In analyzing the 2018 Gartner BI Magic Quadrant – Part 1, we revisited how to interpret this report, discussed new criteria, who’s missing, top shockers, recurring themes and the three Leaders. Don’t overlook the innovative gems in this next mix when putting together your short list. In Part 2, we will explore the Visionaries, Niche Players and Challengers. Beware it is a looooooong read.

Don’t overlook the innovative gems in this next mix of vendors

Yesterday morning Gartner shared highlights of the vendor review process, analyst perspectives and answered FAQs in a public webinar. It was an excellent session. The top mistakes when using the Magic Quadrant report include avoiding only looking at the graphic without reading the content, only considering the Leaders in evaluations, and only using the Magic Quadrant report without the related Critical Capabilities, Market Guide for Traditional Enterprise Reporting Platforms, and other reports.

Gartner also warned attendees not to assume axes criteria. They reiterated active Gartner clients can apply custom criteria in the interactive online version that I shared in last years review.



This year Salesforce improved on the Ability to Execute and continued leading the next generation of analytics innovation. Previously acquired BeyondCore, former Analytics Wave, and new machine learning for the masses further evolved into several Einstein branded offerings. One of the things that I personally like about Einstein is the intelligent prescriptive recommendations in context along with integrated actions within Salesforce apps (ie. schedule event, create ticket, etc.)

  • Discover: Insights that bring new clarity about your company’s customers
  • Predict: Outcomes so your users can make decisions with confidence
  • Recommend: The best actions to make the most out of every engagement
  • Automate: Streamlined tasks that let your users focus on customer success

For a peek at Salesforce Einstein’s family of offerings, I was told to check out Trailhead in my analyst briefing last December. If you have not been to the trails (guided learning paths) per se, they are excellent educational solution overviews and getting started resources.


Although some of the Einstein solutions can be used outside of the Salesforce realm and/or combined with non-Salesforce data, I have only come across them in Salesforce accounts. It sounds like Gartner is seeing a similar pattern in adoption. Premium pricing also seems to be holding them back. Per Gartner, “Forty-nine percent of Salesforce reference customers cite cost as a barrier, a higher percentage than for any other vendor in this Magic Quadrant.” Following Dreamforce 2017, I heard similar feedback from attendees. If they revisit go to market and pricing, they could be an even powerful force in the future.


This year Sisense surprised me in a good way. Last year after the Gartner Data & Analytics event, I engaged with them in a private and public “hands-on” Solution Review. I provided feedback that they have indeed implemented in the Sisense 7.0 release along with other amazing cool ideas from customers and the product team. In my opinion, Sisense has one of the most creative and fun teams that I have encountered. Last year they came up with Sisense Everywhere theme in bots, light bulbs, voice analytics, Zapier flows, and more. I was skeptical but then I met their customers during an event in New York. The Sisense customers that I met seemed to love them and the colored light bulbs are being successfully implemented. I left that event with a good vibe and I’m happy that they are excelling.

Sisense Pulse Alerts

Per Gartner Sisense was “positioned in the top quartile for its vision on product strategy, which is supported by a solid development roadmap with innovative capabilities. As workforce diversity helps with innovation, it is noteworthy that more than 30% of leadership positions in Sisense are held by women, above the industry average.” Kudos. Refreshing. Rare. Gartner went on to share the vendor’s total company revenue grew by an estimated 70% for 2017, with 1,000 customer deployments. 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.”

For cautions, Gartner cited limited global region coverage, smaller deployment sizes, and less intuitive data prep, grouping and complex filtering capabilities. Having tested the earlier release of the Sisense solution, I find most of those to be fair critiques. I was unhappy with the data prep via SQL joins approach last year that has been completely redesigned in the latest version. I was a little surprised by the comment that ” augmented data discovery is only modestly represented”. This group was featured in Gartner’s Innovation session last year. They already had machine learning proactive pulse alerts, voice analytics, bots, vertical industry solution templates, visualization and functionality extensions, and this year they continued adding more creative capabilities and automated insights. All in all, the placement is extremely strong for this gem.


Another vendor that fared well this past year is Thoughtspot. Last year I fielded a flurry of investor calls about them along with search trend inquiries in the analytics industry. I also had several groups including a large US bank ask about them during a vendor selection. Apparently Thoughtspot is gaining momentum in a difficult market. From what I have seen, they usually accompany other self-service BI offerings. I do know that they have improved since I was last briefed. Thus, I have planned an upcoming review on the horizon with them.

Gartner showcased Thoughtspot search analytics and the new SpotIQ augmented analytics in the Innovation session this year. Their claim to fame seems to be their search UX and exceptional speed at scale. As Gartner notes, “several of the company’s founders come from Google.” If there is any company that knows search, it would be Google. “Reference customers’ scores for ThoughtSpot’s overall diversity, ethics and culture were the highest of any vendor in this Magic Quadrant.” That is also a strong positive for them – people like to work with nice vendors and feel valued.

For cautions, Gartner shared limited geographic reach, pricing and data replication concerns. When asked about the need to bring data into the system, they emphasize it is for the best UX and performance. For some groups, that copying data requirement may be a show stopper. Needless to say Thoughtspot strengths and extremely positive feedback make it one to watch in 2018.


Every single year I think TIBCO should be rated higher. They do have one of the best visual analytics platforms. Per Gartner, TIBCO has “extensive capabilities for analytics dashboards, interactive visualization and data preparation in a single design tool and workflow, while offering flexible processing options either in-memory or in-database. TIBCO has continued to expand its feature set to include data science, machine learning and streaming analytics, location intelligence, data cataloging and, most recently, data virtualization through acquisition, OEM relationships and integration with TIBCO middleware. It also delivered product enhancements in advanced analytics for citizen data scientists, automated insight recommendations, and augmented data preparation.”

TIBCO Spotfire Data Prep

I highlighted my favorite TIBCO Spotfire features last year in a webinar. I was shocked at how far TIBCO had come since I last reviewed them in 2014. They have continued to acquire excellent IoT, data virtualization, advanced streaming and data science platform capabilities. They are another one to watch in 2018.

For cautions, Gartner mentioned “publish, share and collaborate features were scored as “good” overall, but there was a lack of storytelling features, user content ratings and no integration with social platforms other than TIBCO’s tibbr.” They also were called out to improve on sales experience, migrations, and pricing. In the past, I have referred prospects to them only to have them referred back out to be lost in the partner channel. I’m not sure if that is still happening or not. They really do have a nice offering once you get to know it. Advanced users such as scientists and engineers adopt this one.


Looker has the best PR agency…they really do! This group is always in the news and does a fabulous  job reaching out to me with updates. I wish I liked the offering more than I do but I was not a fan of  scripting via Look ML. It seems like Gartner also did not care for that feature and noted  “a third of Looker’s reference customers reported that ease of use for business users was a limitation to its wider deployment. This was the highest proportion of any vendor in this Magic Quadrant. Those who can use Looker like it a lot, but the code based approach for authoring is less accessible to the mass market of business users than the GUI-based approaches that are driving much of the net new buying here. Looker’s composite ease-of-use score also placed it last of all Magic Quadrant vendors.”

On the upside, I have always heard this group has stellar support via chat, excellent native connectors to cloud data sources, backing from Google Ventures that seems to get them to be the defacto analytics back end in other Silicon Valley startups. Mark Rittman wrote a wonderful article following Looker’s annual JOIN 2017 conference that is a good read to better understand this newcomer.


Last month I shared a brief overview of Yellowfin here. They offer a comprehensive, web-based analytics and BI platform with reports, dashboards and alerting. They also have strong storyboard and infographic capabilities that combine interactive media, images, custom text, unlimited data visualization possibilities via custom JavaScript visualizations from D3, Plotly, Chart, C3, and other popular libraries. Recently Yellowfin added data prep and augmented analytics capabilities with natural language descriptions. Gartner mentioned additional strengths as simple pricing, collaboration, threaded discussion scheduling, alerting, and a workflow tracker for collaborative development with time-stamped visualizations.


I like how Yellowfin has also elegantly integrated machine assisted insights that can be specifically guided by human expertise. and their democratized data science features within the workflow of everyday analytics. Rather than rely exclusively on out-of-the-box models, all Yellowfin users can apply knowledge gained from custom predictive models developed in Python, R,, SAS, SPSS or other industry standard PMML platforms with a simple button-click. They have one of the nicest integrations that I have seen for operationalizing machine learning.

For cautions, Gartner cited lower marketing awareness and less social media followers. If you want to help them improve that social media gripe, follow them. Ironically, I do believe other vendors use Twitter bots. How does Gartner decipher who is real from the fake followers? I usually recognize Twitter bots when unexciting news is overly retweeted or the same news keeps getting retweeted by the same accounts.

Pyramid Analytics

Pyramid Analytics is a group that I have covered numerous times. Gartner cites “product offering strategy and a focus on platform rebuild, rather than an ongoing innovation development cycle” affected its position. Like last year, Pyramid Analytics has a high percentage of deployments on top of Microsoft-based enterprise data warehouses (EDWs), at 70% of its customer references. This is even higher than Microsoft’s own result (60%). It is also one of the top platforms used with Microsoft’s ERP and CRM solutions, with percentages roughly equivalent to Microsoft in both cases. Pyramid continues to offer a tight and extensive integration with the Microsoft environment. It should therefore be assessed when that is a top requirement, or in a multi-infrastructure environment where Microsoft plays a key role as the platform matures its support for other data infrastructure environments.”

Pyramid Analytics Machine Learning

Pyramid Analytics Machine Learning

For cautions, Gartner mentions vision, customer experience, differentiation and future outlook. Notably Pyramid Analytics invested at least one year, possibly longer, helping develop Microsoft Power BI. They were marketed by Microsoft as the “preferred partner” for on-prem BI – an unusual move to market another vendor as the one blessed vendor per se. As you can imagine, other Microsoft ecosystem partners were grumbly and community was confused. This arrangement gave Pyramid Analytics a huge short term boost but it is hurting them now. When Microsoft’s worldwide sales teams and  community was instructed to sell Microsoft’s rebranded Reporting Services on-prem server, Pyramid Analytics momentum slowed. Remember in Part 1 when I mentioned the annual measurement, incentives, and power of Microsoft’s massive volunteer force? Despite being a longtime Microsoft community supporter, Pyramid Analytics has to start building a community in new channels. In my opinion that I have shared with them, they should stop comparing themselves to Power BI. They have created a wonderful new cross platform solution that works with many different data sources and includes strong machine learning capabilities for citizen data science. Now they need to keep innovating in 2018 and building on their strengths.


Oh DOMO. I was supposed to be at the DOMO event in Utah this week but due to an ugly weather forecast with expected flight cancellations, I did not go on that trip. I will check the event feed and get a update from them soon.

This past year I did get several DOMO vendor selection inquiries. People still find my several years old DOMO expose and stumble on the more recent articles. This group is always entertaining, pushing the boundaries of marketing madness, and telling little white lies. The offering they now have is much better than it was in the past. The “Business in a Box”, easy button, prebuilt solution templates used by ~90% of customers are compelling. They also added a new set of capabilities powered by machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to deliver more advanced insights, recommendations and alerts called Mr. Roboto. DOMO’s data integration called “Magic” ETL is also interesting. Even the solution names are memorable, fun and catchy…they are better than most other vendors when it comes to naming solutions.

Per Gartner, “DOMO was evaluated as being top of all vendors in this Magic Quadrant in four out of five ease-of-use categories by its reference customers, including for its visual appeal. Reflecting this strength, Domo was primarily selected by its reference customers for its ease-of-use capabilities, followed by data access and integration, and its cloud deployment model.”  In my early reviews of DOMO, I knew it would look gorgeous. They also had acquired a wonderful library of connectors from the Corda Technologies purchase that they have continued to build up over the years.

Sneak Peek

Gartner also shared the DOMO “reference customers report that they are achieving business benefits. Domo’s scores also led to top quartile placement for product quality and migration. Domo’s reference customers are also strongly positive about its viability and future — highest of all vendors — and also report greater success this year compared with last year. References scored the Domo sales experience higher than that of any other vendor. Domo’s customer relationship managers provide a high-touch approach. ”

For cautions, complexity of analysis, low standardization rate and support were mentioned. Due to DOMO’s background in marketing analytics, it is not that surprising many clients use it in a departmental manner versus being the enterprise standard. Since most customers are using prebuilt solutions, I am not taken back by lack of difficulty in what is being analyzed. When I last looked at DOMO in 2016, I noticed the UX was not as flexible as other self-service BI solutions. It was less drag, drop, drill-down discovery than the other offerings that I have tested. It seemed more like a traditional dashboard offering with guided analysis.

Logi Analytics

The rating for Logi Analytics was disappointing but thinking more about them, I’m not sure why they are in here. I see most of the other embedded BI-focused vendors in the Traditional Enterprise Reporting Platforms. Per Gartner, “2017 has been a year of significant change. First, the company went through a major positioning and packaging overhaul in order to focus exclusively on the OEM and embedded use case for analytics and BI platforms. Secondly, Logi Analytics was acquired by Marlin Equity Partners, a global private equity firm that specializes in growing software businesses, in October 2017. Logi will remain a privately held company, but will now be able to leverage the expertise and operational resources of its new owner.” Next year they might get moved to the other report.

For strengths, Gartner cites “Logi now leads with the concept of “developer-grade analytics”, reference customers selecting Logi Platform cite license cost and ease of use for content developers / authors, “excellent” to “outstanding” functionality in BI platform administration, security and architecture, data source connectivity and ingestion, interactive visual exploration, and analytic dashboards”. For weaknesses, simple use cases (common to embedded BI scenarios), no native cloud offering, and lower customer enablement was mentioned.


Per Gartner, IBM Cognos 11 has lost market momentum. That could be due to IBM’s emphasis right now on winning in artificial intelligence. I rarely if ever see this solution promoted. Note IBM Cognos 11 seems to be covered in here and also in the Market Guide for Traditional Enterprise Reporting Platforms. I’m not sure what report to use for evaluating it. Historically, IBM Cognos was one of the best BI platforms when I was growing up in the industry. I longed to work on an IBM project. It seems like they missed the Mode 2/self-service BI wave while being an early innovator with augmented and cognitive analytics.

IBM Watson Analytics


IBM Watson Analytics is also covered in this report. Having played with IBM Watson Analytics since the very first day of public beta years ago, I was thrilled by the potential but I have not yet seen the UX mastered. Something is holding that UX back from achieving what is possible. I love the award-winning UX of IBM Data Science Experience. Maybe they just need to borrow those UX designers for a while? Like Salesforce and Oracle, IBM seems to be used primarily in legacy IBM accounts.


MicroStrategy is one of the historical BI leaders from the traditional Mode 1 BI wave. They do have the strongest mobile BI offerings but they fell behind on Mode 2/self-service BI wave. Now they are catching up and starting to innovate again. Unlike Gartner, Forrester higher rates MicroStrategy and lower ranks Microsoft. Since I used to answer the analyst RFIs, I know the questions I received were similar. The analyst world is a mystery we’ll soon explore further.

Per Gartner, “MicroStrategy released third-party integrations with Automated Insights and Narrative Science for NLG, and has made some investments in chatbot integration. However, augmented data discovery features, such as automated insight generation and NLQ, are still lacking in the current product (though there is some evidence of them, particularly NLQ, on the product roadmap).” One of the most popular news items this year has been added Tableau, Qlik and Power BI connectivity.

Cautions from Gartner included attracting new customers, limited market awareness, and negative sales growth. While at the MicroStrategy World conference, I only saw a few representatives from the paid subscription analyst firms. You can’t reach new markets if you always use the same faces and  approaches to share exciting news with the next generation of buyers. This should be a relatively easy area for them to improve upon while also encouraging sales and community to be more visible externally in social media. The new free desktop offering coupled with point-and-click easy AWS cloud provisioning will also be helpful for them this coming year.

The Others

Although most vendors brief me and share news, SAS, SAP, Oracle, Birst, Information Builders, and Board do not.  I usually check and share the aloof vendors news through automated alerts that I set up and social feeds. As a result, I don’t usually cover them often. From what I can tell, SAS Viya has come a very long way but has low adoption due to high pricing. From comments gathered at Gartner’s event, it sounds like SAP is working on SAP Analytics Cloud and reducing emphasis on SAP Lumira.

The last time I saw Birst I was impressed by the intelligent automated data prep and creation of a semantic layer. They also had been awarded several patents in the augmented analytics space. Gartner mentioned Birst has strong product scores and unique networked analytics capabilities that unifiy centralized and decentralized analytics.

I do believe that I have a scheduled update from Oracle soon. Gartner mentioned that Oracle has one of the best roadmaps covering NLG, NLQ, and augmented data discovery. Now I need to see them!  Two of my peers also told me that Oracle is looking really good these days but like Salesforce, Oracle is usually only used within their historical accounts. I’ll share more information on them when I get it.

In the Next Article

In the next article in this series, 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. Industry analysis is a lucrative business surrounded by intriguing mystery.

One thing to always keep in mind when you see award reports being marketed is to understand how the awards were issued, if a fee was required and if key competitors were also included in the report vendor review process. I have recently seen vendors touting awards from reports that were missing top competitors. Any guaranteed award that was earned merely by paying a fee to a third party is basically nothing more than an advertisement.

Any award earned merely by paying a fee is basically an advertisement

For example, several online magazines have reached out to me sharing that my teeny tiny business has been “awarded” to the Top 20 Big Data Solution Providers and other bizarre accolades for a nominal fee of ~$3,000 USD. There is no way in a bazillion years that my company should qualify for the paid awards that have been offered to me. Reputable groups and vendors that don’t make it into Gartner or Forrester reports might find any award tempting. Don’t buy a misleading award. Savvy buyers know the difference.