2007: When graphics were slick and BI rising up to power

By Paul Morgan, Technical Director, Decision Inc.


In 2007, the mega-vendors were still a distant idea, pondering their future swallowing of independent business intelligence (BI) houses. It was the year when Microsoft bought Proclarity, SAP took BusinessObjects, Oracle nabbed Hyperion, and IBM took Cognos.  Arcplan and Applix moved to the CPM Gartner Magic Quadrant, Spotfire joined Tibco, OpenText acquired Actuate and, well, nobody bought Panorama.  It was ten years ago, a time before Gartner created the BI magic quadrant and the outrage over placement and position could be heard across quadrant and country.


The theme which emerged in the BI space 10 years ago, was that this technology was maturing, moving from a simple reporting framework to a part of the enterprise process-driven approach. Not only was BI helping the business achieve better workflow, but there was a demand for self-service analysis that was clearly not going to get any less intense. It inspired the start of the revolution and today, 10 years later, BI has its own magic quadrant, the release of which is met with the kind of outcry that usually accompanies a dodgy goal in a football match.


Gartner has just set out their 2017 report, and BI practitioners have been debating the unfair position of their favourite technology ever since. What’s interesting, beyond the debate, is that the nine players from 2007 who remain in this year’s league are showing some interesting patterns. Five have moved down to a lower division, one has moved down in the same division, and three have moved upwards.


Of course, these changes in positon are just of perception. The goal posts have moved significantly over the past ten years with new elements introduced, and old removed. A great example is that today visually appealing graphics and functionally rich guided analytics applications aimed at the average user are now taken for granted. So is the ability to use powerful and simple freehand capability for the power user. The expectation today is that the player is faster, and that they offer their own insights to the managers. It is the era of the information activist and BI is measuring up.


While Microsoft is the only mega-vendor to show any movement up the field, Gartner believes that Power BI is the best bet when it comes to an agile tool with the added winning benefits of cost and ease of use. The thing is, Gartner takes the whole stack into account, which boosts Microsoft’s ranking. However, sticking with the football analogy, fans are more interested in goals than in how well a club manages its security. So, if comparing desktop design tools only, Power BI may not fare as well in a penalty shoot-out with Tableau and Qlik Sense.


For those who aren’t into the big clubs and prefer a more elite experience, Microstrategy stands out as the only professional BI solution to stay in the same division for the past ten years. Still considered by Gartner to be one of the strongest enterprise tools, its average deployment size is almost four times that of the other vendors. In addition, its mobile capability has long led the way in the BI arena.


The biggest fall from grace, however, was Information Builders, and the company which needs to pay some attention to its turf is SAS – Apache Spark is making significant waves. Tibco has moved up along with Qlik, although the latter has been penalised by Gartner this year. However, their investments into Sense will likely see its position rise up in 2018.


For the next year, and possibly the next 10, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Gartner magic quadrant shifts the players from position to post, and who remains in the lead. Today, Microsoft has the advantage out of the big guns while others battle for dominance. Shifts in capability and investment may well see that change in 2018.