By Dermot Murray, VP of Ideation

22 May 2019
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Reflections on the Gartner Magic Quadrant

Like many IT professionals, I always look forward to the annual cycle of Gartner "Magic Quadrant" surveys, published on an ongoing basis across the wide variety of technology and business solution streams that they feel are critical to the IT Decision makers of today. It is always fascinating to see the ebb and flow of different product streams in comparison with their peers. We witness long standing players drift to the bottom left and young upstarts make a charge for the top right corner, whilst the big beasts tussle for the headlines as they re-invent themselves in the Cloud-based economy.

Throughout my career, I have also been a bit of a Business Intelligence (BI) nerd - my first ever development role was building BusinessObjects reports. It has been fascinating to see the evolution of those tools from simple report delivery mechanisms through the analytic and visualisation engines that all the big guns provide today.

At Inoapps, we have made extensive use of Oracle’s Cloud BI tools, initially using Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) and more recently the latest generation of tools, Oracle Analytics Cloud Service (OACS). We have used these tools to deliver a huge transformation to our business, allowing us insight and understanding enabling better, faster decision making. Consequently, I was very excited when Oracle asked us at Inoapps to undertake the most recent Gartner survey on Analytics and BI (ABI), based on our experience as an Oracle customer, rather than as an implementation partner.

For the geeks that follow these things, the Oracle BI landscape was challenged several years ago by their exclusion from the Gartner BI survey - an omission I never truly understood or agreed with. That aside, with this latest generation of OACS tools, I believe that Oracle now has a credible and compelling tool for the market. I was therefore intrigued to see the questions and topics that Gartner considered to be important for their survey and thought it would be interesting to share a few thoughts on the survey itself, and what it may say about today’s ABI landscape.

In no particular order…

  1. At Inoapps, we run a lean, agile and cost-effective competency centre to support our ABI platform. We utilise some of the very talented consultants who we normally use to deliver services to our customers, but this means that we can deliver a powerful BI solution to our business with a very low headcount of part time developers. And yet Gartner wanted to know "How many FTEs do you assign to the ABI developer role?". My answer of "less than 0.5" was not acceptable - it had to be more than 1. What must that say about the "average" organisation, and the cost of their ABI delivery? A well-structured, focused and controlled delivery team is more than capable of delivering large volumes of content without a team of FTEs. Gartner's baseline may apply for large organisations, but SMEs can deliver good ABI, without the need for a small army of dedicated resources.
  2. Many of the survey’s questions focused on the topics of Data Scientists, advanced analytics and data mining. These capabilities are great, but it felt to me that Gartner were not focusing on where the value lies in most successful ABI projects. In my opinion that is in delivering high quality, understandable, and accurate data to users, allowing them to make better decisions. I understand it is important to consider the future, but don't overlook where the value can be delivered right now.
  3. Much of the survey focused on the empowerment of the end user community to be self-sufficient. We have delivered a high degree of self-sufficiency to our users, enabling them, with some basic training, to explore their data and decision-making processes themselves. However, the simple reality is that the most powerful and valuable reports in our estate are complex, multi-dimensional analysis of trends and patterns. The complexity and insight needed to develop such reports are never going to be within the realms of the end user, so once again, are Gartner asking the wrong question? Self-service enablement is essential to ensure the success of any ABI rollout, but the expectation that a competency centre or specialist skill set is not going to be needed, will often lead to an ineffective solution, multiple version of the truths, confusion and misdirection. We know from experience that the delivery of good ABI needs good technical skills to make it happen. The resultant analytic capabilities are then packaged and delivered to end users for self-service consumption. I believe that your end users are better served by focusing on making decisions using high quality information provided to them, rather than trying to develop their own reports and analytics.
  4.  I was asked on numerous occasions during the process if I had received any incentive to complete the survey. The value of these things lies in the quality and authenticity of the replies, so of course this was irrelevant, but I was interested to see how much emphasis Gartner placed on this.
  5. In terms of the survey design, I found this rather confusing and doubt that I am the only respondent to feel this way. Questions range from “1-10”, “1-7”, and everything in between. In some questions "10" is great, whilst in others "8" is awful. Come on Gartner, make your UI and UX more consistent and easy to understand! I answered several questions wrongly on the first attempt, and I am sure I am not alone.
  6. The highlight of the survey was when I was asked "What ERP solution do you use to feed your ABI platform". Although there is an option to pick “other”, I found it amusing that Oracle SaaS wasn’t on the main list and, in fact, the list of options given seemed outdated. Are these the solutions that Gartner feel are the most relevant in today’s world? In our experience a high percentage of our customers now use Cloud in one form or another. Is it time for a rethink of the options?

In summary, do I think Oracle have some excellent analytic tools? Absolutely.
Are Gartner asking the questions that are important to end users and ABI project success? Perhaps.
I look forward to seeing the outcome of this year’s survey, knowing that Inoapps played one small part in the Magic journey.

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John Clark


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