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BI Scorecard provides you with detailed insights on tool capabilities, strengths and weaknesses so you can better manage your BI tool investments. Watch this short video from founder Cindi Howson on the expertise we offer.

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Whether you are doing an initial BI selection, a standardization, or contemplating an upgrade to a newer release, BI Scorecard® will tell you what's important and how the products differ. The scorecard approach provides an side-by-side comparison, grading leading products such as SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos, Oracle, Microsoft, SAS, MicroStrategy, Information Builders, Qlik, Tableau, Spotfire, Pentaho and Jaspersoft across thirteen major functional areas and 300+ criteria. For a quick overview of vendors and their product strengths and weaknesses, read our most popular report the BI Scorecard® Strategic and Product Summary.

What’s in a Story (and a Name)?

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard Story telling capabilities are fast becoming table stakes in visual data discovery tools, but not all stories and storyboards are the same. Here's a look a look at four vendors' approaches. It would be nice to think that most data analyses end with a value added decision or action. But really, many BI analyses end with a Power Point, finely tuned for board room presentations. Data is explored, analyzed, filtered, transformed, and then exported into a story telling medium where it becomes static. The PowerPoint may be used to support or refute a hypothesis or to provide a status update. But what if that same data could remain within the BI tool, with board room presentation quality? Could those meetings of death by PowerPoint become more effective, interactive work sessions? Can the data be better presented not only to support a hypothesis, but also, to guide a decision-maker to a logical conclusion that compels action? This is the vision behind recent innovations in a number of visual data discovery tools. Tableau and Qlik call them story points and storytelling, respectively, SAP calls it storyboards and infographics. SAS, meanwhile, brings live integration within Power Point itself. While each vendor's feature has slightly similar names, the capabilities differ greatly.

Tableau: Story Points

Tableau released the concept of Story Points in version 8.2 in June this year. With a story, a user can insert a visualization onto a canvas, with the saved filters. The idea of story points is to provide users with the ability to present the data as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. The banner of the canvas can include a long-text that is clickable. For example, in the below story, "Profits are increasing" is a clickable title. Multiple visualizations can be linked together to create a PowerPoint-like slide show. Within each page, users can adjust the filters. "The data tells you what's happening, but the story guides you to an understanding of why," Tableau says in its white paper, "Data Storytelling."

Qlik: Story Telling

Qlik Sense Desktop was released in July 2014 as a free, desktop visual discovery tool based on the vendor's next-generation interface. The vendor has not announced release data for Qlik Sense for the enterprise, currently in beta. In Qlik Sense Desktop, dashboards and individual visualization can be added to a story. Compared to Tableau, Qlik Sense has a few more bells and whistles to its stories. First, each page of the story can contain multiple visualizations and/or snapshotted images versus a single visualization as in Tableau. Also, there is an "effect" option that automatically recolors a chart so top (or bottom) performers stand out (in the below image, higher salaries are highlighted). Additional text can be added to the story, whether a simple annotation or a full paragraph. Images and shapes can also be added to the canvas to create a type of infographic. In play mode, each slide nicely transitions to the next. Dashboards remain interactive.


SAP Lumira: Storyboards and Infographics

Earlier this year, SAP added the concept of storyboards to Lumira. While the name may suggest similar capabilities to Tableau and Qlik story telling, in SAP, storyboards are better described as dashboards with multiple visualizations on a single page. Up until that release, Lumira lacked the ability to create these simple dashboards, a capability in most other visual data discovery tools. In addition to visualizations and filters, Lumira storyboards also support text boxes for titles or paragraphs, and images.

Meanwhile, in version 16, released in June this year, SAP added infographics— the ability to add pictograms and shapes to the storyboards. As shown below, there is also a preview ability to see how the infographic will appear on various devices. With infographics, users can also set the color options for the images, background, and some charts. This, of course, should be an expected feature in any BI tool but was lacking in earlier Lumira releases. The infographic capability is an interesting concept, but I found the capabilities too immature to replace PowerPoint. For example, in trying to add a callout, the callout does not natively support text; the text has to be added in a separate text box. As well, the callout pointer cannot be repositioned to connect to the particular image or outlier within the chart.

SAS Visual Analytics: Power Point

The SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office is a little-known but powerful add-in that lets users access and interact with BI content directly from within Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. With this approach, users create a visualization within SAS Visual Analytics. Then within PowerPoint, there is a Visual Analytics toolbar that lets them insert the visualization onto the PowerPoint canvas. The visualization is a direct query, not a static export, so it can be refreshed. Users have all the PowerPoint abilities to add text and additional images.

Stories: More to come?

While each of these innovations goes by a similar sounding name, the capabilities differ. All reflect a growing trend of how to better present data, findings, and inflection points into a cohesive story. I suspect story capabilities will continue to emerge in other visual data discovery tools. Like any first novel, I suspect the second releases of these stories will only improving over time.
Dashboards: multiple visual indicators on a single page
Infographic: visual representation of information, used beyond quantitative data such as in subway maps, weather patterns, and so on
Story: collection of thoughts with a beginning, middle and end

Actuate: Can Free and Robust Spur Growth?

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard Actuate was once the king of production reporting. But the rise of self-service BI tools, BI suites, and industry consolidation made Actuate a bit player in the larger BI market. Over the past several years, the company has been re-inventing itself and hopes its new "fremium" iHub offering will allow it to capitalize on millions of BIRT developers. Actuate is the sponsor of open source BIRT, the Business Intelligence Reporting Tool, used by an estimated 3.5 million developers. Actuate also have a complete BI solution, based on its iHub server, that customers can buy on a perpetual or subscription basis. Many of the BIRT developers are unaware of Actuate's broader BI offerings. Others find the move from free open source, to paid premium capabilities too steep. With the iHub F-Type, customers get all the capabilities offered in the paid-for iHub server–interactive reporting, scheduling, security–for free. The catch? Customers are limited to 50 MB per day. The usage resets itself each day, and there's a nice thermometer to advise how much disk space is currently used by reports (note: screen shot below based on 500 MB license). Customers can then buy additional capacity at $500 per month per 50 MB.

The iHub F-Type also has a really nice pop up tutorial that guides the developer through the most compelling capabilities of the server. In the screen below, note the buttons on the left pane. The Interact button will show the developer how with the iHub F-Type, a previous static report is now interactive with a pop-up menu to sort or filter, requiring no new programming. The interactive reporting capabilities are a strong-point of the platform (see the BI Scorecard summary and detailed scores for more information), and a core aspect of self-service BI that many vendors are overlooking.

Pay-as-you Go the New Norm

Actuate is betting big on iHub F-Type. It's also betting big on a move to subscription-only pricing. Previously, Actuate offered both subscription and perpetual licenses. In the company's last quarterly investor call, CEO Pete Cittadini said that "going cold turkey to subscription … was the right thing to do." The move to subscription-based pricing is also a stated direction from competitor TIBCO in its acquisition of Jaspersoft in April this year. With BI cloud gaining momentum, customers and vendors alike seem more accepting of the pay-as-you-go model. I have always liked about subscription-based pricing for ensuring customers don't buy any more BI than they need, and conversely, for keeping a vendor focused on meeting the customer's needs. With perpetual licensing, customers risk shelf-ware and when dissatisfied with a product, the license is a sunk-cost with leverage only on a typical 22% annual maintenance fee.

Embedded BI: The Next Wave

Self-service BI and visual data discovery have been all the rage the last two years. These tools typically meet the needs of business analysts trying to mash multiple and new data sources together. At the other end of the user spectrum, front-line workers often consume data embedded within operational applications. In the past, reports and nuggets of data embedded within operational apps may have been custom developed. As these applications get refreshed, and with the growth of start-ups, embedded BI may be the next wave of BI growth. It is a BI segment that Actuate is specifically targeting, along with several other vendors: Jaspersoft, LogiAnalytics, Information Builders, and Oracle has identified this segment as a future direction. To make embeddability easier, in Actuate's F-Type, an "Integrate" button nicely allows a developer to cut and paste the requisite Java Script into custom apps or portals. Actuate may not have the mindshare of some of the bigger BI vendors, but they certainly have sown millions of seeds of developers. This latest offering seems a strong move to allow them to capitalize on that base of developers.

Information Builders Launches New Visual Data Discovery

At Information Builders annual conference earlier this month, the vendor launched a new visual data discovery product and touted its unique ability to replace custom-developed apps.

Visual Data Discovery, Take 2

Enterprise reporting has long been the core of Information Builders capabilities. Aiming to better serve power users, the company announced a new visual data discovery interface, Info Discovery, now in beta and expected to be generally available in the fall (see the keynote here, demo at 55 minutes). This product joins a chorus of recent product releases from new entrants such as Logi Analytics with Logi Vision as well as Birst Visualizer. Vice President of Products Kevin Quinn thinks they will be the first vendor to support "governed visual data discovery," showcasing how their product integrates with the existing server infrastructure and security. To be fair, a few other vendors also have this integration, but arguably, most lack it. The vendor expects to have a free 30-day trial version. The output looked rather Tableau-like, with checkboxes, sliders, and some nice visuals (see screenshot). Some purists in the visualization community may protest the use of pie charts and red in green on the same widget; but I'll wait to see what's in the final GA product.

Some of the differentiators might be that Report Caster, the platform's scheduling and bursting engine, will work with the product. Also, a new Excel processor can help remove data quality errors, a capability in SAP Lumira and Microsoft Power Query, but currently lacking in others. And while vendors such as SAP are pursuing InfoGraphics in Lumira and Tableau Story Points, Information Builders has chosen to stick with the tried and true PowerPoint integration to build their story boards. One of my complaints to Information Builders was the dated looking ribbon bar, similar to the one currently used in Info Assist (reviewed here). It's not that I have a thing against ribbon bars per se; it's something to do with the fonts and design that just doesn't look as appealing as what I'm seeing in competitive products. Arguably, it's a subjective point, and for now, the vendor's argument is, "if you don't like our skin, you can change it." Info Discovery is not the vendor's first foray into visual data discovery. The vendor also OEM's technology from Advizor Solutions, integrated with Developer Studio and marketed as "Visual Discovery." That product had little adoption, which I think was due to a combination of limited marketing, ease of use, and flexibility. Let's see if the second time is the charm.

Build vs. Buy

While visual data discovery may be a new focus for the company, the vendor is continuing to improve its core reporting capabilities. There aren't too many greenfield accounts in BI these days; companies of all sizes have at least some sort of BI deployment. However, one area where Information Builders is carving a new niche is in replacing what previously had been custom-built apps, often for thousands of users. To cite a few examples from the conference:
  • Oklahoma Department of Human Services used WebFOCUS to replace previously Cobol custom application to track child support issues across the state
  • Raintree Oncology assists doctors in dispensing prescriptions for cancer patients. Its new WebFOCUS application combines data from multiple, external sources (claims, prescriptions, clinical outcomes) . The multiple levels of security and ability to create its own branded application led them to Information Builders.
  • Wendy's talked about their journey from mainframe, printed reports, in which sales and marketing was not particularly satisfied to now 6000 WebFOCUS users, with interactive reports and dashboards. The deployment requires only one BI administrator and supports district managers to shift supervisors; they expect to add another 4000 users this year. And did you ever wonder why they have square hamburgers? They don't cut corners. "A cut above" is the company's motto.
Some common requirements from these types of customers included the extensibility, ability to create their own skins or branded applications, user scalability, and a vendor they could partner with. I've attended Information Builder's conference for five or six years, and anecdotally, this year seemed to bring the most new customers. I'll be curious to see if that impression bubbles up to the company financials. As a privately held BI vendor, Information Builders doesn't publish detailed revenue numbers, but the IDC marketshare report is generally released mid year.

Lumira is the Headline but Enterprise BI the Bread and Butter

By Cindi Howson Sapphire this year was all about simplicity, the cloud, and millenials. That's the message that CEO Bill McDermott wanted to drive home in his keynote. BI, meanwhile, took a back stage to HANA and Cloud announcements. At SAP, all roads lead to HANA, whether for BI or for transaction processing, on-premises or in the cloud. HANA is just three years old, and as an in-memory appliance, SAP has rapidly seeded the market with developers, fostered its partner network, and introduced new products that leverage the speed of in-memory. Customer Norwegian Cruise Lines spoke of how HANA allowed them to better analyze their data, faster than a previous data warehouse, and saving $700 million annually. Most interesting to me is how Norwegian Cruise Lines hadn't used anything from SAP before HANA, a proof point that HANA is not only for big ERP customers. The NFL with its fantasy football app is leveraging HANA, mobile, predictive, and Lumira to support its millions of fans, a customer base of millions and growing in the 25% to 50% range annually. Seoul University Hospital reduced its query time from hours to seconds, with a 147% return on investment in HANA. More importantly, CIO Dr. Hwang, said HANA allows them to analyze comments that were never before accessible. While all the news with HANA seemed positively glowing, news on the leadership and BI front in particular was a bit more fractured. Last month, CTO Vishal Sikka abruptly resigned, amid speculation that he was frustrated the position of CEO was not in his future. In the BI space, two key people with Adam Binnie and Jason Rose also recently moved on. Insiders say the timing is coincidental. Outsiders worry about the impact on the BI roadmap for a product line that is one of the most complex in the industry. McDermott's vision for simplicity has a long way to go in BI. Jayne Landry, newly appointed General Manager of BI and taking over from Binnie, outlined the BI roadmap. She conceded that for most BI segments, there are two, sometimes three, products (visual discovery includes Explorer and Lumira; dashboards includes Design Studio and Dashboards a.k.a. Xcelsius). The vision to simplify the product line was clear; the execution of how and when to get there was anything but. Dashboard users were assured there would eventually be a migration utility to Design Studio, the strategic product, and in the interim, were told to check out a product from partner APOS. Landry conceded that killing Desktop Intelligence was a mistake. At issue is how to support existing investments, while focusing resources on moving forward. In empathy for SAP, who could have predicted that Apple would kill Flash, a technology on which Dashboards is based? Long-time customers have been rightfully worried that SAP cares more about newer products HANA and Lumira than about the mature and broadly deployed SAP BusinessObjects. Judging from the headlines and excitement around these newer products, they might be right to worry. However, Landry shared a pie chart describing the company's three areas of analytics: enterprise BI, agile analytics, advanced analytics.  
Category Main Products Developers Release Cycle
Enterprise BI SAP BusinessObjectsCrystal ReportsDashboards Design Studio 600 6 to 12 months
Agile Analytics LumiraExplorer 200 6 to 8 weeks
Advanced Analytics Infinite Insight (KXEN)Predictive Analysis 100
  Enterprise BI then is clearly getting the lion's share of development resources, but is indeed on a slower release cycle. Speaker Ty Miller, Senior Director of BI, likened Lumira to the shiny new Tesla—innovative engineering, new technology, disruptive— while the BI Platform is like the tried-and-true Porsche. It's an apt analogy. It would seem then that it's not that SAP cares more about Lumira, but rather, that there's more frequent news as it's on such a rapid release cycle. To that end, the noteworthy new features in version 17 (due out this month) includes (refer to BIScorecard.com for a detailed review):
  • InfoGraphics, an evolution to Stories that combines visualizations, with text and images, and a greater degree of formatting
  • Direct connect to on-premises HANA and BW data from Lumira Cloud
  • Support for MAC , with the beta available mid June
Customer Daimler Trucks gave a great demo of their Lumira application for dealers. [caption id="attachment_1238" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Lumira demo by Daimler Truck[/caption] Also around the corner is a new release of Mobile, in which WebIntelligence reports can be filtered with a tap, even in offline mode. Users can save those filters to create a customized view of their reports. For offline users, they also can now set an option so that reports are automatically refreshed when connected, ideal for sales people who need to be sure they have the latest content cached. Stated improvements to the BI platform (but with no specific timeframe) include:
  • Free hand SQL. This is huge, but as I've heard it as a roadmap item for a couple of years now, I won't hold my breath until I see the beta.
  • Live Office support for newer universes created in 4.x (.UNX); this has been a hole in the product portfolio since version 4 was first released in 2012. Microsoft added support for universes in Power Query last month, a partial solution for long-time Live Office users.
  • Parity in the DHTML and Java client WebI interfaces
SAP seems to be at a cross roads in the BI and business analytics space; trying to innovate at the pace of smaller, more nimble competitors such as Tableau and Qlik, while also serving and enhancing the bread and butter enterprise BI and ERP customers. HANA, HANA Enterprise Cloud, Business Suite on HANA, and Simple Finance are the bigger ticket items and next generation platforms that have been a mainstay of SAP for forty plus years. Straddling both worlds is not easy.  

TIBCO Acquires Jaspersoft: BI Powerhouse or Stumble?

TIBCO acquired open-source BI vendor Jaspersoft for $185 million, setting off speculation about who's next. Will the acquisition make TIBCO a visual data discovery and reporting powerhouse, or be just one more tickbox for an infrastructure company that is still stumbling in the BI space? TIBCO acquired Spotfire in 2007, and while other visual data discovery vendors such as Tableau and Qlik have been on fire, Spotfire lost momentum and mindshare under TIBCO. In 2012, and the first half of 2013, it seemed that things might be perking up for Spotfire. TIBCO announced a 30% growth rate for Spotfire in the first half of 2013, and acquired a number of capabilities that bolstered an already good product (see in-depth evaluation on BI Scorecard): •    Maporama Solutions for location intelligence •    StreamBase for accessing real time data and event analytics •    Extended Results to provide KPIs and alerting on mobile devises. But in the second half of 2013, its CEO described Spotfire's results as "disappointing," a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2014. This is a stark contrast to its competitors who have continued to grow in double digits (Tableau 82% and Qlik 21% for 2013). TIBCO CEO Vivek Ranadivé speculates that it has done well in the enterprise accounts but poorly in small to mid-sized businesses, where much of the growth is. Does the Jaspersoft acquisition help in this segment? To a limited extent, it may, because the commercial edition of Jaspersoft has been easier to buy, even available per hour via Amazon Web Services. As an open source product, though, Jaspersoft's sweet spot is with OEM customers who embed BI capabilities and with large enterprise customers who like the extensibility of open source. What Jaspersoft doesn't bring to the table – that TIBCO still seems to lack – is the relationship with business users and departmental buyers who are driving the demand for visual data discovery tools. The Jaspersoft-Spotfire combination does bring the capabilities of a full BI platform to TIBCO, checking the boxes for reporting, query, dashboards, mobile, and visual data discovery. The combination may be appealing for customers new to BI, but that's most likely in the small to midsized segment again; enterprise customers have BI solutions and standards, and tend to be willing only to fill in where there are weaknesses in their incumbent solution. And for the time being, the Jaspersoft-Spotfire products are disparate product lines, so the benefits of interoperability wouldn't be immediately realized. I do hope the company will quickly figure out pricing and packaging, as well as boost mobile capabilities for Jaspersoft content with the capabilities it got from Extended Results. With this acquisition, some industry watchers have wondered who's next: Pentaho? Actuate? And who would be the acquiring companies—Tableau? Qlik? or an analytic platform vendor such as Teradata? For Actuate, they already have solid production reporting and acquired Quiterian in late 2012, rebranded BIRT Analytics, so no, I don't see them needing to fill in holes in its product line. Qlik, meanwhile got solid business ETL capabilities with Expressor back in mid 2012, so wouldn't need Pentaho for that. Qlik lacks production reporting and business query capabilities, so that could prove complementary, but with QlikView.Next on the horizon, I don't think the timing is right. Qlik also has some great reporting products via partners such as Nprinting. Tableau, meanwhile has business query, but lacks production reporting and native predictive analytics, so Pentaho could make a good combination here. Both Tableau and Pentaho have been pursuing the big data market and direct connectivity to NoSQL sources so there are some shared synergies there. Beyond that, there has to be a fit culture- and vision-wise, and in this regard, I like the prospect of all these smaller companies continuing to focus on their core competencies. In other words, the Jaspersoft acquisition may not be the start of more acquisitions to come. In the meantime, I only hope that Jaspersoft doesn't get lost in the larger TIBCO and brings some energy and momentum to the company's efforts in the BI space.
BIScorecardCindi Howson
High profile article on @SAPAnalytics #hana and the "run simple" tag line in USA Today http://t.co/mYhWuqiC1K
12 hours ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
New blog - What's in a Story. Differences in @tableau @QlikView @SAPLumira @SASanalytics http://t.co/7nZTU9B5cX
14 hours ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
iCloud celeb hack leads to cloud primer on @TODAYshow.Whatever happen to backing phone up to computer. Data only safe as weakest link or pw
17 hours ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
RT @lauriemccabe: @SMBGROUP research shows 11% of SMBs use cloud-based accounting/ERP now, but 24% planning to buy/upgrade are considering …
17 hours ago