BI Solution Leaders Getting A Push From Below

BI Market, BI Solutions, Cognos, Microsoft, Microstrategy, SAS No Comments

Since the BI Vendor shakedown a few years back where a raft of mergers saw the Big 3 [IBM, Oracle and SAP] take hold of the majority of the market, the BI Vendor assessment grid has been somewhat predictable. Things actually got a little bit boring there for a while, as these mega vendors worked through how to apply their in-house talent to make the best of breed third tier BI solutions even better. Fast forward to 2010 and we started to see things get stirred up a little more. Whilst the Big 3 were busy trying to out-do each other with maintaining BI Solution independence, yet merge it more successfully with their respective ERP solutions, a few other major contenders have pushed through the market from below.

Without doubt SAS Institute was always a close contender, and of more recent time Information Builders held a respectable position, MicroStrategy was building solid support for its elegant BI user interface and Microsoft managed to maintain a reasonable market position based more on its partner and vendor channel strength, rather than anything stunning about its applications.

In the recent (Q4, 2010) Forrester Wave vendor assessment, all of these four vendors are now seen as BI Solution leaders.
IBI, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy have solid implementation success with BI platforms.

IBI’s WebFOCUS reporting platform [predictive analytic, data quality, master data management, and light data visualization capabilities] together with its iWay data integration connectors provide a near full stack solution.

Microsoft has improved its solution recently with the launch of SQL Server 2008 R2, with a much improved version 3 ReportBuilder tool support for Excel and improved event processing. Whilst I continue to maintain that Excel is not a suitable BI tool – the solution does offer a midground option for those not yet financially committed to a full BI investment. The other obvious benefit of using a Microsoft solution is the integration and interoperability with the popular SharePoint portal. However it is not that difficult to integrate a third part BI solution into a portal. The other element of Microsoft is in Master Data Management [MDM] with its simple to implement Master Data Services platform working well in a BizTalk environment to offer a full Service-Oriented model for improvement in data quality management, orchestration and data governance.

I don’t quite share Forresters overall seeming ‘equality’ between this group of BI vendor solutions. Whilst each are still struggling to differentiate their products at a technical level, business users still struggle to get to grips with the user interfaces, and dashboard design is still very lacking in supporting good design principles and the more effective graphical elements. However, progress is refreshingly swift overall, considering the complexity of the overall solution. I just wish there would be one application level solution that had all the components I wanted.

I am looking forward to the IBM event in a couple of weeks to see the new Cognos 10 release. I have always been a supporter of Cognos, so enjoy catching up with the latest demos – I’ll post my findings following.