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'The BI Survey 8' Finds Customers Want Faster Performance, Better Support

Annual business intelligence poll uncovers selection criteria for 23 products. Independents fare better than 'megavendors' on support and customer loyalty ratings.

Too many business intelligence vendors are drinking their own Kool-Aid. That's one of the big-picture findings of the just-released BI Survey 8. This year's poll, overseen and analyzed by survey founder Nigel Pendse, reveals BI deployments aren't nearly as pervasive as vendors and consultants suggest. What's more, customers aren't nearly as happy about product performance and support as vendors believe. The report also reveals independent vendors fare better, overall, in the survey's prized product performance ratings.

"Generally speaking, the customers of the big vendors are not happy with the way things have turned out, and I think many are turning back to the small specialists, who seem to be doing much better," Pendse says.

Not-So-Pervasive BI

Upholding its reputation as the BI industry's most exhaustive and in-depth report, "The BI Survey 8" is based on detailed feedback from 2,622 users, consultants and vendors in 60 countries, with the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom accounting for the largest number of respondents. Comparisons of user, vendor and consultant perceptions yielded some of the survey's starkest contrasts. For example, although the vendor community has championed the years-long drive to get BI into the hands of more users, Pendse describes that push as "something dreamed up by vendors that want to sell more licenses." In contrast, he points to "The BI Survey 8" finding that users report far more limited penetration of BI tools and technologies than do vendors.

"Users report a typical (median) deployment rate of 8 percent [of employees], but consultants report a rate of 9.5 percent and vendors [say] 14 percent," the survey states. "It seems that vendors believe too much of their own propaganda about mass deployment of their products."

The report defines a BI user as someone who interacts directly with a BI tool. "Being a passive recipient of a PDF report doesn't qualify," Pendse explains. "They don't have to be defining reports or building cubes, but they must have some form of hands-on access, such as access to a dashboard." Pendse says deployment figures skew higher in North America and among larger companies, but he adds that so-called pervasive deployments -- those with more than 50 percent of employees using BI -- account for only 7.8 percent of respondents.

Performance Is Relative

As in past surveys, the most widespread technical problem reported by practitioners was slow query performance. But complaints are down from 21 percent in last year's survey to 18 percent in "The BI Survey 8." The survey finds projects that use query performance as an evaluation criterion tended to be more successful than those that do not. It also finds the faster the query response, "the more business benefits are reported and the more likely it is that business goals will be achieved."

Performance continues to be a top complaint in part because consumer technologies have raised user expectations. "BI query performance has not been getting worse; in fact it improved a little bit in this year's survey -- typically being 5 to 10 seconds," Pendse explains. "In the meantime, however, Google has come along and will query vastly more data than the world's largest data warehouse in .22 seconds, so people's expectations for performance have changed."

Encouragingly, "The BI Survey 8" finds software reliability is a major problem for only 10.1 percent of deployments, slightly better than in last year's survey. What's more, the overall level of satisfaction with BI deployments remains high, with more than 73 percent of respondents reporting their projects "largely or completely met their business goals."

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