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Making Sense of Gartner's '09 BI Magic Quadrant

I was surprised by the disappearance of the name "Business Objects" from the Quadrant (even within parentheses, a la "(Cognos)"), and I was mystified by the second-tier placement of SAP. Also curious was the hit Microsoft took on its "Ability to Execute" while its "Completeness of Vision" stayed put... Let's assess these rating changes one by one:
I'm a bit perplexed by the 2009 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms, released last week and made accessible to all by SAS, which purchased the rights to post it online. SAS, of course, is in the prized upper-right quadrant along with IBM (Cognos), SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Information Builders and Microstrategy. I was surprised by the disappearance of the name "Business Objects" from the Quadrant (even within parentheses, as used for "(Cognos)"), and I was even more mystified by the second-tier placement of SAP (which now stands for the combined SAP-Business Objects portfolio). Also curious was the hit Microsoft took on its "Ability to Execute" while its "Completeness of Vision" stayed put.

Let's take on these open questions one by one:On branding, it's my understanding, through a recent interview with SAP executives, that the company's naming convention is now "SAP Business Objects," but Gartner dropped the brand name entirely, offering the following explanation:

Business Objects was acquired by SAP, and its BI platform products are now sold alongside those developed by SAP itself.

It's a small and perhaps inevitable matter, but it makes me wonder if the Cognos name will also disappear?

The more important question on SAP is this; if Gartner is now rating the combined SAP and Business Objects portfolio, why is the new rating so far short of last year's rating for Business Objects alone (which was placed among the front runners)? In my view, SAP has been rationalizing the performance management portfolio while combining strengths such as the SAP BI Accelerator with the Business Objects suite. Isn't that combination additive? To the contrary, Gartner looks like it's splitting the difference between its 2008 positions for SAP and Business Objects, as if SAP dragged Business Objects down from its front-runner status. In its "cautions" for SAP, Gartner cited low levels of customer support satisfaction, tough choices ahead for SAP NetWeaver BI customers and OLAP weaknesses. But these problems were all evident (and cited by Gartner) last year, so I'm not quite sure what to make of the new position.

On Microsoft, I would have expected it to move a bit further to the right on "completeness of vision," given its plan, announced last year, to add in-memory analysis by 2010. Instead, Gartner held steady on vision while taking Microsoft down a notch on "ability to execute." Gartner's explanations were as follows:

  • While Microsoft is still on track to continue to grow its market share, the company has not executed well on communicating product road maps and delivering on several of its BI-related product acquisitions (such as Fast, Stratature and ProClarity).
  • In comparison with its large competitors, its product vision remains somewhat limited - focused predominantly on reporting and Excel analyst-driven BI and, more recently, some strategic BI (via Performance Point Server).

Again, the difference between this year's and last year's positioning seems rather subjective. I'm not hung up on SAP and Microsoft ratings so much as the rationale for the changes from one year to the next. That's one reason I'm starting to become a bigger fan of Forrester's Wave Reports, which include scoring grids that detail how the vendors fared and compared on as many as a dozen different attributes (BIScorecard also sets out criteria of evaluation with detailed scores, but it doesn't sell reprints to vendors, so you have to pay $895 to see the report). I know it kind of takes the "magic" out of the rating methodology, but in an age when visibility, auditability and good governance are valued, it just seems like a better approach.I was surprised by the disappearance of the name "Business Objects" from the Quadrant (even within parentheses, a la "(Cognos)"), and I was mystified by the second-tier placement of SAP. Also curious was the hit Microsoft took on its "Ability to Execute" while its "Completeness of Vision" stayed put... Let's assess these rating changes one by one:

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer