agrees, modern BI tools are “easy to get started” but not so easy to implement properly across the enterprise. Remember my Did You Buy a Self-Service BI Fantasy or Back to Dimensional Modeling Basics articles? What is old is new again with a nicer HTML5 UX and other cool cloud stuff.

Self-Service BI Fantasy

Many of the vendors do have much better point, click, drag-drop experiences and some have automated augmented analytics today. However, the same old OLAP cube, dimensional data modeling design patterns are being used for accurate reporting over time. Dimensional modeling is not easy. If the business is creating reports without any help, they are probably making a huge expensive mess that will need to be cleaned up by the IT/BI pros later. Pay now for a governed, scalable implementation or pay later cleaning up.

Communities and Evangelism

Year after year, we are still seeing Gartner emphasize building communities. Only a few vendors truly shine brightly in that area right now – Microsoft (via PASS), Tableau, Qlik, Salesforce, and SAP. TIBCO has vastly improved community. SAS and DOMO also seem to do a good job with it.

Many vendors are bumbling on community and evangelism

Way too many vendors are bumbling on community and evangelism. Social media “bots” are not a community. A movie star or TV celebrity is also not going to truly connect on the right level with the business or technical talent using your solutions to build a community. The gimmicks I am seeing right now are just silly.

Few vendors have free armies of passionate, almost cult-like, advocates social selling, creating content and providing 24×7 support. That is where both Tableau and Microsoft excel above the rest. In my biased opinion, I sense Microsoft outperforms Tableau in motivating the Power BI community to share official messaging, sell for them and avoid advocating non-Microsoft blessed solutions. The Microsoft MVP community is incredibly loyal, passionate and driven through annual measurements to retain that status. It is almost like having another full-time volunteer job. There are many perks for MVPs  –  educational, financial credits for products, good PR/exposure, direct access to product teams, and early insights into roadmaps. It is an extraordinary program that I have not seen executed as effectively anywhere else yet.

Global reach and impact is massive

To highlight this community and evangelism point, let’s contrast Microsoft with Amazon. Microsoft MVPs and also employees social sell, blog, write books, teach, and present at night and weekend events. Historically, evangelism was referred to as “war”. The global reach and impact of that work is massive. From what I know about Amazon, Amazon only allows a limited number of staff to share AWS goodness outside of “official channels”. They do have user groups but I have never seen one of those events promoted – only re:Invent.

Amazon and other vendors may be holding back community and evangelism initiatives due to FTC Endorsement/Influencer guideline concerns. I do know that IBM requires me to add FTC verbiage if they provide me anything of financial value to promote them in a blog, tweet or other social media channel. IBM is the only vendor that requires it. Note I do add “Sponsored” tags to inform my readers if I have been paid to write a vendor article. I do that only because it felt like the right thing to do – not because anyone forced me to do it. The FTC standards right now are blurry and inconsistently enforced. You can’t tell who is incented to social sell and blog today. If FTC enforcement becomes more prevalent, it would disrupt community and evangelism programs.


It was no surprise that Microsoft was highly ranked again. As I discussed in much more depth last year, Microsoft has never dropped out of the Gartner BI MQ Leader spot even when they probably should have been moved. There are many factors in this report that don’t relate to solution capabilities. Critical Capabilities is really the report you want to see for a specific use case or the interactive custom weightings.

To further illustrate this point, in the March 2016 BI Bake-Off I showed role-based security and surprised Gartner. At that time, Power BI did not have basic role-based security when we submitted our Magic Quadrant entry. Analysis Services and Reporting Services did have it but they were moved to a totally different report called the Market Guide for Traditional Enterprise Reporting Platforms. Power BI was also missing many other essential capabilities. However, Power BI still ranked as one of the three Leaders in this report. What, how, why?

Gartner cites “Microsoft is positioned in the Leaders quadrant again this year, with continued strong uptake of Power BI, and high levels of customer interest and adoption. Power BI’s reference scores also place it in the top quartile for visual appeal. Winning customers within the first few minutes has been part of Microsoft’s “five by five” strategy — five seconds to sign up and five minutes to “wow” the customer. ”

In my opinion, the Power BI vision that brilliant James Phillips brought to Microsoft was and still is amazing. He also makes things happen. If Phillips is involved in overseeing and/or driving the future of Power BI, I have unwavering confidence that it will continue to be mega-successful and fun to see evolve.

Power BI vision was and still is amazing

Excel excluded, Power BI is soooooo much better than anything else that Microsoft BI and analytics customers have experienced from them before. Customers seem happy. Community is ecstatic. The Office 365 bundling is also killer for land and expand. As Gartner mentioned, Microsoft is the incumbent in most organizations.

This year, Gartner called out Microsoft on the hodge-podge of different products with different capabilities on-prem and in the cloud. Gartner also shared “reference customers cited absent or weak functionality (14%) as a limitation to wider deployment, with 27% (the highest percentage of respondents for this Magic Quadrant) citing a range of other problems. These other problems include frequent updates disrupting functionality and documentation that does not match the release cadence; also, intermittent problems with the Enterprise Gateway”. While frequent updates are often seen as a benefit, they are also something that everyone seems to have trouble keeping up with.

There is much more to Power BI than meets the eye

Gartner also noted the “pattern of use suggests that the more advanced data preparation is performed outside Power BI and/or that IT is building common dashboards for many to consume. The average proportion of business users authoring their own content with Microsoft Power BI is 20%, in the bottom quartile of vendors for this Magic Quadrant.” Indeed, my BI Pro peers are building OLAP cubes, spinning up and stitching together a variety of Azure cloud services. There is much more to Power BI than meets the eye.


Tableau remains a strong leader. Again, most of what I said last year still applies this year. Gartner still considers Tableau the “Gold standard” for interactive visual exploration: Tableau’s core product strengths continue to be its intuitive interactive visualization and exploration, and analytic dashboarding capabilities, for almost any data source.

Gartner cited “top quartile score for achievement of business benefits and the highest score for user enablement — both key success measures. Tableau skills are in high demand, and to support this Tableau offers a vast array of learning options together with Tableau Public, its online community, and its extensive network of Alliance Partners. Its well-attended annual user conference, which topped 14,000 attendees in 2017, is further evidence of user satisfaction and customer success. Tableau’s reference customer scores place it in the top quartile for ethics and culture, with 94% of reference customers scoring it as “excellent.”…contributions to this position include its efforts to build product awareness globally; and its product roadmap, which includes NLP, augmented data preparation and discovery and agile data cataloging, among others. Strong market momentum in an increasingly competitive and price-sensitive market; ongoing product improvements; and excellent customer reference scores for customer experience and success. Tableau’s reference customer scores place it in the top quartile for ethics and culture, with 94% of reference customers scoring it as excellent.”

Tableau still the “Gold standard”

Gartner also cites “most of Tableau’s reference customers consider the platform to be either “one of” (36%) or “the” (52%) enterprise standard. Moreover, its reference customers report top quartile deployment sizes in terms of number of users compared with the other vendors evaluated. An increasing number of Tableau reference customers (at more than 55%, an above-average percentage) are using it to empower centralized teams to provision content for consumers in an agile and iterative manner. Other reference customers (64%) are using it to enable completely decentralized analysis by business”. Tableau is still thriving despite the intense competition. They disrupted the market – right place, right time. Customers may not want to leave them or migrate again. Thus, most groups may have more than one modern BI tool for a while.

For cautions, Gartner did fairly ding Tableau on breadth of offering, pricing and packaging and not leading the next wave of innovation. I also heartache over innovation myself – not just with Tableau but with most analytics vendors. I want to see more creative, new augmented intelligence capabilities along with the merging of artificial intelligence, unstructured analytics, and new delivery models via virtual reality, interactive storytelling apps or something else. I just got Project Maestro to test. It will be nice but not necessarily feeding my cravings for pushing the industry forward. Keep I mind, I am not a normal customer in this space. I would be the extreme outlier.


WOW. Ok, so a Leader placement was interesting given the current state of Qlik. I did ask around and was provided this article that shares insight from Qlik’s new CEO. Since the company’s sale to private equity firm Thoma Bravo in 2016, Qlik went through two rounds of layoffs, first in 2017, and again in early 2018. From chatting with peers, apparently Thoma Bravo is known for trimming down companies and maximizing profits. I’m not personally sold myself if that has been good for Qlik customers. From what I see and hear, they are shopping around more than they did before.

I still think basic Qlik Sense UX issues need to be fixed for them to thrive again. Gartner cited migration issues between different Qlik versions, cost and again the topic of IT/BI Pros building Qlik content versus the masses. I tested Qlik “hands-on” again last year and my tests with a simple five table star schema did not go well…and I am technical. Sigh… I can’t stress enough how important UX is to success. Too many vendors come to me with slick but clunky solutions. Test the UX with outside parties, love the UX, invest in the UX. UX will make or break you. All these solutions look similar. UX sets them apart.

Test the UX, love the UX, invest in the UX

Qlik did brief me this year and they were the only one talking multi-cloud, micro-services, IoT and a wide range of other strong developer capabilities. Qlik’s Associative Engine is loved – it is the shining star of their offering. The Associative Engine supports multiple data sources, complex data models and complex calculations. They also have rapid value prebuilt industry vertical applications, a marketplace, numerous extensions and many other developer/IT pro capabilities. One of Qlik’s talented OEM/Partner evangelists shared a neat data catalog solution that he built for Qlik customers. If they could clone that guy a thousand times over, I think they’d be doing much better in the market.

Gartner cited Qlik’s “network of more than 500 system integrators and 1,700 partners around the world, an estimated 70% of Qlik implementations are partner-led. These partners often have long-term relationships with their customers and understand their particular requirements. Qlik partners also contribute product extensions, prebuilt content and training, via either the marketplace or the community. Qlik reference customers scored the availability of skilled resources in the market as above average.” as another strength.

What Next

In the next article in this series, I will walk through the remaining Magic Quadrant vendors. After that article, I will share my insights into how the different industry analysts work, how they make money, and if I am aware of any known biases that may better shed light on why vendors rank differently in different analyst reports.