Gartner’s 2012 Magic Quadrant: Do Business Intelligence Vendors Lack Vision?

Drew Robb

Updated · Mar 20, 2012

The latest Gartner Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant (MQ) came out a few weeks ago. Comparing it to one from 2008 reveals an interesting trend. In both cases, two of the four squares (Leaders and Niche Players) were filled with dots while the other two (Challengers and Visionaries) were almost empty.

Only two companies, Tableau and Tibco, placed in the Challengers category of this year's MQ, with both very close to moving to the Leaders quadrant. Somewhat surprisingly, there are no vendors at all in the Visionaries section. Does this mean business intelligence vendors lack vision?


Rita Sallam, a business intelligence analyst at Gartner, explained that both QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire had been Visionaries before moving to the Challengers quadrant. Tableau first appeared as a Niche Player, the bottom left quarter of Gartner's chart which tends to contain startups and up-and-comers, then moved to Challenger.

There are number of reasons why the Visionary and Challenger quadrants are sparsely populated, Sallam explained. First, the business intelligence market is relatively mature. Innovative vendors are either acquired by leaders, with IBM acquiring SPSS and Oracle acquiring Endeca as recent examples, or they grow organically like QlikTech and Tibco have done and move to challenge Leaders in the space.

“A Z-shaped movement through the Quadrant from Niche, to Visionary, to Challenger, to Leader is not uncommon,” Sallam said. “This is what QlikTech in fact did.”

It's the Metrics, Stupid

Gartner does not claim its Magic Quadrant is a perfect system. Rather, it offers a means to analyze a market, as well as a basis of comparison from year to year. It uses various metrics to populate the quadrants.

Sallam mentioned two points regarding metrics. The X axis of the chart is called “Completeness of Vision” while the Y axis is named “Ability to Execute.” Scoring for Completeness of Vision includes a total of six measures, only one of which is related to product vision. The other measures include market understanding, sales and marketing strategy, vertical strategy, and geographic strategy.

Sallam said this approach does not tend to favor small vendors with a single product specialty (like Alteryx) or those that focus closely on specific industries, domains or geographies. Such companies often remain in the Niche quadrant. If they continue to execute, they can move to the Challenger quadrant, for which Gartner uses five measures not tied to market share, and threaten the Leaders as alternatives. That is what Tableau has accomplished.

Vendor Reaction

Some vendors are just happy to be included. In fact, many fight to make it into the annual ratings system. Pentaho, for instance, is one of this year’s rookies. It had been knocking on the door for a year or two and received an honorable mention last year. It needed to increase its overall sales figures to be cited by Gartner, a requirement it satisfied this year.

Other new kids on the quad this year included Alteryx and Prognoz. Gartner mentioned a few additional companies as being close to admission: Advizor Solutions, Quiterian, 1010data, Birst,

Domo, GoodData, myDials and PivotLink. To qualify for inclusion next year, most of them will need to boost sales significantly.

Salient Management, a company in the midst of rolling out version 5 of its visual data mining software, is in the MQ for the second year. CEO Guy Amisano said the company didn’t set out to get onto the graph and that Gartner discovered the company through user surveys. But inclusion has been a positive.

“Our clients are large multi-national companies, and one of their biggest challenges is how to use Big Data to run their organizations,” Amisano said. “To many of these companies Gartner represents the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for technology because they know the analysts dig deep and do their homework. Being positioned in the Magic Quadrant brings us a certain level of credibility among prospects.”

Ocean Liner vs. Tug Boat

While startups clamor for an invite to the party, established players are not always so happy with Gartner's ratings. Being that a handful of vendors account for the bulk of market share, have user bases spanning decades and many different versions of their software, it is almost impossible for them to compete with the newbies in terms of customer satisfaction and deployment times.

How do you compare customer satisfaction for a relatively new business intelligence platform with limited functionality that is being deployed mainly at a departmental level to Oracle or SAP software which has to integrate into ERP and CRM systems and upgrade tens of thousands of users from older versions to a current one?

It’s a bit like scoring an ocean liner against a tug boat. While the former is far less nimble, just try loading a thousand people onto a tug boat for a transatlantic voyage.

While Gartner makes a valiant effort to make its comparison fair, it can be a thankless task. The newer guys, by and large, get higher marks while the market leaders take more knocks. At least, that appears to be the opinion of some Oracle users. One member of an Oracle user group published a blog post complaining about the software giant's standing.

On the plus side, Gartner gave Oracle the highest Ability to Execute scores in this year's MQ.

“References depict a customer base that is Oracle through and through. Eighty-five percent run Oracle Database as their data warehouse, nearly 75 percent run Oracle Applications, and a majority utilizes Oracle Fusion Middleware,” Gartner noted.

On the downside, Gartner called Oracle business intelligence “difficult to implement” and gave it below average scores for ease-of-use and product functionality evaluation. SAP received similar knocks.

In his blog post, Shyam Varan Nath, founder of the Oracle Business Intelligence, Warehousing and Analytics Special Interest Group, mentions a lack of credit given to Oracle’s mobile business intelligence capabilities and notes that many Oracle customers are in the midst of a major upgrade. He also believes Oracle’s recent Exalytics and Big Data appliance releases could help improve its status once they gain traction.

Vision Quest

So will we ever see more visionaries in the bottom right quadrant? Sallam explained why they remain something of a rarity. “We only put vendors in the visionary quadrant that are truly disrupting the market. Given we are in a mature market, those special vendors are few and far between,” she said.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

  • Business Intelligence
  • Research
  • Drew Robb
    Drew Robb

    Drew Robb is a writer who has been writing about IT, engineering, and other topics. Originating from Scotland, he currently resides in Florida. Highly skilled in rapid prototyping innovative and reliable systems. He has been an editor and professional writer full-time for more than 20 years. He works as a freelancer at Enterprise Apps Today, CIO Insight and other IT publications. He is also an editor-in chief of an international engineering journal. He enjoys solving data problems and learning abstractions that will allow for better infrastructure.

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