The Best Analytics Software – 2014

We’re here today to talk about the Magic quadrant for business intelligence and analytics platforms, which is published annually by Gartner.

We hope to answer questions like –

  • Is SAS the best software in Analytics ?
  • What is the standing of Microsoft when it comes to Analytics (Excel , Access , SQL)
  • How good is Tableau in the eyes of the Analytics world?

(What is Gartner?  Gartner is the world’s leading IT research and advisory company which delivers technology related insights from CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations to the general public .All of us use Gartner and its reports to come to conclusions about the various software suites we would like to buy.)

Over the last decade, the world of business intelligence and analytics has undergone a change. As organisations have adopted business intelligence and started looking at the data for measurement and reporting purposes, the next level was to try and do prediction forecasting and optimisation on the same data. Because of this growing importance of advanced analytics, the organisation started looking at solutions which could deliver end to end services. Over the last few years we see software suits which have both BI and predictive analytics capabilities.

Thus Analytics software as of today are expected to be able to provide services across 17 categories

  1. Reporting
  2. Dashboards. What is the difference between reporting and  dashboards ? It is a style of reporting that uses a lot of graphics to show performance measures
  3. Ad-hoc reports and queries
  4. Microsoft Office integration
  5. Mobile BI-  which enables organisations to develop and deliver content on mobile devices
  6. Interactive visualisation -which enables the exploration of data via the manipulation of chart images. This includes an add in of visualisation options that go beyond the normal pie chart, bargraph etc. and could include heat and tree maps scatter plots other special-purpose visuals etc.
  7. Search-based data discovery – this applies a search index to structured and unstructured data sources
  8. Geospatial and locational intelligence- which is specialised analytics and visualisations that provide a geography, spatial and a time context
  9. Embedded advanced analytics -which will enable users to levitate statistical functions library embedded in the BI server
  10. Online analytical processing or OLAP- this allows users to analyse data with fast query and calculation performance enabling slicing and dicing of data
  11. BI infrastructure and Administration -which enables all tools in the platform to use the same security , meta data , query engine etc. That platform should support multi tenancy.
  12. Meta data management
  13. Business user data modelling- which would be free drag-and-drop user driven data combinations
  14. Development tools
  15. Embeddable analytics -which would be tools including a software developer’s Kit with APIs for creating and modifying analytical content, visualisations etc. and embedding them into a business process
  16. Collaboration -which would enable users to share and discuss information analysis chat etc.
  17. Support for big data sources -which is the ability to support and query hybrid, columnar and array-based data sources, such as MapReduce and other NoSQL databases


Gartner 2014
Gartner 2014

(source:- )

What does Gartner say about SAS ? I am sure this is the question that’s in your mind . Since I started my Analytics journey with SAS , it is the most important question in my mind .

  1. 1.      SAS

SAS’s analytics portfolio spans platforms for BI, performance management, data warehousing, in-memory databases, data integration, data quality, decision management, and content and social analytics, with a core strength being advanced analytics. SAS also offers industry- and domain-specific analytic applications built on its product portfolio.


  • SAS’s analytics portfolio spans platforms for BI, performance management, data warehousing, in-memory databases, data integration, data quality, and content and social analytics. However, unlike most other BI platform vendors, SAS’s core strength is in its advanced analytical techniques, such as data mining, predictive modeling, simulation and optimization, for which it is acknowledged as a Leader in “Magic Quadrant for Advanced Analytics Platforms.”
  • Historically, SAS tools have been used primarily by power users, data scientists and IT-centric BI developers. That this remains the case is shown by SAS customers placing it above any other vendor in the Magic Quadrant survey in terms of support for complex types of analysis, but giving it one of the lowest scores for ease of use. During the past five years, SAS has been investing heavily in revamping its user experience to change this situation and encourage more mainstream user adoption. This aggressive and unmatched strategy is part of the reason for SAS’s favorable Completeness of Vision position.
  • SAS also differentiates itself from most other BI platform vendors by productizing and selling industry- and domain-specific advanced analytic applications that are focused on specific business problems and built using many of its technology platform products. This enables it to sell “value,” rather than components.
  • Data access and integration and the ability to support large volumes of data are the main reasons customers choose SAS, according to the survey. In fact, while SAS deployments support a below-average number of users, its data volumes are among the highest in the survey.


  • SAS customers consider its software among the most difficult to use and most difficult to implement, with ease of use for business users being identified as a limitation on broader deployment by a higher percentage of customers than for any other vendor.
  • Although SAS has exploited its core competency in predictive analytics to encapsulate and automate advanced analysis for business-user-oriented guided data discovery in Visual Analytics, it will face competition from data discovery and BI and analytics platform vendors with leading-edge data discovery capabilities, such as Tableau and Tibco.
  • Despite SAS’s success as a Leader in the predictive analytics space, the company still faces a challenge to make it onto BI platform shortlists, unless customers already use its other advanced analytic capabilities and require integration and leverage of skills.
  • SAS’s reference customers rated functionality used in traditional BI areas (reporting, dashboards, OLAP, interactive visualization and so on) lower than for most of the other BI Leaders


Microsoft Excel 2010 with its analysis toolpak has been quoted by me as being one of the most easy-to-use analytics tools. Let’s see what Gartner says about Microsoft.

  1. 2.      Microsoft

Microsoft offers a competitive and expanding set of BI and analytics capabilities, packaging and pricing that appeal to Microsoft developers, independent distributors and now to business users. It does so through a combination of enhanced BI and data discovery capabilities in Office (Excel) 2013, data management capabilities in SQL Server, and collaboration, content, and user and usage management capabilities in SharePoint.


  • Of the megavendors, Microsoft has made the most progress toward delivering a combination of business user capabilities with an enterprise-capable platform. Microsoft delivered business-user-oriented data discovery and other BI capabilities in Excel 2013.
  • Microsoft has made early investments in its cloud-based BI offering, Power BI. Microsoft’s strategy is to use the cloud to increase adoption of its new and most competitive BI capabilities in Excel (starting with Excel 2013), and to accelerate enhancements to Excel to every six months.
  • n the customer survey conducted for this Magic Quadrant, more Microsoft customers cited TCO and license cost as their main reasons for selecting Microsoft as a BI vendor than did those of most of the other vendors.
  • Microsoft composite product score was above average across the 17 capabilities, when weighted for use. Microsoft customers appreciate its strong BI infrastructure and development tools. They also rated its reporting, ad hoc query, Microsoft Office integration, business user data mashup, embedded BI, collaboration, search BI and OLAP capabilities higher than the survey average. Importantly, unlike those of its megavendor competitors, Microsoft’s customers rated customer experience (support and product quality) above the survey average.



  • Although Microsoft’s functional ratings have improved and it can offer a wide range of functions, it also has one of the highest percentages of users who say that absent or weak functionality is among the main reasons limiting broader deployment of its software. Mobile BI, interactive visualization and metadata management remain product weaknesses reported by customers.
  • Multiproduct complexity remains a challenge, now primarily for on-premises and hybrid deployments. Because Microsoft’s BI platform capabilities span three different tools (Office, SQL Server and SharePoint) that also perform non-BI functions, the task of integrating components and building applications is left mainly to the customer.
  • Although Microsoft’s partner-driven sales model drives global growth for the company, Gartner’s inquiries suggest that this approach often makes it difficult for customers to find their Microsoft sales representative. This causes frustration .


I increasingly see Tableau becoming an integral part of the reporting structure in most KPOs. Let’s see what the Gartner’s report has to say about this software.

  1. 3.      Tableau

Tableau’s highly intuitive, visual-based data discovery, dashboarding, and data mashup capabilities have transformed business users’ expectations about what they can discover in data and share without extensive skills or training with a BI platform.


  • Tableau offers an intuitive, visual-based interactive data exploration experience that customers rate highly .Its core differentiator — making a range of types of analysis (from simple to complex) accessible and easy for the ordinary business user, whom Tableau effectively transforms into a “data superhero.
  • Tableau has a focused vision with an evolutionary road map for enabling users to meet enterprise requirements for reusability, scalability and embeddability. Tableau’s strong survey results for customer satisfaction, coupled with its market momentum, are behind its dominant Ability to Execute position.
  • Tableau provides purpose-built, business-oriented data mashup capabilities with data connectors that use Tableau’s VizQL technology. Direct query access has been a strength of the platform since the product’s inception. Tableau offers a broad range of support for direct-query SQL and MDX data sources, as well as a number of Hadoop distributions, native support for Google BigQuery, and support for search-based data discovery platforms, such as Attivio.


  • Although Tableau’s average user count continues to grow and was above the market average in this year’s customer survey, its products are often used to complement an existing BI platform standard; only 42% of its customers considered it as their BI standard.Ttraditional BI platform vendors with substantial installed-base market shares but lacking in growth momentum, including IBM, Microsoft, MicroStrategy, SAP and SAS, are aggressively investing in their own data discovery capabilities to reverse the trend.
  • Tableau’s customers report a below-average sales experience, which includes the entire sales life cycle from presales activities to contracting, pricing and the ongoing sales relationship.
  • Tableau continues to expand its international presence, but the majority of its customers are likely to be large (often international) companies located in North America. Tableau has opened sales offices in Europe and Asia (for example, Singapore) and introduced support in Asia; it also plans further global sales expansion with live, time-zone-appropriate support in local languages.


I had the good fortune of attending a demo of Qlik view. I had really liked the ease with which you could interface the software with a virtually any DBMS the only thing was that I had not found the interface to be too attractive. Let’s see what Gartner has to say about Qlik View. 

  1. 4.      Qlik

Qlik’s QlikView product has become a market leader with its capabilities in data discovery, a segment of the BI platform market that it pioneered. QlikView is a self-contained BI platform, based on an in-memory associative search engine and a growing set of information access and query connectors, with a set of tightly integrated BI capabilities.


  • Qlik has embarked on one of the boldest strategies of any vendor to address enterprises’ unmet need for a BI platform standard that can fulfill both business users’ requirements for ease of use and IT’s requirements for enterprise features relating to reusability, data governance and control, scalability, and so on.
  • Customers choose QlikView for the intuitive interactive experience it offers; this is most often deployed in dashboards, where it enables business users to freely explore and find connections, patterns and outliers in data without having to model those relationships in advance.
  • Qlik’s above-average scores for ease of use for developers, particularly when compared with traditional IT-centric enterprise vendors, has resulted in better-than-average implementation costs, IT developer costs and overall three-year BI platform ownership costs per user. The perception that QlikView offers a relatively low cost of ownership, when compared with other vendors’ products, is also evident from the high percentage of customers that choose QlikView because of its implementation cost and associated effort, as well as its TCO.
  • Qlik has been successfully expanding its reach and awareness beyond its traditional stronghold of Europe (it was founded in Sweden) to North America, as well as to the growing regions of Asia/Pacific and Latin America.


  • The enterprise-readiness of the current release of QlikView remains a work in process. Despite QlikView being deployed in multiple departments and around the world, only half the QlikView customers we surveyed identified QlikView as their enterprise standard.
  • Customers most often select QlikView for its ease of use for end users, particularly in terms of its interactive dashboards and when compared with the offerings of the incumbent IT-centric vendors. However, in terms of visual-based interactive exploration and analysis capabilities, user experience, and the time it takes for business users to gain proficiency in authoring, the current QlikView 11.x release is considered more limited than offerings from other stand-alone data discovery vendors.
  • Qlik’s customer experience results remain mixed. QlikView earned positive scores for product quality, which led to an overall above-average customer experience score. However, support scores for QlikView were again just below the survey average.


  1. 5.      IBM

IBM offers a complete range of enterprise-grade BI, performance management and advanced analytics platform capabilities, complemented by a deep services organization that is ready to implement them in solutions for any domain, industry or geography.


  • IBM is the leading vendor for Completeness of Vision, although other vendors are closing in. High marks for sales strategy, product strategy, and industry and geographic strategies, bolster IBM’s position on the Magic Quadrant.
  • With an average data volume accessed in data repositories of over 10TB, an average deployment size of 2,428 users (top quartile; the average for vendors in this report is 1,364), and the biggest queries accessed averaging 1,858GB (second only to MicroStrategy), the IBM Cognos BI platform handles some of the largest deployments evaluated in this Magic Quadrant.
  • After a first attempt to enter the data discovery market with IBM Cognos Insight, IBM is trying a radically new approach, which we refer to in this report as “smart data discovery.” Watson Analytics — to be released in 2014 — allows business users to analyze data without any technical or statistical knowledge. When queried using natural language (for example, “Why are sales down in the East region?”), the cloud-based tool accesses datasets, correlates information and infers conclusions that are then presented in a visually engaging and streamlined interface accessible to business users of every skill level.
  • In 2013, IBM significantly simplified the Cognos licensing model


  • Unusually, IBM customers did not report clear reasons for selecting its platform, except for choosing IBM Cognos because it is their corporate standard. The lack of recognizable advantages over its competitors might compromise IBM’s future in the BI and analytics space. Watson Analytics could be a response to this issue, as it represents a significant opportunity for IBM to differentiate itself, if it can integrate the capabilities with IBM Cognos to combine its strong enterprise features with innovative, business-user-oriented data discovery.
  • Customers identify several limitations that prevent broader deployment of IBM solutions. Cost of software is the main reason, cited by 40% of IBM customers — double the survey’s 20% average. IBM also scored near the bottom for sales experience.
  • Many of IBM’s product capability scores are below the survey average for this Magic Quadrant — those for geospatial and location intelligence, interactive visualization, embedded advanced analytics (unsurprising since IBM SPSS is a separate product for which integration with the IBM Cognos platform is a work in process) and embeddable analytics.
  • Overall, IBM’s customers placed IBM in the bottom quartile for achievement of business benefits from its BI deployments — similar to most other IT-centric vendors.


  1. 6.      SAP

SAP’s BusinessObjects BI Suite delivers a broad range of BI and analytic capabilities through a semantic layer best suited for large IT-managed deployments that require robust governance and administrative capabilities. Companies often choose SAP as their enterprise BI standard, particularly if they also standardize on SAP for ERP applications.


  • SAP’s BI customers reported an average deployment size three times the survey average, with over 80% identifying SAP as their enterprise BI standard. Over 60% of its surveyed customers use SAP as their primary ERP system, which indicates a strong stack-centric value proposition.
  • SAP has been investing heavily in SAP Lumira to establish a presence in the rapidly growing data discovery market where demand is high for BI tools that empower business users to self-serve without being restricted to a centrally governed semantic layer and IT-managed content.
  • SAP is widely used to embed BI content, but is not widely used by customers to embed advanced (predictive and prescriptive) analytic content. However, this capability is a key strategic aim for SAP, with both Hana and KXEN, which it acquired in 2013, at its core.
  • In 2013, SAP continued to expand its BI Customer Success initiative, which is aimed at improving its overall customer experience in response to years of poor survey results in this area. In addition to a focus on product quality and reliability, the most notable aspects of the initiative are a new BI Customer Success website and an expanded online curriculum of BI- specific courses available through its openSAP training portal, which have been well received and used by customers and SAP’s large network of partners.


  • Customers rated SAP third-lowest overall for market understanding. This includes ease of use and support for complex types of analysis, where it came second lowest.
  • Before the release of version 4.1, SAP customers upgrading from BusinessObjects 3.x to 4.0 in 2013 encountered issues during the migration, and this was clearly indicated in the survey results when reference customers were asked about migration difficulty. Overall, SAP was rated more difficult than the survey average for migration difficulty;
  • SAP’s reference customers rated it third-lowest overall for sales experience, and 42% identified cost as a factor limiting wider deployment.
  • Although SAP offers a broad range of BI and analytic capabilities, seamless integration of these across the product stack remains a work in progress.


  1. 7.      Tibco Software

Tibco Software is one of the early leaders in the field of data discovery, with a flexible, easy-to-use platform for user-driven information exploration and analysis. It is also used for publishing interactive and visual dashboards, building predictive models and authoring analytic applications.


  • Together with Qlik and Tableau, Tibco Software sets the data discovery benchmark that traditional BI vendors are trying to emulate. Its strategy to evolve differs from those of its point solution competitors — Tibco is aggressively extending its product functionality through both acquisitions and in-house development, and strengthening the touchpoints with other core capabilities in the company’s portfolio, including real-time business operations.
  • Pursuing an ambitious strategy that dates back to 2012, Tibco has integrated product capabilities from three acquired companies with Spotfire: process monitoring and event stream analysis from StreamBase Systems, geospatial analytics from Maporama Solutions, and real-time KPIs and enhanced user experiences on mobile devices from Extended Results. Cloud capabilities were also added, as a result of internal development.
  • Functionality and ease of use for end users are two strong reasons for selecting Tibco, according to our survey. Reference customers also rated the product’s quality (stability, reliability and free from bugs) as above average.
  • Tibco Spotfire’s average deployment size, at 1,476 users, has grown and is above the survey average. Although its average size of data repositories accessed is below the survey average, the average size of its biggest query, at around 1TB, is more than double the survey average.


  • The positive results Tibco achieved for the time required to create a simple report (the third-shortest in the survey) are typical for a data discovery tool, but the fact that Spotfire struggles to create a large complex report from various data sources poses a challenge (it takes an average of 8.7 days to do this, according to the survey, which is longer than the survey average). As it adds more capabilities to the platform — especially those from acquisitions — Tibco must invest in maintaining or improving its usability, particularly for developers.
  • In terms of product capabilities, dashboards were unexpectedly rated average, whereas we would expect them to be a strength, given that Spotfire is one of the leading data discovery tools. Other platform capabilities, such as BI infrastructure and administration, development tools and metadata management, were rated below the survey average; these are enterprise features that remain a work in process as Tibco works to enhance its enterprise-readiness.
  • Tibco’s customers identified two main product limitations to broader deployment: support quality, which is a concern for 6% of customers (slightly above the vendor average in this Magic Quadrant), and cost of software, which is seen as a problem by 31%. Tibco has introduced a new pricing model to address this concern.
  • Although Tibco has relatively good geographic presence, reports received by Gartner indicate that in some areas its local support and sales staff do not cover Spotfire adequately, and that the product does not receive the same level of sales focus in all geographies. This may be one reason why, in many areas outside North America and the major markets of Europe, customers’ shortlists for data discovery tools seldom include Tibco.

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