Your executive team has successfully made the business case for investing in a BI project. You’ve got the funds earmarked. Now all you have to do is pick a vendor. Once upon a time, with only a small handful of vendors to choose from, that might have been a simpler exercise. However, over the past decade, growth in BI has spawned dozens of new players that have created sophisticated, flexible alternatives to the enterprise offerings of the megavendors SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. The Big Four initially were caught flat-footed by the new competition; and over the past two years, [they] have quickly had to reinvent their solutions to offer greater data-discovery capability, easier to use front ends and more flexibility, in general. The result? A cornucopia of options for businesses of all sizes and every industry. While each vendor selection process is unique to the company on the hunt, the following four questions can help you focus to find the ones best suited to your needs.
1. Are you a small or midsize company? This is not a hard and fast rule; but for smaller companies, or companies deploying for one department, end-to-end enterprise solutions from one of the megavendors may not be ideal or even necessary, particularly if the budget is tight. Some vendors specialize in SMB needs. LogiXML, for example, caters to smaller operations and gets high marks from Gartner’s Magic Quadrant survey respondents for ease of use, rapid time to deployment and lower cost. Microsoft has been steadily adding complex BI functionality to Excel, a mainstay product in midsize corporate offices. Customers of Board International cited “an SMB and departmental support that is three times higher than average,” according to Gartner’s survey.
2. Can you go virtual? Some companies in highly regulated industries can’t yet sign on for BI in the cloud, but those that can and are willing to deploy in the cloud or via Software as a service, can cut down considerably on costs. BI player Bitam’s SaaS option, KPI Online, offers small and midsize companies a range of applications available for a monthly pay-as-you-go fee. GoodData’s customers appreciate its SaaS BI and analytics platform. Birst has emerged as a leader in cloud-based solutions. “For smaller companies that don’t have IT staffs or who are willing to take on whatever risks there may be with respect to security and performance, the cloud can be a good option,” says Gartner Group’s Rita Sallam. “We recommend [that] you look for the product that best meets your requirement; and if cloud makes sense for you, go with their cloud deployment option, rather than looking for a cloud-based solution.”
3. Who will use it? Unless all the intended users are techies, ease of use and intuitive design should be high on the list, particularly if you want to get broad-based participation and/or you want users to conduct their own ad-hoc data queries, rather than having to wait on IT to generate a report. Tableau Software, Panorama, QlikView, LogiXML and Tibco Spotfire all earned high marks from customers for ease of use, according to Gartner’s survey. Birst customers reported among the highest breadth of use of the platform’s functionality of any vendor in the survey. “The vendors doing the best are addressing the business-user requirements but making more sophisticated analytics accessible by a broader range of users,” says Sallam.
4. How important is BI on-the-go? Mobile BI technology can be particularly critical for busy CEOs and other C-suite executives, who need to be able to see KPIs in real time, and other key dashboard data, wherever they might be. For example, BI in the field is key for sales reps, who can use applications to view all the sales of a particular account within a three-mile radius—what they bought last quarter, what quantities and what they’re likely to buy. Some vendors are clearly ahead of others and applications range from simple dashboard access to the ability to interact with data on the go. Two frontrunners are MicroStrategy, recognized by Gartner in 2012 as having the broadest and most advanced set of mobile capabilities in the BI market, and SAP, which last year enhanced its already robust mobile BI offering with geospatial and camera capabilities.
Business Intelligence Vendor List
|Actuate’s BIRT (an acronym for business intelligence and reporting tools) offers a single server solution with multiple options that optimize the delivery of actionable information within the company, as well as to customers and partners outside.
|Alteryx provides BI technology that lets users invent smart and extensible software applications to solve data analysis problems and make decisions.
|Arcplan’s open approach to data connectivity provides direct real-time access to more than 20 data sources in their native environments, from vendors such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Teradata and lets you create and use dashboards and reports on desktop and mobile devices.
|A web-based (SaaS) BI software provider, Birst looks to reduce costs by providing a fully integrated BI suite that automates much of the manual configuration required by other tools.
|Bitam’s software solutions are known for their rapid deployment, a high rate of adoption by users, low implementation risk, ease of use and minimal training requirements.
|BOARD employs a toolkit approach that combines various BI and CPM functionalities in a single graphical software environment that enables capabilities like multi-dimensional analysis, dashboarding and querying to improve productivity and decision making while lowering costs.
|GoodData’s cloud-based data analysis enables businesses to create up-to-date reports that mash up multiple data sources, track performance against goals, see business trends and share custom dashboards.
|IBM’s business intelligence products are designed to integrate with one another and with many third-party solutions, including leading big data platforms to enable companies to seamlessly grow their BI solutions to meet future requirements.
|Information Builder’s WebFOCUS BI platform lets companies deliver rich, consumable, interactive information to employees, managers, analysts, partners and customers, who can then create their own customized reports and analyses.
|Jaspersoft provides a flexible and cost effective BI suite that enables better decision making through highly interactive, web-based reports, dashboards and analysis.
|Logi Analytics (formerly LogiXML)
|Logi Info lets company’s connect multiple data sources, build interactive reports and dashboards, embed BI into existing systems and build operational BI applications with write-back capabilities.
|Empowers users of all levels to access and mashup data from virtually any source, create their own reports and analytical applications, share insights, and collaborate.
|MicroStrategy seeks to provide the most flexible, powerful, scalable and user-friendly platforms for analytics, mobile, identity and loyalty—offered either on premises or in the cloud.
|Oracle offers products for reporting, ad hoc query, OLAP, dashboards and scorecards, delivered on an architecturally unified foundation that is complete, open and integrated.
|Panorama’s BI solutions enable organizations to leverage the power of Social Decision Making and Automated Intelligence to gain insights more quickly, more efficiently and with greater relevancy.
|Pentaho provides a tightly coupled platform that unites the data integration process with complete analytics, from reporting and ad hoc discovery to predictive.
|Prognoz offers a fully integrated BI and business analytics platform that provides tools for constructing business applications with a broad range of analytic capabilities.
|QlikTech’s QlikView is a business discovery platform that delivers user-driven business intelligence (BI).
|Salient Management Company
|Offers scalable in-memory, self-service visual data mining, discovery and analysis systems used by business and public sector clients.
|Offers BI solutions that provide intuitive, self-service access to business information, enable informed and rapid decisions and optimize use of IT and resources.
|SAS BI integrates data from across an enterprise and delivers self-service reporting and analysis, as well as an integrated, robust and flexible presentation layer for the full breadth of SAS Analytics capabilities.
|Tableau’s data discovery and exploration application features a drag and drop interface that lets you visualize any data, explore different views and easily combine multiple databases.
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|TARGIT software enables users to do everything from setting up early notifications when data changes beyond predefined thresholds and performing predictive analytics to reviewing social collaborations and covering all the classic disciplines of reporting and building dashboards.
|TIBCO Software is a provider of infrastructure software for companies to use on-premise or as part of cloud computing environments to perform a range of functions, including optimizing claims, processing trades, cross-selling products based on real-time customer behavior and more.