Twisting Terms to Make BI Market Share Claims - InformationWeek

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Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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Twisting Terms to Make BI Market Share Claims

When a BI vendor claims they are the market leader of anything, according to IDC, you need to be clear on what exactly gets counted. In other words, study the taxonomy on page three of IDC's latest report...

I always look forward to IDC's annual BI market shares, waiting to see who comes out on top and who is losing ground. I'm sure everyone noticed that they were, in fact, a month early this year! Call me a bean counter at-heart, but I like the irrefutable, quantifiable comparison they bring that other evaluations (including my own BI Scorecard) lack. Or so one would think.

Most product evaluations involve a degree of subjectivity, with varying definitions and opinions of what capabilities and criteria matter more. The IDC market share figures, on the other hand, are cold-hard facts: what were the revenues, who's leading, who's growing. While such data may have been somewhat trackable on 10Ks when BI vendors were independent, it's now largely impossible as BI is often but a small part of a larger company. Software vendors don't have to report their revenues by market segment, and throughout the year, we only get vague, imprecise references about how the BI business is going. The IDC report lays out the breakdown by vendor.Ah, but herein lies the rub: it's all a matter of which beans get counted where. As Doug Henschen has frequently written, our industry uses terms like performance management and business intelligence interchangeably, and we can never be sure if analytics are predictive or not.

So when a vendor claims they are the market leader of "anything" according to IDC, you need to be clear on what exactly gets counted (in other words, study that taxonomy on page 3). Oracle, for example, will often lay claim to being the "Business Analytics" leader that includes the relational data warehouse. As much of my focus is based on core BI tools capabilities, excluding the data warehouse plumbing, I was not surprised to again see SAP BusinessObjects as number 1, but at first blush, I was surprised to see SAS as now number 2, ahead of IBM Cognos.

But wait! It's the taxonomy! Included in IDC's "Business Intelligence Tools" are the statistical software too, where SAS is the leader and derives a greater portion of its revenues. If we were looking mainly at query, reporting, and analysis, then IBM Cognos remains number 2, followed by Oracle, Microsoft, and then SAS.

Beyond who's leading which category, the growth (or lack of) is revealing. But this is where the irrefutable and the speculative begins. Keep in mind, too, that all of this data is based on 2008 revenues, before the more severe economic downturn. Quarterly income statements certainly would have been interesting. Still, the stronger growth by both SAP and Oracle lends some support to my opinion that business applications/ERP influence BI buying more than IT infrastructure (IBM's growth at 5%). Or maybe it's all a matter of which acquired sales force got integrated faster, as Microsoft continued to have strong growth. Counting those beans has got to be difficult as the BI revenues in 2008 came from both Performance Point (dashboards) and SQL Server. But how much of the SQL Server licenses actually get included here? Meanwhile, QlikTech's growth is strong but slower than in previous years, suggesting the departmental sell might be harder hit by the economy, or weaker Web and administrative features catching up to that vendor.

And if I had any doubt that advanced visualization is a hot topic, TIBCO's Spotfire growth of 36% confirms it (coincidentally, a featured topic in our next customer webinar).

The bottom line good news is that the BI market -- no matter how you slice it -- grew over 10%, a rate that few other software or industry segments could claim last year.

Now, if only we all knew how to do BI right! So on that note, before you head out for your 4th of July BBQs, be sure to take the "Successful BI Survey" here.

Regards, Cindi Howson, BI ScorecardWhen a BI vendor claims they are the market leader of anything, according to IDC, you need to be clear on what exactly gets counted. In other words, study the taxonomy on page three of IDC's latest report...

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