Business Intelligence Software: Ten Leaders

The Business Intelligence software market is dominated by giants, yet a number of smaller BI contenders are working to get a piece of the pie.


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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.

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Tags: business intelligence, BI software, business intelligence software, BI

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