MicroStrategy and Microsoft Move Up in Gartner's BI Magic Quadrant

MicroStrategy and Microsoft have graduated into the increasingly crowded Market Leaders segment of Gartner's Magic Quadrant for business intelligence (BI) platforms. The two newcomers, however, still trail perennial Leaders Cognos, Business Objects, Oracle, and SAS Institute, the four vendors that continue to lead the way, according to Kurt Schlegel, the firm's research director for BI and information management.

Aside from those two improvements, few other changes differentiate this year's report ("Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms, 1Q08") from last year's.

Microsoft moved into the Leaders' quadrant -- and outscored all vendors in terms of ability to execute -- because its Performance Point product gained more acceptance in the market, Schlegel says. "They've clearly gained more traction to win more deals," he adds.

But the days of standalone, best-of-breed leadership in the BI field may be numbered. "MicroStrategy is kind of the odd company out in that it wasn't part of a vendor acquisition," Schlegel says, referring to the industry consolidation that took place throughout 2007:

McLean, Va.-based MicroStrategy, Schlegel says, is "more of a BI specialist with no ancillary data integration or financial planning markets." Despite his belief that the company "arguably has the technically most sound BI platform in the market," negotiation difficulties with customers had kept the firm out of the Leaders' quadrant in the past.

Schlegel attributes MicroStrategy's move from Challenger to Leader this year to a sense that prospects and customers are finding the company easier to deal with, as well as recent upgrades to MicroStrategy's BI platform. And yet, as its peers in the top quadrant offer many other related applications in addition to BI, MicroStrategy will have to depend on maintenance revenue rather than on business growth to remain a viable player in the future, Schlegel says.

Though the MicroStrategy board -- which, according to remarks made by Sanju K. Bansal, MicroStrategy's vice chairman and chief operating officer, at a company conference in October, has more than half of the voting shares of the company's stock -- is committed to remaining independent, that may not be possible in the long term due to the business combinations among other vendors. (If MicroStrategy were to be sold, Schlegel adds, the most likely buyer would be Teradata.)

Among other firms listed in the report, Information Builders is cited as a Challenger, but literally on the cusp of edging into the Leaders' quadrant, missing only due to a perceived shortfall in completeness of vision. Still, the authors of the report state that Information Builders "continues to demonstrate its ability to execute...[and] has proven its worth with enterprise deployments," and note that surveyed customers "rate [the vendor's] support service among the best in the industry."

Meanwhile, Gartner lists QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire as Visionairies -- with QlikTech, according to Schlegel, needing just a bit more popularity before it can move up in the ranks. "QlikTech is inexpensive and very easy to use," he says, but its BI application doesn't have enough users yet to lift the firm into the Leaders' quadrant.

The report also lists four niche players in the BI market:

  • Actuate Corp.;
  • arcplan;
  • Board International (the only newcomer to the report, the vendor was added, according to the report's authors, "due to its focus on BI and corporate performance management, and its growing BI revenue"); and
  • Panorama Software.

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