According to this article, the latest OLAP report ranks MicroStrategy as the top product for BI standardization.
This seems counter-intuitive, to say the least: from my experience, standardization deals usually boil down to a face off between the top two vendors in the account (typically Business Objects and Cognos), and the winner is almost inevitably the product that currently has the most usage. In the remaining cases, the decision is typically to maintain multiple standards and review them again at a later date. I’ve never yet seen a case where a minority vendor was chosen as the standard.
In addition, MicroStrategy has a relatively narrow range of products compared to the market leaders in the space, and so is on the face of it an unlikely candidate for a single corporate standard, which typically must cover a broad range of user needs.
Still, it’s an interesting data point, and deserves an explanation. Here is my guess on what may be happening.
First, note that the data point is about existing MicroStrategy users’ intention of standardizing on MicroStrategy. It does not necessarily say anything about the general question of which product is “best” as a BI standard.
Selective data use
Although it vaunts its independence and objectivity, the OLAP Report sells vendors the rights to publish data from the report as selectively as they wish (unlike Gartner, for example), and it wouldn’t be the first time that MicroStrategy have taken advantage of this to come up with statements that were factually true but misleading.
For example, after the OLAP survey 3, MicroStrategy used the fact that they had the highest input median data volume to imply that they were the clear choice for large databases:
“For the third consecutive year, MicroStrategy customers indicated they analyzed the largest amounts of data — a median of 312.5 Gigabytes (GB).”
But in fact this reflected the broader usage of the leading tools in the space. A better measure of “proof of ability to analyze large amounts of data” would be market share among customers with large databases — which would have shown that Microstrategy was far from being the leader.
In this case, the data is perhaps just a reflection of MicroStrategy’s customer base: MicroStrategy is a niche player in the BI market, and their customers may have fewer different tools than organizations with more general BI needs.
For example, assume 10 companies chose MicroStrategy, and 90 chose both Cognos and Business Objects, and ask them to standardize on a tool. Assume that companies choose evenly between Cognos and Business Objects as their standard. MicroStrategy would score the highest on “percentage intention to standardize”, but a customer chosen at random would be 4.5x more likely to have chosen Business Objects than MicroStrategy as their standard.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell you if this is indeed what’s happening without paying the OLAP Report for the rights to publish the data.
Choosing a standard
So how should organizations choose a standard? First, organizations should realize that BI standardization is about pragmatically minimizing the number of overlapping tools, not necessarily about choosing just one single standard.
Second, each organization’s needs are different, but the criteria for a BI standard can typically be grouped into three main areas of requirements:
- Functional capabilities. The ability of a product to address the identified BI user needs.
- Infrastructure requirements. The extent to which the product meets the infrastructure needs of the organization in terms of fit with existing architecture, scalability, and extensibility.
- Vendor criteria. The ability of the chosen vendor to support current and future projects in terms of stability, resources, and experience.
Organizations with a variety of functional needs and complex infrastructure requirements are best advised to choose a market leader, not MicroStrategy.
What do you think?