Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Business Intelligence Software: Ten Leaders

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ALSO SEE: Business Intelligence Software: Industry Scorecard

AND: Business Intelligence Software: Cloud Burst Ahead

The business intelligence softwaremarket is shaping up as a David vs. Goliath struggle. Behemoths like Microsoft, Oracle and IBM offer feature-rich BI suites along with their many other enterprise software products. Meanwhile, pure-play vendors – such as MicroStrategy, QlikTech and Tableau – have avid followers and are competitive, especially when it comes to innovating around new features and adjusting quickly to the shifting marketplace.

The pure-play vendors, for instance, have aggressively pioneered interactive data visualization features, while also more readily adopting open-source software and the SaaS model. They also tend to garner higher “satisfaction” ratings in independent surveys polling customers.

That said, the Davids in this battle have a long way to go. The top five BI vendors control about 75% of the market, according to research and projections from IDC and Gartner.

The top five vendors below are ranked in terms of market share. The remaining five are ranked by the extremely unscientific measure of how likely I think they are to challenge the leaders. This ability to challenge includes things like proven longevity, customer loyalty, novel business models, management team, creativity when adapting to market conditions, likelihood of being acquired in the near future, etc.

I’m sure I’ll hear plenty about why these ranking are off. Let me have it. I grew up in a rust-belt steel town and have a thick skin. Feel free to air your grievances (or agreement) publicly. That’s what the comments field below the story is for.


Why they’re a leader: First and foremost, you have to look at market share. SAP claims more than 45,000 customers in 127 countries. After acquiring BusinessObjects in 2007, SAP’s combined customer base and market share leaped to the number-one position. According to IDC, SAP leads the BI software market with 20.4% of the market. This represents nearly double that of number-two vendor SAS Institute.

While the BusinessObjects acquisition caused some initial confusion among customers, it also spurred innovation. In May of 2009, SAP released the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer tool, designed to help users with no Business Intelligence experience or training navigate through large volumes of data via a search-engine style interface. Early customers of this tool include Sara Lee and Molson Coors.

SAP is in the process of launching a second phase of Explorer that lets companies pull information from data sources other than SAP NetWeaver. And despite being one of the behemoths on this list, SAP has slowly but surely been adjusting to new software delivery models, such as SaaS and the cloud.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Solutions

Key customers: Sara Lee, Molson Coors, Government of Bermuda, Emergency Medical Associates, Valero Energy and StubHub.

Key Executive: Marge Breya serves as EVP and GM of the Intelligence Platform Group (IPG) at SAP BusinessObjects and of the NetWeaver Solution Management organization at SAP AG. Prior to joining SAP via the Business Objects acquisition, Breya served in a number of executive roles at technology giants such as BEA Systems, where she was SVP, CMO, and CSO (chief strategy officer); and Sun Microsystems, where she served in various executive management roles.

Headquarters: Corporate SAP Headquarters: Walldorf, Germany. Americas Headquarters: Newtown Square, PA.

2. SAS

Why they’re a leader: As the world’s largest privately held software company, SAS has managed to hold on to one of the top spots in the Business Intelligence software market despite years of market consolidation. While SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft were gobbling up smaller BI vendors, SAS managed to both remain independent and stay highly competitive.

SAS itself did some acquiring, grabbing Teragram and IDeAS, but the company argues that these acquisitions were “for an advanced technology not simple market share.”

SAS is also a leader when it comes to pushing the BI envelope. While several vendors on this list are working to develop more features for forecasting and predictive planning, those features have been a core part of SAS’s value proposition for some time.

According to SAS, using various tools to predict the likelihood of future behaviors or conditions – with information delivered in printed form, via mobile phone, or executive dashboards – offers the insights on where the organization is heading, rather than simply confirming where it has been.

Of its $2.26 billion 2009 revenue, SAS reinvested an impressive 23% percent into R&D. However, SAS needs to commit that kind of money to R&D if it hopes to stay on top. It is facing increased pressure from the likes of IBM and Oracle, as well as from strong pure-play vendors, such as MicroStrategy and Information Builders, which are also still standing after years of mergers and acquisitions.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

SAS Business Analytics

Key customers: SAS claims that its customer roster includes 92 of the Fortune 100 companies, 9 of 10 top global telecom providers, all 10 top U.S. Banks, 9 of 10 of top airlines in the world, etc. You get the picture.

Meanwhile, more than half of SAS’s 2009 revenue was from non-US sales. Customers include Southwest Airlines, Bombay Stock Exchange, Lego Systems, Credit Suisse, Vodafone and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Key BI Executive: Keith Collins, SVP and CTO, is responsible for driving corporate technology strategy through a focus on customer- and partner-facing activities.

Headquarters: Cary, North Carolina.

3. Oracle

Why they’re a leader: In terms of market share, they’re essentially tied with SAS for second place, but as a tech goliath, Oracle tends to have more detractors than SAS. It comes with the territory.

The Oracle BI Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) platform has the advantage of integrating with Oracle’s many other enterprise middleware, database and business application solutions. That alone creates momentum. Oracle is also a leader in the closely related field of data warehousing technology (the same is true for Microsoft and IBM).

Oracle’s acquisition of Sun was finalized in January 2010. That move doesn’t have a direct bearing on Business Intelligence, other than the fact that Oracle now says it will offer a “single stack” that combines Sun hardware and operating systems with Oracle’s middleware and applications.

How should customers read this? With Sun’s history with open source, it could mean more flexibility and greater openness. Or using Oracle’s track record as a guide, customers could experience an even greater risk of vendor-lock.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

Oracle Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing Technology Center

Key customers: Facebook, Marvel Entertainment, Asiana Airlines, Marriott Hotels, New York City and Visa

Key BI Executive: Thomas Kurian joined Oracle in 1996 and rose through the ranks to become EVP, Product Development. Previously, he was a consultant with McKinsey and Company.

Headquarters: Redwood Shores, CA

4. IBM

Why they’re a leader: As governments and businesses continue to struggle with a significant “data glut,” IBM estimates that “one in three business leaders frequently make critical decisions without the information they need.” A recent IBM Global CIO Study involving 2,500 CIOs from 78 countries found that over 80% of executives ranked “business intelligence and analytics” as their top priority for improving competitiveness.

IBM has been spending heavily on business-intelligence and business analytics R&D, investing more than $12 billion in this space over the last 5 years alone. Ten percent of that investment can be accounted for by the $1.2 billion acquisition of SPSS in 2009. The acquisition added a predictive analytics element to the IBM Business Analytics software portfolio to “help clients eliminate blind spots in strategic information as they move beyond being able to ‘sense and respond’ to being able to ‘predict and act.’”

While IBM is obviously not a pure-play Business Intelligence software vendor, on IBM’s recent Q4 2009 earnings call, CFO Mark Loughridge declared that business analytics is one of the most critical parts of IBM’s overall strategy, both in terms of performance and opportunity for future growth.

With this kind of focus and investment, don’t be surprised if IBM is ranked higher the next time this list comes out.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

Cognos Business Intelligence and Financial Performance Management

Key customers: Dorel Industries, Edmonton Police Service,, Lufthansa Cargo, Martin’s Point Health Care, Quiznos, City of Albuquerque, U.S. Coast Guard.

Key BI Executive: Rob Ashe, GM of Business Analytics, joined IBM when the company acquired Cognos in 2008. At Cognos, Ashe served in numerous senior executive positions, including CEO, COO, CFO and SVP of R&D.

Headquarters: Armonk, NY

5. Microsoft

Why they’re a leader: While Microsoft doesn’t “own” BI the way the do with so many other technology spaces, they are still able to leverage other related technologies, such as Office, SharePoint and SQL Server, to pitch their solution as one that “enables companies to leverage the technology infrastructure they already own.” Microsoft argues that this synergy represents “the lowest TCO, while putting BI in the hands of infinitely more users.”

It’s tough to argue with that. However, according to research from IDC and Gartner, Microsoft’s Business Intelligence software market share is a distant number five, representing only 7.7%.

That could change quickly. In 2009, Microsoft made the decision to incorporate the monitoring and analytics capabilities of its corporate performance management application (Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007) into Microsoft SharePoint Server, bringing together BI, collaboration, ECM and enterprise search onto the same platform.

The company is already seeing positive momentum. The most recent IDC and Gartner BI market share reports show Microsoft’s growth rate as 16.9% and 21.6% respectively.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

Microsoft Business Intelligence

Key customers: Pepsi, Community Health Network, Kelley Blue Book, Hyundai, Bank of America.

Key BI Executive: Tom Casey, GM, SQL Server Business Intelligence, previously served in a similar role driving the development of Microsoft’s business process and integration products (BizTalk Server and Host Integration Server) and developing Microsoft’s overall workflow strategy.

Headquarters: Redmond, WA

6. MicroStrategy

Why they’re a leader: MicroStrategy’s key differentiator is its ability to support large-scale, demanding Business Intelligence environments. MicroStrategy software is often layered over massive data warehouses. For example, Lowe’s runs more than 375,000 BI reports each week and relies on MicroStrategy BI to track millions of store items against billions of transaction records to assist in the management of stock levels at its stores.

Another example is Yahoo, which uses MicroStrategy’s software to analyze petabytes of Web traffic and e-commerce data.

Despite some industry grumbles about unfavorable licensing and pricing agreements, MicroStrategy is now seen as a customer-friendly organization that offers one of the lowest TCOs of leading BI vendors. (By now you’ve probably realized that just about all the BI companies say that.)

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

MicroStrategy Reporting Suite

Key customers: Lowe’s Companies, Starbucks, eBay, AT&T, Yahoo, US Postal Service.

Key Executive: Michael Saylor, Chairman and CEO, founded MicroStrategy in 1989.

Headquarters: McLean, VA

7. TIBCO Spotfire

Why they’re a leader: According to TIBCO, while the Business Intelligence software market is not a new one, it is in need of a new approach. “Just look at how many people rely on spreadsheets to analyze data that comes from traditional BI because the tools are still hard to use; it takes too long to get answers to new questions; and there is no clear path to action from the tools,” said Mark Lorion, VP of marketing for TIBCO Spotfire.

Adoption of traditional BI platforms has also been hampered by the lack of deep integration with business processes and reliance on static information resting in data warehouses. TIBCO Spotfire, in contrast, combines business process management (BPM), complex event processing (CEP), predictive analytics (PA) and visual data mining (DM) software. Thus, Spotfire handles everything from real-time data capture and streaming to data analysis, forecasting and interactive reporting on a single platform.

Lorion argues that TIBCO continues to revolutionize information architectures, so the future of Business Intelligence software will be both real-time and event driven, offering solutions for SOA, business process management, and business optimization that help companies become more cost-effective, agile, and efficient.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

Spotfire Analytics

Key customers: Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Toshiba, Bank of America and Texas Instruments.

Key BI Executive: Rock Gnatovich, COO, joined TIBCO in 2007 through the Spotfire acquisition. Gnatovich had been serving as Spotfire’s President. Before that, he was President and CEO of Windchill Technology, an Internet start-up that was acquired by Parametric Technology Corporation.

Headquarters: Somerville, MA.

8. Information Builders

Why they’re a leader: Information Builders’ Business Intelligence software platform, WebFOCUS, has been implemented at over 12,000 customer sites, and is used to build Web-based BI applications. According to a company spokesperson, what sets Information Builders apart from the competition “is how WebFOCUS is being used by enterprise customers to improve their end-user customer relationships,” which the company dubs “Customer Facing BI.”

Despite being a pure-play vendor, Information Builders competes well against other enterprise suites because it provides broad platform, data-integration and application support. For instance, WebFOCUS plugs into iWay Software’s enterprise integration platform, thereby allowing customers to view information from multiple data sources. Because of integration efforts and partnerships such as this, Information Builders claims to be well positioned as a solution for organizations without a data warehouse and for operational reporting.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:


Key customers: Air Canada, City of Cincinnati, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Johns Hopkins University, State of Colorado Department of Corrections and U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command.

Key Executive: Gerald Cohen, President and CEO, founded the company in 1975 along with Peter Mittelman (now SVP, FOCUS Division) and Martin Slagowitz, who currently serves as a consultant. Cohen is considered one of the pioneers of the Business Intelligence software space.

Headquarters: New York, NY

9. QlikTech

Why they’re a leader: According to QlikTech, the big difference between their Business Intelligence software, QlikView, and the rest of the market is that “anyone can use it.” First, the company offers a free, fully featured, no-time limit download of the software. Second, QlikView is designed to be easy to use.

According to the company, unlike traditional BI systems, which typically require advanced programming skills by IT professionals in order to create “rigidly inflexible reports,” QlikView allows the business user to access data from disparate sources and create searches and visual charts through simple point-and-click technology.

The company also argues that speed of implementation is a competitive strength. Where traditional Business Intelligence software can take a year or even a year and a half or more to implement, QlikView can be up and running in a few weeks. Moreover, QlikTech claims that QlikView provides 50% lower TOC compared to traditional BI systems – and research firm IDC backs them up on that all-too-familiar claim.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

QlikView Free Download. I asked a company spokesperson what the catch was with the free version. “No catch, no limited functionality or time limit. Fully functioned and free for anyone to use as they’d like,” she said. “I guess the only catch is that once they want to share with a workgroup, they would need to buy licenses for the additional users.”

Key customers: Canon, Campbell’s Soup, Carlsberg, Gatorade, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Toyota, Shell.

Key BI Executive: Lars Björk, CEO, previously held several positions as CFO at such companies as ScandStick and Resurs Finance.

Headquarters: Radnor, PA.

10. Tableau Software

Why they’re a leader: Tableau points to their strong sales growth over the past several years as a reason why they should be considered a Business Intelligence leader. That growth garnered them recognition by Inc. magazineas one of the country’s 500 fastest growing technology companies.

As with several other pure-play Business Intelligence software vendors, Tableau is working hard to be easy to use and intuitive, hoping to push BI out to a wider user base. Tableau calls this “rapid-fire BI” and claims to be the “only provider of data visualization and business intelligence software that can be installed and used by anyone while also adhering to IT standards.” Drag-and-drop features allow users – with no IT expertise – to visualize information from any structured data format.

While Tableau likes to point to ratings from Inc. and Gartner and the like to bolster their credibility, those same organizations have also expressed notes of caution. The “interactive visualization” style favored by Tableau and some of the other pure-play BI vendors is indeed catching on, but not just with customers. The larger vendors are all concocting similar features. This could spell trouble for a young company. Or it could make the firm an acquisition target in the next few years.

Link to Business Intelligence software page:

Tableau Business Intelligence

Key customers: Apple, City of District of Columbia, Ernst & Young, Google, Microsoft, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and

Key BI executive: Christian Chabot, co-founder and CEO, has led the company to 20 consecutive quarters of record sales – despite the recession. He was previously CEO of BeeLine Software, which was acquired by Vicinity.

Headquarters: Seattle, WA.

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