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Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide for Enterprises

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Posted October 11, 2010 By Drew Robb     Feedback

The enterprise BI market may be dominated by the likes of SAP, Oracle and IBM, but smaller names like Information Builders also have much to offer.

Which business intelligence (BI) product is right for you?

Info-Tech Research analyst Gareth Doherty cautions users that the BI field has so many tools and sub-categories that evaluation can be confusing.

This buyer's guide to enterprise business intelligence, therefore, takes a rather narrow view of the market for the sake of simplicity. It focuses on the big six (SAP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS and MicroStrategy), which per Gartner, account for 72 percent of the market. Information Builders is also included, as Forrester named it along with the other six as leaders in a recent Magic Quadrant.

"Choosing a BI suite involves a long-term commitment to a product and vendor that could result in an expensive divorce if the relationship sours," said Doherty. "BI tool selection requires understanding all facets of your information architecture and business processes in order to choose a tool that is genuinely compatible with your needs."

Boris Evelson, an analyst at Forrester, recommends sticking to the tried and true evaluation steps:

  • Define factors such as geographic scope, technology needs, and the type of third-party support you need (consulting, implementation, hosting/outsourcing);
  • Send an RFI/RFP to potential candidates and check reference customers;
  • Subject the best couple of candidates to product evaluation before making a final decision.

"BI projects are never short, and, alas, many of them don't end, since a fast-paced business environment often introduces new requirements, enhancements and updates before you're even done with your first implementation," said Evelson. "Therefore, we typically recommend doing sufficient due diligence upfront when selecting a BI services provider, as you may be stuck with them for a long time."

Without further ado, here are some of the major candidates. But don't limit your search to these seven vendors; see our small business and midmarket business intelligence buying guides too.

IBM Cognos

IBM Cognos 8 Business Intelligence provides a broad view of system activity and the ability to streamline environment changes. Harriet Fryman, business unit executive at IBM Business Analytics, lists the benefits as:

  • Delivers information that the business understands, owns and trusts. Based upon a common business model, IBM Cognos 8 BI provides users with a consistent view of information.
  • Increases the reach of business intelligence by attracting more business users and engaging them with an interactive experience.
  • Improves alignment between strategy and operations with visibility from business operations and enterprise applications, to advanced analytics and strategic plans.

IBM Cognos 8 remains much better integrated than competing offerings, with shared metadata across the platform, enabling ease of transfer from report to query to analysis, said Rita Sallam, an analyst at Gartner. "However, customers reported a much diminished customer experience than in 2008, with support rated amongst the lowest in the Magic Quadrant," she added.

SAP Business Intelligence

SAP has a couple of BI products: Business Objects and NetWeaver. When SAP acquired Business Objects in 2008, Business Objects didn't possess a data warehouse product, so its compatibility with NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) has been leveraged to create a broader offering. So which one is king?

"Our principal BI product is SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Suite, which includes Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, SAP BusinessObjects Voyager and SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius Enterprise," said Jason Rose, senior director for BI solution marketing at SAP BusinessObjects. "Through these solutions, our customers are able to access, navigate, analyze and share information across the enterprise via reporting, interactive analysis, dashboards and visualization tools, data exploration and information infrastructure. While we cannot discuss pricing, I will say that we [are] competitive in our market and work with each customer to meet their needs."

SAP records some of the largest deployments in terms of data volumes and end users, according to Gartner. Its vast global reach amounts to 46,000 customers in all corners of the world. However, support grades having been declining for three years in a row.

 

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