Forrester's Wave on Agile BI Platforms Signals Shift in Market
Information Builders is proud to be ranked as a top leader in this highly competitive market segment. Forrester vice president and principal analyst Boris Evelson who authored the report (with Holger Kisker, Ph D., Martha Bennet, and Nasry Angel) posits that having business and information agility is key to managing change – and this is critical for any organization in this new “age of the customer.” He elaborates on the imperative in this Information Management article, “The Agile BI Ship has Sailed – Get on Board Quickly or Risk Falling Behind.”
I agree strongly with Forrester’s position. Agile BI, also referred to as self-service data discovery and data visualization for the business user, has been rapidly growing over the last five years. It’s being driven by the demand for faster analysis of big data coming from more and more diverse data sources. Therefore, it is crucial to enable business users independently of IT to integrate (blend and mash up) data, to perform some data cleansing functions, to discover patterns and insights in the data, and to share these insights as visual storyboards with others. In a nutshell, agility is about self-sufficiency, flexibility, speed, and ease-of-use that gives business users more power to handle a glut of data and turn it into valuable information – on their own.
The wave rankings are significant in two aspects. Let me explain why.
First, the wave indicates a shift in the market. Until recently, this segment was largely dominated by small, highly specialized data discovery vendors. But the BI platform vendors woke up to the market demand and caught up quickly on the functionality. An even more important awakening occurred in the IT organizations, namely that uncontrolled self-service will result in proliferation of personal data sets with questionable data quality resulting in poor decision-making. In the past, this situation was sometimes called “Excel hell”. That’s why there is a significant emphasis now on governed self-service where IT and business collaborate in the provisioning of self-service BI apps. We don’t want to go there again.
Self-service does not mean the same thing for every stakeholder. How you operationalize and publish the results of your analytics to non-technical users is critically important. Information Builders is well-positioned in this regard with its self-service BI portal and InfoApps approach. This allows our customers to easily publish interactive BI apps, dashboards, and reports to front-line workers, or any end user, including customers and partners. As we like to say, the police officer doesn’t care about predictive analytics, he or she cares about predictions. That’s what an InfoApp delivers.
Second, kudos to Forrester for taking a hands-on approach to the evaluation and for giving the 16 vendors a real test. Indeed, why not ask the vendors to do what the analysts do - mash up data, cleanse data, and analyze data! They wanted to make sure that the answers were correct, and see if anyone struggled to perform any of the functions. Plus, they’d be able to tell if Excel was used to help perform functions that are lacking in the tools. In other words, Forrester asked vendors to show results from a well- designed pragmatic test with many "gotchas". But, that is a fact of life. Analyzing diverse and ungoverned data is tricky and dangerous. Such real tests eliminate hype and empty claims about ease-of-use and magical features that WOW gullible analysts looking for easy solutions to complex problems. We did extremely well in this test, even though I must admit that some of our own analysts were surprised by how tricky the data can be.
Overall, the Forrester Agile BI Wave shows that the market for agile BI is maturing and that BI platform vendors are gaining steam and taking the lead in this segment. Being named a top leader validates our strategy and mission to empower every user with self-service BI and analytics. We will continue to work hard to help our customers succeed.