Companies can no longer blame technology for failed business intelligence (BI) implementations: Today's leaders-most of them now acquired by (but not all yet integrated with) some of CRM's biggest names-offer at least 80 percent of what users are looking for, says Boris Evelson, principal analyst at Forrester Research. The market has yet to see a perfect offering, and silos and conflicting priorities remain. "Nobody got even close to a 5," Evelson says, referring to CRM's five-point scale. "They're still building up their capabilities." Yet the market remains vibrant. First-time BI users are looking to cheaper, leaner options such as on-demand BI (see "Intelligence in the Cloud," July 2009, for more). Advanced users are exploring predictive and real-time analytics-which may explain IBM's decision to offer $1.2 billion for predictive analytics pioneer SPSS in July.
Narrowly claiming a spot on the leaderboard, Information Builders is the little company that could. Its size allows it to give customers the personal attention that a multibillion-dollar company simply can't.The company did, however, receive lower scores in each category compared to last year. "They're not ahead of the market," says Jill Dyché, partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting, "but well on pace with [it]." The company, she adds, "is really good at what they do well"-e.g., advanced analytics, data integration-rather than trying to be a huge horizontal suite.
Oracle's $3.3 billion purchase of BI vendor Hyperion Solutions happened in 2007, but results are still "a little bit in left field," says Gus Vazquez, a principal at Customer Value Partners. Far better results in BI have come from the 2005 acquisition of Siebel Systems. Still, Oracle's scores improved this year. "They do everything," Dyché states. The impact of the still-pending-at- press-time $7.4 billion deal for Sun Microsystems remains to be seen, she says, "[but] in terms of BI, it might actually limit them." A half-point bump in customer satisfaction still left the firm near the bottom among the leaders. "Oracle does a great job selling," Dyché says, but a reliance on channel partners means "[Oracle] can't deliver 100 percent of the time."
SAP BusinessObjects may have one of the top BI tools on the market, but integration woes remain from the 2007 deal, and Evelson says it may take as long as 10 years to really merge the solutions. Dyché doesn't see it as BusinessObjects' fault, per se, but rather SAP's."BusinessObjects is doing everything very well," she says, "[but] SAP is not having an explicit conversation about BI's future." Her clients, too, are withdrawing from BusinessObjects as they advance their BI capabilities, looking instead at niche vendors."A lot of this is a function of SAP's continuing need to educate its sales force on the business value of BI," she says.
After a four-year streak atop this category, SAS Institute saw its scores decline across all three categories this year. Historically, when people thought BI, they thought SAS-and the Ph.D. statisticians needed to run it. "If you were really smart, and very analytical, this was a great platform for you," says Jim Dickie, managing partner with CSO Insights. The deep sophistication of its users also speaks to its customer loyalty, explaining its top marks in customer satisfaction. Yet this perception may hurt as much as it helps. "[Customers] see it more as a statistical package and don't see that there's a lot of BI they can use," Vazquez says. Still, even Dyché admits this perennial market leader isn't exactly receding from view. "SAS can simply do things that some other companies not only can't do, but will never do well," she says, citing the company's data-mining algorithm as an example.
A mainstay on the leaderboard, Cognos (an IBM company) finally takes the top spot, despite dropping 0.3 points in depth of functionality."[Cognos is] doing so well in terms of what [it's] enabling,"Dyché says, adding that it's covering its bases with both an on-premises and a hosted solution. From 2003 to 2005, the company embarked on a full rewrite of its entire platform, producing what Evelson describes as a "very monolithic, integrated architecture." While the decision to focus on integration may have delayed the development of new features, Evelson says Cognos is definitely catching up in terms of functionality. And satisfaction? Cognos has it made. "Customers of Cognos love Cognos,"Dyché says. "We predicted a certain number of deflections [after the IBM deal].We haven't seen any." -Jessica Tsai
One to Watch - Business Intelligence
Microsoft dropped from the leaderboard this year, with lower scores overall. Another gut punch: the August 2008 departure of Bill Baker, a Microsoft BI executive of more than a decade, to become chief technology officer of social monitoring company Visible Technologies (one of this year's Rising Stars; see page 29). The move "raised some concerns" in the industry, according to one analyst. "Microsoft continues to cater to a generalized BI-user community," Dyché says, with wide adoption of SharePoint and Excel. Evelson argues that, because the company often sells through partners, it's difficult for users to get Microsoft's advice or input. "Beyond the installation support and troubleshooting," he says, "they really don't have their own consulting organization for systems integration and to build vertical solutions."
CLICK HERE to view PDF of 2009 Market Leaders comparison chart.