Tweaking the Gartner MQ for BI pops up surprises

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy March 3, 2014
Gartner has made important changes to the way it constructs its MQ. This positively favors the data discovery vendors. That's a good thing although I worry it might be succumbing to hype in the short term.

Garter BI MQ 2014

Garter BI MQ 2014
The Gartner Magic Quadrant is probably the best piece of marketing the eponymous analyst firm ever devised.

Gartner's position as the undisputed Big Dog in the analyst arena has made the MQ a 'must have' check box item in any software selection pack. Wanna know why we bought X? Check the MQ. Butt covered.

tableau home page
On the seller side, positioning on the MQ has always been seen as a rite of passage for newbie tech vendors vying for crumbs left by their larger competitors. The minute a vendor appears in the coveted top right hand side and reprints galore start appearing all over their website, as is the case with Tableau's current home page. (see image) And who can blame them?

Achieving that hallowed status is something that's keenly fought over yet I know Gartner applies considerable rigor in the way they construct the final scoring. Even so, there's always been something missing from their analysis. An appreciation of the end user perspective.

That is changing and nowhere is this more evident than in the latest BI report, where, it also seems that Gartner is moving some of the goalposts when evaluating solutions, pandering more to hype topics du jour than in the past. We have written about this topic in the past but it seems that user experience is accelerating the positioning of some vendors into that coveted top right position.

Doug Henschen reported on this noting that:

"The race is on to fill the gap in governed data discovery," Gartner writes. "Next year, Completeness of Vision positions will in part be determined by which vendors achieve success in addressing this critical market requirement."

"Tableau's strong survey results for customer satisfaction, coupled with its market momentum, are behind its dominant Ability to Execute position," Gartner reports. "Surveyed customers identified ease of use for end users and developers, and functionality, as their main reasons for choosing Tableau. In fact, 73% selected Tableau's product for its ease of use for end users, which places it among the top two vendors in the survey."

Gartner started making greater use of customer-survey-based information in its BI quadrant rankings several years ago, and this year more than ever this feedback seems to be making the difference in vendor rankings. That's a good thing, and it has generated a long list of "cautions" in the descriptions of vendors large and small.

Despite the grumbling I often hear from other analysts, I see the change in emphasis by Gartner as a positive if slightly flawed move.

dah slideshare
Data visualization/discovery is unquestionably a key ingredient in today's BI solutions. A year ago, I gave a keynote to 100 plus developers in Australia entitled: I Don't Give a F^&k About Your Code where I said that end users today are far more demanding of solutions that they can simply run and understand rather than depending upon an already stretched IT department.

I used example images from Tidemark - which has yet to make the MQ. Even so, that thoughtstream must have resonated in some quarters because as at the date of this story, more than 1,600 people have viewed it.

Recent inquiries in the field tell me that the 'old guard' of BI solution are being shunned by departmental buyers looking to get quick wins from some of those that appear in the newly minted Gartner MQ. Perhaps a sign of the times comes from GoodData which, although relatively new to market, plans to offer a platform service that will allow customers to develop entirely new analytic applications. That's a big change.

Despite the enthusiasm for the new breed, I do worry that Gartner might be succumbing a little too much to the vogue for visualization at the expense of pointing up limitations with the likes of Tableau, Qlik and others. It is for instance a common thread that while these new solutions do well at the departmental level, they're not really ready for prime time scale out to the enterprise as a whole.

That might not be a bad thing since many of the reported use cases are tactical in nature rather than leaning towards strategic planning or forecasting. That's another day's work. As Gartner notes as regards Tableau:

Although Tableau's average user count continues to grow and was above the market average in this year's customer survey, its products are often used to complement an existing BI platform standard; only 42% of its customers considered it as their BI standard. For organizations that deploy multiple tools, this can present challenges in terms of governance, consistency and skill silos...

...Although customers report that they employ Tableau for a broad range of uses, the company lacks traditional BI platform capabilities, such as production reporting. Customers needing capabilities spanning systems-of-record reporting and interactive dashboards and visualization from a single tool are unlikely to choose Tableau as their enterprise standard.

I am for example aware that in a recent deployment, enthusiastic buyers of one solution had to give way to IT's preference for an 'old guard' solution. Why? For exactly the reasons Gartner implies. Lack of scale and a lack of functionality for bog standard reporting.

And perhaps therein lies the conundrum.  Business Intelligence as an expression of capability has always been something of a stretch. Reporting is hardly BI since it is looking through the rear view mirror and yet that is what has dominated most vendors' offerings. Surfacing new insights via the newer class of discovery tool is much closer to what end users would perceive as 'intelligence' and in part explains why the new breed are doing so well in comparison.


Despite my critique, nothing should take away from the progress being made by the new boys and girls on the block.

Much of what I have recently seen is refreshing, exciting and palpably delivering value back to the business. Even so, I'd suggest that in future years, Gartner thinks more about the divisions that separate different classes of application in this space and split their analysis accordingly. That way, we'll have a much clearer line of sight into the place where these solutions fit.

And who knows - in a fast evolving world, Gartner might even consider flexing its otherwise rigid criteria so that even small players like Tidemark and Si-Sense get a shot at appearing in the MQ.

Bonus points: for a free copy of the latest Gartner BI report - click here.

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