It’s that time of year again. The worst of winter is behind us; spring is just around the corner; there’s magic in the air. That’s right, it’s Magic Quadrant season! The Oscars of data analytics just dropped like a new album.

I, for one, was salivating to read Gartner’s latest update to their “Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms” in it’s entirety, all 30k+ words, at least a few times through. Yes, I’m painfully aware of how pathetic that sounds. You probably have better things to do with your time, so I’m going to boil it down to the key points for you so that you don’t have to spend a Saturday night curled up with your tablet. (If you’re a nerd like me and still want to read the full report, and it’s worth the read, you can purchase a copy through Gartner. Or if you just want an overview from the researchers involved in the report, you could sign up for Gartner’s free webinar on March 12.)

Magic 8 Ball – Gartner’s Predictions for the Future of BI and Analytics

Before I get to the main event, the part of this report that I always find the most fascinating is Gartner’s predictions for the future of BI and analytics based on the responses received from the engaged BI users responding to their survey. While it’s interesting to see where individual platforms are rated, my favorite part of the report is the insight into trends in the market and user opinions and needs as well as predictions on future innovations.

Fast and Furious – Increasingly Rapid Innovations

Gartner observed rapid progress in implementation of “augmented analytics”. This includes machine learning-enabled analytics, NLP-based queries, and NLG based visualization interpretation. While they don’t see users currently fully adopting this next iteration of analytics, they predict that typical early adopters will set the ball rolling for augmented analytics to rapidly become standard practice.

Scale Model – Accommodating Data Volume and Complexity

Multiple factors are driving the need to for BI platforms to accommodate an increasing volume of data and more complex data structures. Clearly the primary driver is the growing availability of data, from numerous data sources, and in multiple formats. The sheer volume of data and complex relationships between various data sources has led to innovations in data storage models and a rise in the use of data lakes. Additionally, end users are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their data inquiries and analytic needs. While some firms are already leading the way in anticipating ever increasing analytical needs (MicroStrategy, Tableau, Oracle and Pyramid Analytics), all will need to make this a priority moving forward.

Embedded Evidence – Embedded Analytics for Increased Functionality

Whether embedding visualizations in internal platforms for communication of information within an enterprise, or embedding dashboards in customer facing platforms for value add or monetized data, this use of analytics platforms is one to keep an eye on. Gartner notes Logi Analytics, Sisense, Salesforce and Qlik as being on the leading edge of this trend.

Market Forces – The Race for Competitive Pricing

Microsoft is driving a downward pricing trend, essentially eliminating barriers to entry. The market has responded with a number of pricing models to fit the needs of virtually any firm. Vendors are offering low initial costs through per-user subscription-based plans, long-term savings through unlimited perpetual licensing at a higher up-front investment, and any number of hybrid options between those two extremes. Niche players offering unique capabilities continue to demand a premium, but competition amongst most platforms has resulted in better value for end users.

Cloud Convergence – A Watershed Moment in Cloud-Based BI

Cloud usage nearly doubled amongst respondents since last year’s survey following advancements allowing for customized cloud usage that integrates seamlessly with on premises storage. The cloud has become so ubiquitous in the market that some advancements have initiated in the cloud and some products are only, or primarily, cloud capable. The paradox noted by Gartner is that despite this storm surge in cloud usage amongst Magic Quadrant respondents, they observed a rather dry reception amongst their general client base, with cloud adoption below 10%.

Odds & Ends

Other noted trends include expected innovations to support the increasingly available real-time data generated by the IoT, innovations to the market as a whole through significant capital investment—both by current vendors and disruptor startups, and a broader exchange of plug-ins that increase functionality from data transformation to visualization. If Gartner’s predictions come to fruition the next few years will be a wild ride!

Now that I’ve covered my favorite part of the report, here it is folks, Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.

Figure 1: Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms – Source: Gartner (February 2018)

blog magic quadrant

So first off, the necessary qualifiers: 1) To fully understand what’s represented in the visualization, you have to take it in the context of the full reporting of the research conducted by Gartner. 2) Gartner doesn’t endorse or support any of the platforms or firms included and discourages use of this report as a sole source for making decisions about purchasing a particular BI platform. 3) The research is a snapshot in time. Analytics and BI platforms, and the marketplace, can evolve rapidly. The take home here is that you can’t base a decision on which platform will fit your organization best on a single scatter plot. (Side note: If you are looking to use the information from Gartner’s report as one factor to inform your decision on purchasing a BI platform, paid subscribers have access to slicing and filtering of the data behind the quadrant based on criteria relevant to your organization.)

As a refresher for those who have seen it before, and an overview for those who haven’t, the results are based on survey responses from users of the various platforms reviewed. (This version had 1,526 respondents.) Generally speaking, ratings for ‘Completeness of Vision’ are derived from responses to topics related to business planning and strategy, which includes areas like: awareness of user needs, responsiveness and innovation in development plans, and effectiveness of sales, marketing, and communication strategies. Ratings for ‘Ability to Execute’ are derived from responses related to the how well those plans and strategies are translated into deliverables, which, of course, includes functionality of the platform.

You can see that there was no noteworthy change in the ‘Leaders’ quadrant since last year. Microsoft, Tableau, and Qlik maintain their dominance and remain rated fairly similarly to the previous survey. While several platforms reviewed last year were excluded for various reasons, the only newcomer to this year’s report was Looker, with a solid spot in the ‘Niche Players’ quadrant. Several vendors received significantly lower ratings in ability to execute compared to last year’s survey, including: IBM, SAP, Tibco, Birst, and Logi Analytics. Sisense was rated more favorably in both completeness of vision and ability to execute, moving it close to the border of the ‘Leaders’ quadrant; it will be interesting to see whether it can maintain that momentum going forward. The most notable change, however, was MicroStrategy. The firm was rated lower than last year for completeness of vision, but significantly higher for ability to execute, moving it into the ‘Challengers’ quadrant as the sole platform occupying that space.

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I’ve Got the Power (BI)!

I’m not going to summarize the findings for the 20 platforms included, but I have to give a shout out to my personal favorite BI platform, Power BI. I’m admittedly biased, but I’ll do my best to neutrally report the findings. Power BI has led the field for 11 consecutive years, and for anyone familiar with the platform this comes as no surprise. (How was that for neutral?) You can see on the chart that Power BI and Tableau are rated similarly for ‘Ability to Execute’, and that both platforms fare well above the next rated competitors on that axis. Where Power BI has the advantage, and distinguishes itself as the clear leader, is in ‘Completeness of Vision’, or all of the strategic planning and marketplace knowledge behind the product and future iterations. This is no doubt related how connected many users are to the user community, and how strongly user input influences advances in the platform.

Pricing continues to be a considerable contributor to the popularity of Power BI. That’s not to say that it’s popular because it’s ‘cheap’. Power BI is comparatively inexpensive, making it a great value for a solid product. The desktop version remains free for download, enabling any curious would-be user to dabble and familiarize before investing in paid services that allow for publishing and reporting. Compare this to Tableau, who were marked poorly for pricing with respondents indicating limited deployment due to high cost. Power BI’s more competitive pricing model allows for more widespread adoption across an enterprise, which in turn allows for more viewpoints adding to available analysis and insights.

Ease of use was the top reason that respondents chose this platform, and Power BI tied Sisense for the highest rating on user experience. According to Gartner, this is in large part because, “[Microsoft] has a strong community of partners, resellers and individual users; and this

community extends the product with prebuilt apps, visualizations and video tutorials, in addition to the content provided directly by Microsoft.” (If you’re looking for any of these resources, we provided links to several in our blog on easing the transition from Excel to Power BI.) The team at Microsoft have done a phenomenal job of creating and distributing information on best practices as well as connecting their community of users to allow for information sharing. As a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner, Aptude is part of that community ensuring that users everywhere have the resources they need to reap the business benefits of the platform.

My beloved Power BI isn’t without it’s weaknesses, most notably that some of the unique benefits of the platform come through engagement with other Microsoft offerings (Flow, SharePoint, Teams). I can’t really comment on this as I’ve only used Power BI from within a fully integrated suite of software and apps. This disconnect may be why a majority of Power BI users are only using a narrow slice of the functional capability of the program.

Conclusion

I think it’s safe to say that not only is BI here to stay, it’s only going to become more powerful and sophisticated in the coming years. With exciting innovations expected to advance the field at a rapid pace, if you’re not on board, you’d better hop on or be left behind. There’s a platform for everyone. Whether you’re a small business or a global enterprise. No matter what your data needs, you can find the right fit if you’re willing to do your homework, and Aptude is here to support you.

Whether you’re newly exploring BI, expanding a current initiative, or looking to completely revolutionize your analytic capabilities, our professionals have you covered, from deployment to maintenance and everything in between.

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