How Buying Changes in the New BI Landscape

This year's business intelligence mega deals have altered the complexion of strategic and tactical decisions. Successful practitioners will be unfazed by shifting vendor ownership, but dissatisfied customers are up for grabs.
Tactical Buyers

Tactical buyers are more focused on short-term success, features and functions, price, and ease of deployment, than on strategic vendor relationships. These buyers are often departmental buyers and small and midsized businesses (SMBs). This is the market in which smaller vendors like QlikTech, Panorama and new players like Lucid Era are likely to continue to flourish. As well, despite Microsoft’s size, Microsoft BI continues to succeed with tactical buyers because of its ease of deployment and low entry price; Microsoft's strong reseller model makes it an easy vendor to do business with. Business Objects, with its Crystal/Edge product line, has continued to command share with tactical buyers for similar reasons. Ditto for products like Hyperion Essbase and Cognos PowerPlay, but if these two companies become more difficult to do business with as part of larger companies, it will undermine their ability to compete in these accounts.

Never underestimate the role a tactical buyer plays within larger companies trying to establish enterprisewide standards. Success with departmental BI can become a basis for an enterprise solution. Departments will demand the same best-of-breed capabilities from an enterprise solution. Even at large companies (with more than $1 billion in revenue), there is a preponderance of departmental buying (see the "Departmental Vs. Enterprise" buying chart at right, which is based on survey results from the new book Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App). The move from departmental BI to enterprise BI is still relatively new for many customers, and on average, only slightly more than half of companies of all sizes deploy enterprisewide.

Frustrated BI Customers

The final wrinkle in the BI buying dynamic is the dissatisfied customer, to which no vendor is immune. In the past, the sales tactics used by many BI vendors were akin to a used-car-salesman approach in which the goal seemed to be to milk the customers for revenue without much concern for their success. Reports of unseen account managers and high turnover continue. A number of vendors have had recent problematic upgrades. Some have had miserable support. BI buyers will never give a large share of wallet to any vendor that is complacent or arrogant, no matter how good the product might be. Customers who have been frustrated for whatever reason — poor service, product problems — will welcome a reason to switch if budget is available and something better comes along.

The BI landscape has changed. Satisfied and successful BI customers are unfazed by the vendor musical chairs. New customers and frustrated customers are the ones who will revisit their buying approach.

Cindi Howson, Founder, BIScorecard, a Web site for in-depth BI product reviews Author: Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App Author: Business Objects XI (R2): The Complete Reference