The Mircorsoft BI and analytics product portfolio supports a diverse range of centralized and decentralized BI use cases and analytic needs for its large customer base. Organizations typically deploy SQL Server and SharePoint to support IT-developer-centric data management, reporting and administration requirements, while business-user-oriented, self-service data preparation and analysis needs are delivered by the Power BI components of the portfolio through Excel 2013 and Office 365. Business-user enablement is a clear focus of Microsoft’s product road map and business model evolution — as evidenced by its new “freemium” Power BI product offering (currently in preview), which can be deployed as a stand-alone solution for business users to author and share analytic content without the need for Excel 2013 or an Office 365 subscription.
Microsoft’s leadership position in the Magic Quadrant is primarily driven by a strong product vision and future road map, as well as a clear understanding of the market’s desire for a platform that can support systems-of-record requirements and deliver easy-to-use data discovery capabilities, with support for promotability of business-user content and governance. Power BI has gained some traction, but has yet to gain widespread market acceptance due to the complexity of on-premises deployments and the relatively limited functionality currently delivered through the Office 365 cloud; barriers which Microsoft is trying to address with the new Power BI offering currently in preview and due to be released later in 2015. As Power BI matures and cloud adoption grows, Microsoft is positioned to leverage its large customer base (and capitalize on the already pervasive use of Excel and the existing SQL Server Analysis Services footprint in the market) to expand the breadth and depth of its deployments in organizations and increase its overall BI and analytics market share, if it can increase its focus on BI sales and marketing and overcome customers’ structural barriers to adoption.
- Overall cost of ownership and license cost remain the top reasons customers choose Microsoft (according to the survey). Microsoft has integrated good capabilities into Excel such as Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map, which are included with existing enterprise license agreements. Additional cloud-based consumption and collaboration capabilities are currently available in Power BI through a subscription-based pricing model in Office 365. Microsoft recently announced a freemium license model for its new stand-alone Power BI offering, which includes Power BI Designer for content authoring, set to be officially released during 2015 and featuring a free tier for up to 1GB of data storage per user and a Power BI Pro option for up to 10GB available for $10 per user per month (significantly reduced from the Power BI version currently offered through an Office 365 subscription).
- Many organizations already use Microsoft Excel extensively for data manipulation and presentation of information through spreadsheets, which gives Microsoft a strong foundation on which to build with Power BI and close the gap between it and the data discovery leaders. A key differentiator for Microsoft is its ability to deliver a range of business user capabilities, encompassing self-service data preparation with Power Query and Power Pivot, interactive visualization through Power View and Power Map and the ability to share with SharePoint and Office 365, which few vendors can claim without third-party support and partnership. Platform scalability is a strength of the Microsoft platform, which ranked highest for data volume accessed — with an average data size of 62TB, compared with an overall average of 14.2TB.
- Microsoft reference organizations also report deployment sizes larger than those of any other vendor in this Magic Quadrant, with an average number of end users of 6,000 compared with an overall average deployment size of 1,554. With the release of the new stand-alone version of Power BI, business users will have access to built-in connectivity to on-premises SQL Server Analysis Services cubes, which will allow organizations to leverage existing data assets without having to move to replicate in the cloud and further unlock the value of existing multidimensional data structures.
- Microsoft products scored well in its traditional areas of strength: BI administration and development, and integration and collaboration. They also scored highly on business-user data mashup — an area of investment for Microsoft with Power Pivot and Power Query.
- Reorganization and new leadership at Microsoft appears to be positive for Microsoft BI. Since taking over, new CEO Satya Nadella has made support for Apple and Android devices, as well as cloud deployment, a high priority.
- Microsoft’s product portfolio is complex and includes many components, which can cause confusion for customers evaluating purchase options. The fact that many of the newer capabilities that are important to buyers in this market require current versions of Office, SQL Server and SharePoint adds to the complexity and represents a barrier to adoption for many organizations that are on older versions and are not yet willing to buy Office 365 and deploy BI and analytics in the cloud. For example, the workflow between components such as Power Query, Power View and Power Pivot is not yet completely seamless. Moreover, the role of SharePoint dashboards and Reporting Services has not been clearly articulated; Reporting Services is not supported in Azure. While it is a work in progress, Microsoft is attempting to address many of these limitations in the forthcoming stand-alone version of Power BI, which does not require Office 2013 or an Office 365 subscription and can access Analysis Services structures and content without physically moving underlying enterprise data to the cloud.
- Microsoft had the highest percentage of customer references citing absent or weak functionality (for example, no drill-through capabilities in Power View) as a platform problem. This is consistent with last year’s results; and while Microsoft is addressing weakness in mobility, analytic dashboards and free-form interactive exploration with Power BI, market awareness and adoption has been slow to materialize — as shown by minimal client inquiries since its launch in early 2014.
- Microsoft’s sales model continues to be a pain point for customers, who rated Microsoft fourth lowest for overall sales experience. Customers have historically found it difficult to engage directly with Microsoft during the sales cycle, which was a major complaint from IT but is an even greater concern for Microsoft as it attempts to appeal to business buyers that have high expectations of simplified license models and purchase options.
- Microsoft has a large network of implementation partners and developers that are skilled in most aspects of traditional centralized BI deployments. However, customers may have difficulty finding external resources with experience in the newer Power BI stack, which requires a different set of skills and expertise than Microsoft’s sweet spot of systems-of-record, developer-focused BI deployments.
Source: Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms
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