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Gartner released their 2017 version of the Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant on the 16th February and furious debate amongst BI practitioners about the unfair position of their favourite tech will no doubt continue until February 2018. In the mean-time it might be worth reflecting on where the industry was ten years ago, in 2007.

Apart from graphics looking much slicker these days, what else has changed?

challengers2007 was the year before the mega-vendors really started swallowing up the independent BI houses, starting with Microsoft buying the much-missed Proclarity, just before this Magic Quadrant (MQ) was released. BusinessObjects went to SAP, Oracle bought Hyperion and IBM purchased Cognos. Of the niche players, Arcplan and Applix moved to the CPM MQ (after being sold to Longview and IBM respectively), Spotfire joined Tibco, OpenText acquired Actuate, and, well, nobody bought Panorama.

The theme for that year was the maturity of BI from simple reporting to being part of a bigger enterprise process-driven approach, as well as achieving better workflow. And the push for self-service analysis was becoming increasingly important.

2007 survivors
survivors-2007If we compare the nine players from 2007 who are still in this years’ league, (admittedly some arrayed in their new kit), the following patterns emerge – five move down to a lower division, one moves down in the same division, and three move up, with Microsoft showing the biggest gain.

Of course, all these changes in position are of perception, rather than absolute scores – the goal posts have moved significantly in ten years. For example, being able to build visually appealing, functionally rich guided analytics applications aimed at the average user is now taken for granted, as is powerful and simple freehand capability for the occasional power user. Expectations now are that players are far smarter, and offer their own insights to managers.

Microsoft is the only mega-vendor that has shown any kind of movement up the field (indeed, Oracle was even relegated to the amateur leagues last year, just making it back to the lower division in 2017). It seems Gartner’s view is that PowerBI is currently the best bet as an agile tool – and the winning factors are cost and ease of use.  Obviously, Gartner takes the whole stack into account as well, which is why they’ve placed Microsoft so highly overall. However, fans are generally more interested in watching goals scored, rather than hearing how well a club manages security – so if we had to compare the desk-top design tools only, Power BI might not fare as well in a penalty shoot-out with Tableau and Qlik Sense.

For the old-timers who aren’t big clubs, Microstrategy stands out as the only professional to stay in the same division for the last ten years. It’s still considered by Gartner as the strongest enterprise tool, with its average deployment size almost four times the average of the other vendors, and its mobile capability has long been best of class in the BI world.  Information Builders had the biggest fall from grace, and maybe SAS should spend more time defending its advanced analytics turf from the likes of Apache Spark. Tibco moves up, as does Qlik. Qlik does appear to have been penalised by Gartner this year, compared to its 2016 showing which grouped it closely with Tableau and Microsoft, but no doubt, given their significant investments in Sense, the next iteration will see it positioned higher in 2018.

New entrants since 2007

new-entrants-2007What next? If history teaches us anything, it’s that innovation followed by consolidation is the norm in most software sectors. The current period is showing intense growth powered by the excitement around the merging of advanced analytics and traditional business intelligence, big data, cloud and agile. The likelihood is that the transfer window will be opened soon – who will remain in 2027?There are fifteen new professionals on the pitch compared to 2007, many of whom focus on cloud and smart data analytics as their basic premise. Tableau is clearly the new Ronaldo – the tool first appeared as a challenger in 2010, joined the premier division in 2013, and now takes second place in the overall line-up, with a roadmap that looks as innovative as any of the youngsters.