Everyone’s got intelligence these days. In fact, according to our judges, every company on the business intelligence (BI) leaderboard offers the same standard capabilities, including higher-level aspects such as user adoption, training, and knowledge transfer. “BI is moving along in maturity level and most major players have the goods,” says Leslie Ament, research director and managing partner for Hypatia Research. Because of this maturity, more companies are willing to look at the niche players rather than full-service, multisolution BI firms to meet their needs. “Even large companies with mature BI infrastructure are newly open to considering niche solutions,” says Jill Dyché, partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting. Dyché argues that high price points are hurting vendors that have been notoriously rigid in their negotiations. But despite those costs and a struggling economy, the BI software market grew this year, says Holger Kisker, senior analyst at Forrester Research—and as the economy continues to rebound, BI’s growth will accelerate.
Oracle remains on the leaderboard this year, in part, judges say, because a solid job of integration boosted the company’s scores in depth of functionality. Despite aggressive growth and visionary ambitions, Oracle “plays well in the sandbox” with other vendors’ software, according to Ament, which proves to customers that Oracle puts their priorities above its own. Dyché says she was impressed with how well Oracle positioned and packaged Oracle Business Intelligence Suite–Enterprise Edition, which she says “talks very seamlessly to the Oracle database.” Kisker, however, thinks Oracle needs to prove its commitment to developing BI tools. “I’m not really convinced they think BI is important as compared to their overall business strategy,” he says. “They seem to invest in other areas more.”
Also remaining among the leaders is SAP BusinessObjects, which was slammed last year by analysts for integration woes. While the company once again received higher grades than most others in the industry, it scored lower in each category than it did last year. “The sad part,” Dyché says, “is that it’s not clear to the marketplace how SAP is leveraging the BusinessObjects acquisition to be a bona-fide BI player independent from its [enterprise reource planning] platform.” No one was ready to refute a prediction made by one of last year’s analysts that it would take SAP 10 years to fully integrate BusinessObjects.
Dyché describes SAS Institute customers as “rabidly loyal,” which she attributes to SAS’s ability to produce an answer for every type of BI. Ament says SAS Institute has a “very robust offering in analytics,” and predicts that a recent alliance with Accenture to jointly develop, implement, and manage a next-generation predictive analytics solution will compete admirably against offerings from IBM. Kisker predicts SAS could see 20 percent growth in the coming year, primarily driven by one branch of its offerings. “The growth of performance management is approximately 25 percent,” Kisker notes, explaining why SAS should continue to thrive in the industry, “while reporting is below 5 percent and analytics is around 10 percent.”
Tibco Spotfire entered the leaderboard this year due in large part to how well it solves business problems. “Spotfire has a lot to say to the business side of the house,” Dyché says. “They go and talk to risk managers about risk management, and procurement people about procurement analysis. It’s not the usual feeds-and-speeds secret-sauce [technology] pitch.” Ament likes that the product is designed for both line-of-business and technical users via interactive visualization tools. “Tibco’s Spotfire BI solution combines analytics, e-discovery, modeling, [and] business process workflows with best practices,” Ament says, “making it attractive for data-intensive sectors such as life sciences and high-tech manufacturing.”
IBM’s Cognos made a great impression with judges, and was able to claim the winner’s spot for the second year in a row. The acquisition of longtime Cognos partner SPSS is seen as a smart move that keeps IBM at the head of the pack in its vision and ability to execute. Several analysts say some users find it difficult to decouple all the bundles and layers in order to truly understand (and benefit from) IBM’s various BI capabilities—not just Cognos and SPSS but also umbrella offerings such as Information on Demand and Business Analytics Optimization—but Ament says the bottom line is that IBM has worked hard to increase the capabilities in its BI stack. “The challenge,” she says, “will continue to be in marketing those consulting and software capabilities in a clear and targeted way.”
One to Watch
Microsoft is once again singled out by analysts as being on the cusp of a BI breakthrough. Excitement is building due in large part to its restored BI Conference. “Microsoft is making huge strides in BI in terms of functionality,” Baseline’s Dyché says. “They’re getting serious about BI again.” Though there are lingering questions about its corporate commitment around BI, analysts say the company is transcending its traditional small-and-midsize-business niche.