Thanks to Power BI, Microsoft Is One of Three Leaders in Gartner Magic Quadrant

by Dann Anthony Maurno, Assistant Editor

Microsoft Power BI is one of just three market leaders, according to Gartner’s just-released Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytic Platforms 2016. This puts Microsoft alongside Tableau and Qlik, both of which scored slightly higher in ability to execute, but Microsoft outpaced them in Completeness of Vision, in which it leads the pack of 24 vendors evaluated (see graphic).

The 2016 Magic Quadrant shows a considerable “shakedown.” The Leader quadrant in 2015 included nine vendors. Several 2015 Leaders including SAP, IBM, Microstrategy, and SAS dropped below the “Ability to Execute” threshold, from the Leader to Visionaries quadrant. Oracle, a leader in 2015, dropped off the grid entirely.

Why? Because, says Gartner:

The BI and analytics platform market’s multiyear shift from IT-led enterprise reporting to business-led self-service analytics has passed the tipping point. Most new buying is of modern, business-user-centric platforms forcing a new market perspective, significantly reordering the vendor landscape.

So the air is thinner for BI leaders, and just three companies meet those criteria.

Also new in 2016, Gartner recognizes a “bimodal delivery model.” The traditional delivery model is Mode 1, which offers stability and accuracy but not the speed and agility enabled through exploration and rapid prototyping that is essential to Mode 2. Newer venders tend to offer products better suited to Mode 2, hence all the new names in 2016.

The authors explain:

Gartner’s position is that organizations should initiate new BI and analytics projects using a modern platform that supports a Mode 2 delivery model, in order to take advantage of market innovation and to foster collaboration between IT and the business through an agile and iterative approach to solution development. The vendors featured in this year’s Magic Quadrant … present modern approaches to promoting production-ready content from Mode 2 to Mode 1, offering far greater agility than traditional top-down, IT-led initiatives – and resulting in governed analytic content that is more widely adopted by business users that are active participants in the development process.

The three leaders, compared

Gartner summarizes the three leaders as follows:

  • While Tableau holds its Leadership position in Ability to Execute, both Qlik and Microsoft have gained on it. This is in part owed to Tableau’s rapid growth, which burdens its support structure to meet a larger customer base with more complex use cases.
  • Qlik has “dramatically improved and clarified its messaging to the market” around Qlik Sense and QlikView, which positions Qlik Sense Enterprise as its strategic product. Qlik continues to deliver releases at a rapid cadence
  • Microsoft demonstrates the leading Completeness of Vision, “as demonstrated by the commitment and focus of its BI and analytics leadership team to Power BI.”. Gartner gives Microsoft high marks for its execution of Power BI 2.0 (released in July 2015), which it sees as an improvement over the initial launch, which “failed to gain any traction in the market due to the confusing packaging, positioning and infrastructure prerequisites that few organizations could easily satisfy.”

Power BI: Low TCO, high on benefits, low sales experience

Microsoft’s leadership position was solidified, Gartner’s view, by the strong uptake of Power BI 2.x, major product improvements, an increase in sales and marketing awareness efforts, new leadership and a clearer, more visionary product roadmap, says Gartner.

Microsoft’s vision to provide natural-language query and generation via its Cortana personal digital assistant, together with its strong partner network and its strategy to provide prebuilt solutions, positions it furthest to the right on the Completeness of Vision axis.

Microsoft claims a strong uptake by 90,000 organizations, which Gartner attributes to 1) significant product improvements and 2) having substantially lowered the price of Power BI from $39.95 per user per month to $9.95 per user per month, rendering it one of the lowest-priced solutions available, particularly from larger vendors.

Gartner’s acknowledgement of a “strong partner network” for delivering Power BI and related technology stands in contrast to its criticism of the Dynamics AX partner channel, which it has characterized in the last few years as an “ability to execute” risk.

While Microsoft offers a broad range of BI and analytics capabilities (both on-premise and in the cloud), this Magic Quadrant focused upon Microsoft Power BI 2.x. (Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and Analysis Services were excluded from this evaluation.)

Power BI Strengths

Among Power BI’s strengths which Gartner enumerated:

  • Strong adoption drivers. Cloud-based delivery low per-user pricing “offers a low TCO – one of the top three reasons why customers selected it, in addition to ease of use for business users and the availability of skilled resources.” Where the on-premise model involved complex implementation of multiple servers, “The new Power BI addresses this issue with both a streamlined workflow for content authors and because the hardware and server architecture is in the Microsoft Azure cloud.”
  • Achievement of business benefits. Here, Microsoft ranks firmly in the top quartile, “[W]ith high scores in its use for monetizing data, improving customer service and increasing revenue, as well as delivering better insights to more users”. Business-user-led deployments emphasize achievement of business benefits at a lower cost.
  • User enablement. Microsoft was ranked in the top quartile of vendors for user enablement, second only to Tableau. It scored especially high with online tutorials; community support; conferences; and documentation.
  • Data sources and connectors. “Microsoft has continued to expand the number and variety of data sources it supports natively and has also improved its partner network to build out connectors and content that includes prebuilt reports and dashboards.” Among others, Microsoft now offers prebuilt connectors (and content) to Facebook, Salesforce, Dynamics CRM, Dynamics NAV, Google Analytics, Zendesk and Marketo.

Weaknesses (which Gartner calls “Cautions”)

  • Deployment size. Says Gartner, “Microsoft Power BI 2.x was released in July 2015. The newness of the product and its cloud-only delivery model may contribute to Microsoft’s ranking in the bottom third for deployment size, with an average of 192 users.” Fully 11 percent of customers surveyed cited the inability to support a large number of users as a limitation to broader deployment.
  • Capabilities for advanced analytics. “Even simple forecasting must be performed externally within Excel,” says Gartner. But, Microsoft’s newly introduced Cortana Analytics Suite, “[W]hich brings together key modules including: Power BI, Azure Machine Learning, Cortana Personal Digital Assistant, Business Scenarios, and others – may partly address this limitation.”
  • Breadth of use. Here, Microsoft ranked in the bottom quartile, which gauges the percentage of users that use the product for a range of BI styles from viewing reports, creating personalized dashboards and doing simple ad hoc analysis, to performing complex queries, data preparation and using predictive models. “Microsoft Power BI is mainly being used for parameterized reports and dashboards, but this limited breadth of use may improve as the deployments mature,” says Gartner.
  • Sales experience. Blame it on frequent changes in pricing and packaging, as well the lack of a BI and analytics-focused sales force, says Gartner. For example, Office 365 is no longer a prerequisite, and Power BI can be purchased as a separate SKU, or via Cortana Analytics Suite or Office 365 Enterprise E5.

A fifth weakness – related in part to sales experience – is a lack of understanding by customers of Power BI. So found MSDynamicsWorld.com in compiling its 2016 BI & Reporting Buying Guide for Microsoft Dynamics. The MSDW report indicates that 70 percent of partners that participated believe Power BI can play a role for their Dynamics clients, either for individuals or teams. But asked about organizational skill levels with Microsoft reporting technologies, Power BI was dead last (see graphic) for “strong skills” and highest for “no skills,” after SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSAS). Still, while only 13.5% of organizations used Power BI, 45% are investigating it or plan to in the future.

MSDynamicsWorld BI Skills Survey

 

Use the BI MQ with caution

In an article this week critiquing the BI and analytics Magic Quadrant, Diginomica’s Den Howlett recognized Gartner Magic Quadrants as the de facto source for safe buys, but said he “often find[s] those reports contentious at best and downright wrong at worst.”

Howlett believes the 2016 shakeup had less to do with applications than with Gartner’s new “kitchen sink” approach to the topic, also its changing the definitions under which it assesses vendors. As Gartner describes the shakeup:

The BI and analytics platform market’s multiyear shift from IT-led enterprise reporting to business-led self-service analytics has passed the tipping point. Most new buying is of modern, business-user-centric platforms forcing a new market perspective, significantly reordering the vendor landscape.

Thus, SAP tumbled between from a leader in 2015 to a Visionary, while Salesforce.com (whose presence is arguable) joined a number of new “Visionaries.”

Finally, Gartner recommends future investment on a “modern platform” that will empower business users and eventually mature into “enterprise-ready governed” content:

Gartner’s position is that organizations should initiate new BI and analytics projects using a modern platform that supports a Mode 2 delivery model, in order to take advantage of market innovation and to foster collaboration between IT and the business through an agile and iterative approach to solution development … As the ability to promote user-generated content to enterprise-ready governed content improves, so it is likely that, over time, many organizations will eventually reduce the size of their enterprise system-of-record reporting platforms in favor of those that offer greater agility and deeper analytical insight.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at [email protected].