Since 2003, the consultancy and research firm Passionned Group has been closely monitoring the market for both Business Intelligence tools and ETL products. In the past, the focus was on the well-known market leaders who were often regarded as visionaries and leaders. Many organizations used to assume that they had automatically made the right choice if they purchased a tool from one of the market leaders. Since the late nineties, however, the market has changed substantially.
Survey motivation and set-up
1. Enabling business users to select information quickly
Evaluating Business Intelligence tools carefully and focusing on the Business Intelligence infrastructure is important, because it makes it much easier to create reports and business score cards, enabling business users to quickly select the relevant information. In this survey we define Business Intelligence tools as software that provides functionality for reporting (ad-hoc), interactive analysis (OLAP-tools), and dashboarding, all in one package.
“The time and effort invested in a proper Business Intelligence System design and the careful selection of a Business Intelligence tool will pay for itself many times over”, said Daan van Beek, BI industry expert and founder of Passionned.
Thomas Siebel, the founder of Siebel, (now Oracle) was quoted in an interview: “Organizations may save a lot of money when valuable data stored throughout the organization in separate silos can be integrated and combined”.
2. Spreadsheets and custom-made reporting tools
The second reason to evaluate and promote Business Intelligence tools is that many organizations still use spreadsheets or custom-made reporting tools to provide information. While spreadsheets provide an excellent mechanism for information delivery, they are not (and were never intended to be) seen as the infrastructure behind Business Intelligence systems. This misuse of an excellent product is probably the single most important reason that Business Intelligence Systems still have a bad reputation. Information only has value if it is accurate and timely. Generally, “information” produced by spreadsheets is neither.
3. The market appears to be cyclical
Finally: like many other markets, the Business Intelligence market appears to be cyclical, with a new generation of products emerging every 10 years or so. If we examine the market, at the moment we appear to have reached the end of the old cycle, and a new one is just beginning. The existing market leaders, BusinessObjects (now SAP), Cognos (now IBM), Hyperion (now Oracle), SAS, Microstrategy, and Information Builders WebFOCUS were established in the 1970s and 1980s, and have dominated the Business Intelligence (Management Information) markets ever since.
Now they are being challenged, both from below by the new, small, flexible, innovative companies that they themselves used to be, and from above by the very large software giants like Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP, who have always partnered with them in the past and have now decided to compete with them.
How the BI tools Survey is carried out
- We developed a list of more than 190 criteria as a basis for the comparison, using input from the developer community, and focusing on characteristics that play a major role in the quick development of a successful Business Intelligence infrastructure.
- Passionned Group conducted in-depth interviews with all the vendors listed on the ‘List of BI tools’ page regarding their Business Intelligence solutions.
- In addition, Business Intelligence vendors were given the opportunity to provide a live, two-hour demonstration in order to present the functionality of their Business Intelligence tool. PowerPoint presentations were avoided as much as possible. During these demos, Passionned evaluated whether the tool was able to handle particular situations by means of Q&A sessions. Where there was still doubt, Passionned gave the tool either zero or half a point.
- Vendors were asked to provide list prices for their tools by an official Request for Proposal (RFP), with two configurations (see also the BI tool selection criteria). This gave nothing more than a price indication since many of the products are priced differently and many of the vendors were secretive about pricing.
- In many cases, an intensive dialog took place between Passionned Group and the vendors to obtain answers to outstanding questions. Ambiguous or misleading answers were not accepted. All answers were confirmed in writing by the suppliers to avoid misunderstandings.
- Finally, a number of developers from end-user organizations, as well as BI consultants, provided feedback with regard to the results of the BI study. Whenever the necessary, further investigation took place and the evaluation was altered accordingly.