• July, 8 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

SAS and SPSS Hold the Lead in Gartner Magic Quadrant on Data Mining

Customer data mining (CDM) may be a fragmented market on the user side, but relatively few vendors control the space, according to evidence from a new Gartner report. CDM, defined by Gartner as "the application of descriptive and predictive analytics (such as clustering, segmentation, estimation, prediction and affinity analysis) to support the marketing, sales, or service functions" is dominated by just eight companies, according to the recent "Magic Quadrant for Customer Data-Mining Applications." Two of those companies -- SAS Institute and SPSS -- stand alone as Leaders, meaning they combine the strongest market vision with the best ability to execute.

As businesses continue to capture more data of a more diverse nature, their ability to understand what they’ve got must also increase. "The unsuitability of ‘generic’ data-mining workbenches to support emerging data-mining requirements is leading to the growth of data-mining applications," writes Gareth Herschel, author of the report and a research director at Gartner. "Applications designed to solve specific business problems allow faster time-to-value (by simplifying the technical deployment and user onboarding) and lower support requirements than traditional approaches. This ongoing shift toward packaged applications is reflected in a shift in evaluation criteria for this year's Magic Quadrant, with vendors that emphasize packaged applications improving their position and those that rely on their data-mining workbench capabilities falling relative to their competitors."

SPSS performed best in Gartner’s evaluation, on the strength of its breadth of vision, integration capabilities, and overall customer satisfaction. "SPSS has one of the strongest visions for the emerging concept of the model management environment, which is a way of consolidating and managing the results of analyses from several data-mining tools for subsequent deployment and evaluation," Herschel writes. "Enterprises seeking to manage many models (particularly from a heterogeneous set of tools) should evaluate SPSS." This is especially important as organizations move from piecemeal and homegrown data mining applications to more of a suite environment. Ironically, though, Herschel writes that SPSS "is not big enough to form the nucleus of a broader analytical or business application suite." Further, the report states that SPSS' conservative business strategy of fleshing out its existing capabilities rather than expanding into adjacent markets makes the 40-year-old firm an acquisition target, something potential customers may wish to keep in mind.

SAS Institute, the other Leader, is hailed as the largest vendor in the overall data mining market. "It has the most analysts, has the most client experience, and tends to be the standard tool with which data-mining outsourcers and service providers must be familiar," Herschel writes. "As such, there's an unmatched ‘ecosystem’ of talent and experience for SAS in the marketplace." These factors, combined with excellent post-sales support and a thriving customer community, define SAS’ strengths. To the negative, the Gartner report indicates several reasons to exercise caution: the high relative cost of SAS products, orientation toward analytical expert users, and limited integration -- a factor that the report admits SAS intends to address with an upcoming release.

Alone in the Visionaries section of Gartner’s report is ThinkAnalytics, a specialist in telecom, media, banking, and government applications with most of its presence in the United Kingdom. Though ThinkAnalytics' vertical and geographic focus may be a negative in the larger market, Gartner lauds its design and usability. "ThinkAnalytics' products are based on a platform with an open library of extensible components that can be combined to perform a variety of analyses," Herschel writes. "The models are deployed in ThinkAnalytics' Think Intelligent Enterprise Server, where they're available for any application (usually targeted at customer-facing applications, such as the call center or Web site) for real-time scoring." Much of ThinkAnalytics’ value comes from embedded analytics for line-of-business users, rather than specialized applications for experts.

The other vendors that made it onto Gartner’s chart this year are:

Challengers:
  • Portrait Software
  • Angoss Software
Niche Players:
  • Infor CRM Epiphany
  • Viscovery
  • Unica

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