Nine Business Intelligence Vendors to Watch

Massive consolidation in 2007 changed everything in the business intelligence market. Who's still standing and who's right for your enterprise? Here's a look at the leading BI vendors' strengths, weaknesses and strategies for the future.

By Thomas Wailgum
Tue, March 25, 2008

CIO — Big-ticket acquisitions and consolidations in the business intelligence market were surely the most notable events of 2007. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP (now known as the "megavendors") staked their claims in the BI market, spending billions on top-tier BI and performance management vendors such as Cognos, Business Objects and Hyperion.

In a matter of just six months, the BI market contorted into a wholly different picture. Today, the number of large independent BI vendors has dwindled, though many niche players continue to stream into the space. And the four technology behemoths, with their prized acquisitions, now "control the fortunes of the BI and business performance solutions markets," write Forrester Research's Boris Evelson and Paul Hamerman in a December 2007 report.

The reasons behind all the Big Four's moves were many: sound business strategies, the growing BI hype, the need for self-preservation and some fear. Though Microsoft didn't make any deals that were as splashy as the other megavendors', its acquisitions in the BI market didn't go without notice, say analysts.

"There are some who believe Microsoft pushed the others to make these big acquisitions because Microsoft was bundling all these BI capabilities into their OS platforms," says Walter Lee, an analyst at Burton Group, "forcing these other [vendors] to acquire extensive BI capabilities on their own."

Going forward, the Forrester analysts say that IT departments and BI decision-makers should expect more of the same, though that might seem hard to imagine after the M&A action last year. "Forrester believes that the BI and business performance solutions markets will continue to consolidate around these four large vendors but will not be commoditized anytime soon," states the Forrester report.

To help you make sense of all the recent change, here is an alphabetical list of several leading BI vendors (and one on the outside looking in, with much interest) as well as snapshots of each of their strengths, weaknesses and prospective strategies for the future.

Business Objects (owned by SAP)
Business Objects, which is now owned by SAP, offers one of the broadest and most complete BI product sets, and according to Gartner's 2008 Magic Quadrant report on BI platforms, its customers rate Business Objects' "core reporting and ad hoc query capabilities particularly highly." In fact, approximately 90 percent of the customers Gartner contacted as part of its research considered Business Objects "a BI standard in their organization."

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