The majority of large organizations have either already shifted away from using BI as just another back-office process and toward competing on BI-enabled information or are in the process of doing so. Businesses can no longer compete just on the cost, margins, or quality of their products and services in an increasingly commoditized global economy. Two kinds of companies will ultimately be more successful, prosperous, and profitable: 1) those with richer, more accurate information about their customers and products than their competitors and 2) those that have the same quality of information as their competitors but get it sooner. Forrester's Forrsights Strategy Spotlight: Business Intelligence And Big Data, Q4 2012 (we are currently fielding a 2014 update, stay tuned for the results) survey showed that enterprises that invest more in BI have higher growth.

The software industry recognized this trend decades ago, resulting in a market swarming with startups that appeared and (very often) found success faster than large vendors could acquire them. The market is still jam-packed and includes multiple dynamics such as (see more details here):

  • All ERP and software stack vendors offer leading BI platforms
  •  . . . but there's also plenty of room for independent BI vendors
  •  Departmental desktop BI tools aimed at business users are scaling up
  •  Enterprise BI platform vendors are going after self-service use cases.
  •  Cloud offers options to organizations that would rather not deal with BI stack complexity.
  •  Hadoop is breathing new life into open source BI.
  •  The line between BI software and services is blurring

Evaluating, categorizing, and ranking 50 or more BI vendors that are all muscling of a piece of strumptuous BI pie is a daunting task. In the latest Forrester BI Platforms Wave we concentrated on evaluating core BI capabilities such as:

  • Advanced data visualization
  • Analysis or OLAP
  • Exploration and discovery
  • Dashboards
  • Performance management
  • Predictive analytics
  • Reporting and querying

We also looked at the information delivery capabilities of these tools, such as:

  • Embedded BI
  • Integration with Microsoft and other Office applications
  • Portal integration
  • Thick and thin clients
  • Report and dashboard distribution capabilities

And we didn't forget to evaluate the integration of BI tools with foundational, supporting components such as

  • APIs and SDK
  • Data integration
  • Contextual services such as data quality (DQ) and master data management (MDM) platforms.
  • Technical architecture

The detailed list of BI platform capabilities and features is much, MUCH longer. As part of the research conducted for this Forrester Wave, Forrester collected more than 300 data points from each vendor and consolidated them into 72 evaluation criteria. Then we evaluated top 11 vendors (by BI revenues)  — Actuate, IBM, Information Builders, Microsoft, MicroStrategy, Oracle, QlikTech, SAP, SAS, Tableau Software, and Tibco Software — and researched, analyzed, and scored them. The full report details our findings about how well each vendor fulfills our criteria and where they stand in relation to each other to help BI professionals select the right partner for their enterprise BI platforms.