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Gartner Inc.'s 2015 Magic Quadrant report on business intelligence and analytics platforms highlights not only some shifts in the standing of vendors from last year but also the continuing evolution of the BI market toward self-service software and data discovery tools. According to the report, that trend has led to an ongoing tug-of-war between business users looking for increased analytics flexibility and IT and BI teams trying to implement effective governance processes.
Thus far, at least, flexibility is getting a stronger pull in most organizations, Gartner said -- and that can have some negative business consequences, the consulting and market research firm warned. In the Magic Quadrant report, it predicted that through 2016, less than 10% of self-service BI initiatives will be governed sufficiently to avoid data inconsistencies that could result in flawed analytics findings and faulty decision making.
Rita Sallam, a Gartner analyst who was the lead author of the new report, said in an interview that the shift in the business intelligence market started in earnest five years ago. Before then, companies typically had invested in enterprise BI and analytics systems "largely driven by IT to consolidate analytics initiatives on a standard platform that could support large-scale reporting across a large number of users," Sallam noted. Those platforms tended to be highly centralized and closely governed, ideally providing organizations with the proverbial single source of truth. But they primarily gave business users a "hindsight" view of data, she said -- meanwhile, people looking to use BI tools to ask a lot of questions about the data "were lost in the shuffle."
That launched an array of new demands from users, mainly for more interactive styles of querying and analysis and more advanced analytics capabilities. New BI vendors such as Tableau Software, Qlik and Tibco Software's Spotfire unit emerged with self-service tools, and the growing popularity of those products drove the top BI platform vendors -- IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP -- to add self-service and data discovery functionality to their software suites.
BI trends create balance problems
Rita Sallamanalyst, Gartner Inc.
But along with the new technologies, both benefits and problems have arisen, Sallam said. On the one hand, business users can get more timely insights by manipulating data and writing queries themselves; on the other, it's not easy to balance end-user control and solid governance. "When you give users more flexibility, they do that at the expense of keeping things consistent," she said. "Being able to govern and manage decentralized data discovery deployments becomes more important as these tools attract a broader range of users."
What organizations need to do as they adopt the data discovery model, Sallam said, is find some middle ground that doesn't stifle users but helps prevent data errors from finding their way into business intelligence and analytics applications. Otherwise, she cautioned, "we'll just be proliferating incorrect answers."
On the plus side, Gartner sees a wide recognition of that fact on the part of both vendors and buyers of BI software. Increasingly, vendors from the different ends of the BI spectrum are trying to move to the middle and deliver a mix of self-service capabilities and governance mechanisms, Sallam said. And another prediction in the Magic Quadrant report is that within three years, most user organizations will implement bimodal IT approaches and augment their centralized BI and analytics architectures with decentralized data analysis systems and processes.
In the meantime, some BI vendors are struggling to please customers as they work to catch up to all the user demands. "Generally speaking, the larger vendors are scoring lower on customer experience measures that we see customers care about," Sallam said, including features like customer support, product quality and user experience in terms of how well vendors support end-user training and offer access to online videos and product demos.
Tibco loses its leader status
The biggest change in Gartner's vendor rankings involved Tibco, which was dropped from the leaders quadrant in the 2014 BI and analytics Magic Quadrant to the visionaries one this year. "They really didn't execute on the measures that we look at to keep them in the leaders quadrant," Sallam said, citing factors such as a loss of sales momentum, a decline in customer satisfaction and increased customer concerns after Tibco was acquired by a private equity firm late last year.
The other leaders from a year ago all maintained their places in the top quadrant for 2015, although Gartner changed some of their positions within the quadrant. In addition to IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Qlik, SAP and Tableau, vendors designated as leaders include Information Builders, MicroStrategy and SAS Institute. No new companies were added to the leaders quadrant this year.
The ongoing market shift was also evident in another new Magic Quadrant report, this one on advanced analytics platforms. According to that report, the growing demand for advanced analytics applications in organizations is outpacing the number of available data experts, which "necessitates higher levels of automation and increases demand for self-service and 'citizen data scientist' tools."
Both reports suggested that vendors need to find a way to make their business intelligence and analytics software more user-friendly for people who don't have deep data-analysis experience. "The requirements have shifted to these platforms that are easier to use without having the skills," Sallam said. "The momentum is in the hands of the vendors focusing on ease of use. They're the ones that have the mainstream buying momentum."
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