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'The BI Survey 7' Details Purchase Practices, Ranks Loyalty by Brand

In the successor to "The OLAP Survey 6," Nigel Pendse delivers exhaustive customer survey findings on business intelligence vendor effectiveness and customer deployment success rates.

Nearly 90 percent of those already using BI see a need to deploy solutions more widely, and current usage levels are shockingly low, with only 8.7 percent of employees within the typical organization making regular use of BI applications. What's holding things back? The survey details a long list of deployment obstacles headed by:

   1. Cost of Software (24%)
   2. Slow query performance (20.2%)
   3. Cost of implementation/support (19.4%)
   4. Slow data load/build/calculate times (16.2%)
   5. Administration complexity (16%)

As in prior OLAP Survey studies, "slow query performance was the most widespread technical problem… and this seems to be becoming more common as time passes," The BI Survey 7 concludes. "Projects that used query performance as an explicit evaluation criterion tended to be more successful than those that did not." Further, the survey found that "the faster the query performance, the more business benefits are reported and the more likely it is that business goals will be achieved."

Vendor Effectiveness and Customer Loyalty

The BI Survey 7's 53-page "Vendor Effectiveness" chapter covers marketing and sales effectiveness, win rates and trends, deployed seats and "shelfware" by vendor, quality of support and future buying intentions. Perhaps the most closely followed rankings of all — at least based on the history of The OLAP Survey series — are loyalty rates, which are often quoted by top-scoring vendors.

The survey defines a loyal customer as one who will:

    -- Continue to use existing applications
    -- Purchase additional software to deploy existing applications more widely
    -- Use the product in preference to others when implementing new/ rewritten apps
   -- Favor the product if there is ever a requirement to reduce the number of BI suppliers.

caption here Product Loyalty League
By these measures and based on feedback from more than 1,900 respondents, the survey finds that three products leading the "loyalty league" table in 2006 — MicroStrategy, Applix TM1 (now part of Cognos) and Microsoft Analysis Services — increased their loyalty scores in 2007. Among the top 11 vendors ranked in the survey (see "Product Loyalty League" at right), Hyperion Essbase (now an Oracle product) and SAP BI/BW "continued their trend of declining loyalty in 2007, and Cognos Analysis also suffered a sharp drop," the survey finds. "In the past, Oracle BI customers have also shown declining loyalty; this was manifested in 2007 by a dearth of Oracle BI customers."

The publication of The BI Survey 7 will no doubt cause a stir in the industry over the next few weeks. With the survey's purchase price set at $4,995 for three users, any debate is likely to be among industry insiders and large organizations with fat research budgets (though we'll attempt to share the substance of ongoing debate via our blogs).

Can Survey respondents be considered unbiased given that vendors help drive respondents to the survey? "There is a risk of using vendors to rope in more participants," Pendse tells Intelligent Enterprise. "We do ask them to issue the invitation as part of a general newsletter rather than in targeted mailings, and we also check the data very carefully on a case-by-case basis, rejecting any dubious data."

While small, one-product vendors are likely to have regular, personal contact with customers, Pendse notes, larger vendors are less likely to have personal contacts and, thus, a mechanism to sway survey participants, he reasons.

"In general, it seems that users don't feel loved by the big vendors, and often don't get good results from their BI products, but corporate pressure stops them abandoning products that may be very disappointing," says Pendse. "Some probably do use the survey as a way of venting their frustration, but I see no harm in capturing such data, which would be carefully excluded from a vendor-sponsored survey."

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