Gartner Magic Quadrant For Self-service Business Intelligence: Patterns As Well As Forecasts – Microsoft is “up and to the right” in Gartner’s new Magic Quadrant for analytics and business intelligence platforms, while major competitors have moved down and to the left. We spoke with Microsoft’s Amir Netz, the “father” of Power BI, to get his insight into the product’s success.
The new Gartner Magic Quadrant on analytics and business intelligence (BI) is out, and Microsoft is again in the “Leader” quadrant (see the picture above). In fact, according to Microsoft, this is the 14th consecutive year as the leader in BI. While Microsoft is at the same point as last year, its closest competitor is actually losing ground. Thoughtspot falls into the Visionaries quadrant. Qlik, while it has increased along the axis “Completeness of vision”, it has decreased in “Ability to execute.” Tableau, meanwhile, has regressed in both of those dimensions.
Gartner Magic Quadrant For Self-service Business Intelligence: Patterns As Well As Forecasts
This gives Microsoft, and its Power BI juggernaut, a huge lead in the competition. And while it’s tempting to look at Microsoft as somehow winning because of its aggressiveness and dominance in the industry, I can say – from personal experience – that it’s not always so. I have worked with the Microsoft BI stack since its inception in the late 90s, and I served on the company’s BI Partner Advisory Council (PAC), approximately from 2005 until 2011. At that time, while Microsoft had the dominant BI server platform. In SQL Server analysis services, its prowess on the application and self-service data visualization is mainly characterized by 15 years of swinging and missing.
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So, what changed? What did Microsoft start doing right? And how has it brought its true success in terms of enterprise BI platforms? To get some insight from the Microsoft side, I talked for an hour with Amir Netz, Microsoft’s technical assistant, who is the father of Power BI. Netz came to Microsoft from an Israeli BI company (now headquartered in Canada) called Panorama Software, after Microsoft bought technology from Panorama in 1996 that would eventually become Analytics Services. Since I first met him 15 years ago during Microsoft’s BI PAC tenure, I have known Netz to be talented as a technologist, strategist and salesperson. So I was interested in his performance, even preparing for a lecture on advertising.
Netz said that the traction and success Power BI achieved in the first two years of life is mainly due to the low cost of the product (Power BI Desktop is free, as well as the entry-level cloud subscription), the adoption of low friction at the price. An active and large active user/customer community has emerged from both. He further feels that going “all” in the cloud, at a time when most of the company’s data is still on premises, is a big bet that pays off handsomely. He attributes that decision, and the tenacity to see it through even with a skeptical product team, to James Phillips, president of Microsoft Business Applications. Phillips comes to Microsoft from Couchbase, where he was co-founder and CEO in the early days of the company. Although Netz didn’t say so, it’s pretty clear that bringing Phillips’ startup mentality to Microsoft made a big difference in Power BI’s success.
Perhaps because of Phillips, the Power BI team adopted monthly updates to the product, adding new features to the product at an unprecedented rate. When I was in Microsoft’s BI PAC, platform updates could only be delivered when SQL Server or Microsoft Office released a new version – which meant updates every 18 months, at best. Along with the change in the pace of innovation day and night is transparent, with members of the Power BI product team, including developers and project managers, actively engaging with the community, through blogs and social media, including accompanying videos. Monthly product release.
That amount of community involvement has really helped Power BI. While most people think that Microsoft can easily push new products due to its dominant market position, the reality is that Microsoft’s new products face an uphill battle, and are a threat to products from startups and other small companies. The reason is simple: Microsoft’s field salespeople have always focused on selling big-ticket products and services, such as Office, SQL Server and now Azure, to hit their aggressive quotas. On the other hand, field sales have very limited bandwidth to push new products with low price points. And unlike well-funded startups that employ their own enterprise sales force, Microsoft’s product team doesn’t have this luxury.
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But the low price and large community can only get you so far. So what happens next, to maintain growth? Netz said that all the inroads Microsoft makes in the self-service BI space at the individual user and department level often lead to company-wide adoption afterward. And that means that the product must be adjusted according to the needs of the business. At the same time, because of its Analytics Services heritage (and the fact that Power BI and Analytics Services share core engine technology), Microsoft is ready for enterprise scale testing. Ultimately, Power BI went from being a tool that overcompensated for the shortcomings of Microsoft’s self-service BI to a platform that balanced self-service and enterprise strengths.
The introduction of Power BI Premium makes that pairing official. The relatively high cost of entry, starting at around $5,000 per agency/month (compared to $10 per user/month for Power BI Professional) actually makes better economic sense for the large companies it is intended for. Above all else, the enterprise push means all professionals who have built a career in the Microsoft enterprise BI stack can come into the Power BI ecosystem and community. This is the proverbial win-win: those professionals get a new market and can expand their franchise to the cloud, and Microsoft gets more progress in the BI market.
Another highlight of Power BI is its integration with other strategic Microsoft platforms. This includes Excel; Azure Synapse Analytics, the company’s cloud-based data warehouse and data lake analytics platform; Azure Machine Learning; Azure Purview, Microsoft’s data catalog and management platform recently launched in public preview; And, most importantly, especially in the pandemic era, Microsoft Teams.
Netz said that the team’s integrated goal is to make information the basis of conversations and calendars, to make it one-click, to analyze events through serendipitous “Want to know more?” situation. Netz says this cultural change has taken root at Microsoft, claiming that data now comprises 50 percent of the good content in internal presentations to Microsoft leaders.
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This is a very long post, and there isn’t room to tell every side of the story, but I’ll close by pointing out that, like Power BI did, it certainly faces some challenges. For example, the lack of the Power BI Desktop client for Mac, disenfranchises Microsoft from the wider community of data scientists, developers, analysts and business users in the beginning that are almost entirely out of Windows. Previously, Tableau was Windows only. It is said that by offering both a fully functional browser interface and a real Mac client. And that makes it the default choice for the aforementioned Mac-loving crowd.
Speaking of Tableau, the acquisition by Salesforce, which recently acquired Slack, means that the integration of Power BI-Teams may see serious competition. Another problem, as Gartner points out in its report, is that Power BI naturally has a strong relationship with the Azure cloud, creating an adoption barrier for the gung-ho multi-cloud crowd. Tableau, and independents like Qlik, Sisense and ThoughtSpot don’t have that problem. And even Google Cloud’s own Looker is more cloud-agnostic, since it came with Google through purchase.
So, yes, Power BI is ahead and doing well. But it needs to keep looking over its shoulder, because the BI world will continue to be highly competitive, growth-fueled and strategic, for customers, large enterprise software vendors, and public cloud providers alike. A good sign for Microsoft in all of this is the Power BI team
This, and careful to keep the old “Microsoft” in check. Perhaps most importantly, the team has maintained high morale through the life of the product. Another way, the team is fun. The result is a product that is fun to use, which is a hit with partners, and customers. It seems to help company analysts as well. Today I’m excited to share that for the second year in a row, Microsoft has been ranked the farthest for completeness of vision within the Leaders quadrant of Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence. and analytics platforms – for the 10th year in a row Microsoft has been ranked as the leader.
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We are humbled by this recognition for the innovations we have delivered with Microsoft Power BI over the past year, including
Growth in both the vision axis and the action axis since the 2016 report. But more importantly, we are encouraged by the progress we have made as a community in implementing the ambitious goals set when Power BI
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