On this path from descriptive to prescriptive, most companies are moving into the diagnostic stage, according to Gartner's 2013 "Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms," released earlier this month. What's powering the trend, said Gartner, is a move toward "decentralization and user empowerment of BI and analytics" thanks to a new breed of data-discovery tools.
The data-discovery category was pioneered over the last decade by the likes of QlikTech, Tableau Software and Tibco Spotfire, but seeing the success of these vendors, competitors have either acquired or internally developed their own data-discovery tools. Examples include Actuate (Quiterian), IBM (Cognos Insight), MicroStrategy (Visual Insight), Microsoft (PowerPivot and Power View), Oracle (Endeca), SAP (Visual Intelligence) and SAS (Visual Analytics).
[ Want advice on the data-discovery category? Read How To Choose 'Advanced' Data Visualization Tools. ]
"Almost every user organization I talk to now is looking at making data discovery a more significant part of their BI and analytic platform architecture," said Gartner analyst and report co-author Kurt Schlegel in an interview with InformationWeek. The benefit of these tools, said Schlegel, is improved agility, as business users are freed to explore data and find new insights without having to put in requests to IT for new cubes or reports.
It should be no surprise that Tableau and Tibco both moved over from Gartner's (top left) "challengers" quadrant in 2012 to the (top right) "leaders" quadrant in Gartner's latest report, joining the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS and SAP. QlikTech was already in the leaders group, but it moved up on the "ability to execute" axis and further to the right on "completeness of vision."
"Others are now confirming that [data discovery] is where the puck is moving, and it's a great testament that we're in the right place," QlikTech CEO Lars Bjork told InformationWeek. "Most of the traditional BI players are growing slowly if they're growing at all, and some of them are going backwards."
QlikTech's revenue grew 21% in fiscal year 2012, and Bjork pointed out that the company's new software license revenue of $93.5 million in the fourth quarter ended December 31 was more than twice the $46.2 million reported in the same quarter by MicroStrategy (another leader, but a company that recently saw management changes).
Gartner this year added "Analytics" to the title of what was previously just the BI Magic Quadrant (MQ). The change reflects a rising emphasis on analytics and the envisioned, next-phase maturation of the mainstream market from diagnostics into prediction and prescriptive analytics.
"Almost every big company is doing something with predictive analytics, but they have yet to take it mainstream," Schlegel said. "It usually has something to do with customer churn, marketing campaign responsiveness, fraud detection or supply chain demand forecasting."
Which vendors are getting into prescriptive analytics? Schlegel pointed to IBM with its SPSS Decision Management Suite, various SAS applications and Oracle with Siebel Real Time Decisions (from Sigma Dynamics) among the leaders, but even niche players including Board MIT and Alteryx are developing prescriptive capabilities, he said.
"Board is linking planning, reporting and analysis, and planning is really a form of decision-making," Schlegel explained. "It could be deciding how much budget, inventory or head count you're going to allocate to a particular market. Alteryx helps retailers plan where to place stores, which is a business decision, not just a measurement."
Other vendors moving up in the 2013 report included Birst and LogiXML, now the only two vendors in the challengers quadrant. It was cloud vendor Birst's first appearance in the report, while LogiXML moved up from the "niche player" quadrant. Both vendors moved up on the strength of positive customer-feedback scores in a Gartner customer survey that was part of the research effort, Schlegel said.
With the rise of analytics, change may be ahead for what is an increasingly crowded Magic Quadrant report. There are now 10 companies in the leaders quadrant, for example, and the 24 companies in the total report cover a wide range of vendor sizes and types. What's more, there are pure predictive analytics vendors, such as KXEN, emerging big-data analytics companies, such as Datameer, Karmasphere and Platfora, and analytics services providers, such as Mu Sigma and Opera Solutions, that aren't currently covered by the current report because they don't address BI.
"As much as we're shining a spotlight on analytics this year, this MQ is still very much tied to the classic semantic-layer, OLAP [BI] base as well," Schlegel said. "There's a whole bunch of market activity such that this MQ probably needs to change in the next year."
That sounds like a trial balloon for separate BI and analytics reports, but you can bet that the vendors focused purely on descriptive and diagnostic BI would not want to be separated from forward-looking analytics and pigeonholed in the increasingly pejorative "rear-view mirror" BI category. QlikTech and other vendors in the data-discovery camp are working on adding predictive capabilities in upcoming releases, so it will become increasingly difficult to separate BI and analytics vendors.