Is the business intelligence market finally maturing?

Forrester's top three predictions in the BI market.
Written by Forrester Research, Contributor and  Boris Evelson, Contributor

In the next five to 10 years, most independent BI vendors will likely get absorbed by industry behemoths, retool into industry -- vertical -- or business-domain-specific solutions, or go out of business. (Image: Businessintelligence.com)


The buy side business intelligence (BI) market is nowhere near maturity and will continue to be a greenfield opportunity to many BI vendors. Forrester's research still shows that homegrown shadow IT BI applications based on spreadsheets and desktop databases dominate enterprises, and only somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent of enterprise structured data is being curated and available to enterprise BI tools and applications.

The sell side of the market is a different story. Recent research by Forrester points to a highly mature, commoditized, and crowded market. That crowded landscape has to change. Forrester is making three predictions which should guide BI vendor and BI buyer strategies in the next three to five years:

  1. Commoditization and consolidation of multiple technologies. Forrester no longer sees reporting and querying, online analytical processing (OLAP), data visualization, dashboards, data exploration, and location analytics as separate market categories within BI. Rather, most enterprise BI platforms now provide these capabilities. The same commoditization is happening in the cloud and mobile BI as most leading vendors now build their platforms on cloud-based multi-tenant architecture or offer a cloud version in addition to an on-premises one. Similarly mobile BI is now simply a feature of most BI platforms. In an equally significant development, the days of large, highly scalable BI platforms targeting enterprise tech pros versus more nimble and agile BI tools catering directly to business users have come and gone. Most vendors offering enterprise BI platforms have re-architected to become more end user friendly, and many agile BI tools have significantly boosted their large enterprise features. Thus, our latest BI TechRadar now includes one all-encompassing category -- enterprise BI.
  2. Mergers, acquisitions, sale of assets, and outright failures in three to five years. No market can support 73 vendors. This is good news for large enterprise software vendors and bad news for independent, smaller BI vendors. As the key differentiators between the top 15 to 20 (out of 73) have all but disappeared, why would enterprise buyers spend 6 or 7 digits on a BI platform which they may already get from their enterprise software provider (Microsoft, AWS, SAP, Oracle, IBM, and others)? Especially since they may get the BI software for free or at huge discounts based on the clients' spend in the other enterprise software with these large vendors.
  3. Embedded BI subsume agile BI within three to five years. BI environments mostly driven by technology professionals weren't agile. Agile BI largely driven by end users authoring their own BI content and exploring and analyzing data on their own was a step in the right direction. While agile BI will remain critical for strategic insights, decisions, and actions, it can't scale to everyday operational and tactical workflows. There's simply no time in the already busy workday for information workers to hunt for insights multiple times per day, often many times per hour. Connecting to a new data source, building a data model, tuning it for each decision, and then making multiple clicks to find an answer to a question simply takes too long. Forrester predicts that in the next three to five years, embedded BI that is contextual, actionable, and prescriptive will become the new norm for operational and tactical insights.

In the next five to 10 years, most independent BI vendors will likely get absorbed by industry behemoths, retool into industry -- vertical -- or business-domain-specific solutions, or go out of business. Companies should invest in deeper evaluation of emerging technologies or allocate their time wisely to other initiatives rather than spin their wheels selecting a BI platform that they base on table-stakes features.

Boris Evelson is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. Follow Boris on Twitter: @bevelson.

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