Most BI vendors changed their position in the last year. Only IBM did it right.

Many B2B technology companies change their product position long before they should. You can claim a position in your market by making a unique claim that addresses your target’s No. 1 problem, and repeat it over and over until you are sick of it. Then consistently execute it over an extended period of time, like several years, if not longer.

But when you are not making a unique claim, or your positioning statement does not address a real customer problem, you should change as fast as you can. When I did an assessment of how enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) vendors positioned their products a year ago, 10 should have considered changing because they were not making a unique claim.  See for yourself. Here’s how the enterprise BI vendors positioned their products in February, 2014:

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How BI vendors were positioned in February, 2014

Note that only three vendors – Tableau, MicroStrategy and Pentaho – were making a unique claim a year ago. Those claiming “insight” and “better decisions” should have changed their position. But did they? Here’s how the BI vendors position their products a year later in February 2015:

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How BI vendors position their products in March 2015

Four vendors who should have changed didn’t change – SAS, Microsoft Tibco and Oracle. One made a change when it shouldn’t have changed. And of the nine who made a change, only IBM did it right by making a unique claim; i.e., “capitalize on opportunities and minimize risks.” Last year, IBM was one of seven competitors making the same old tired claim around the notion of “better, faster, more informed decisions.”

Good move by IBM to ditch “better decisions”

Ditching the “better decisions” position was a good decision on IBM’s part. But five other vendors went from a bad position to worse one. MicroStrategy committed the ultimate sin by changing from a unique position to “better decisions,” which is still claimed by two other vendors.

MicroStrategy’s new position was a step back from a “comprehensive” BI solution “you can’t outgrow.” MicroStrategy is an example of positioning in a vacuum as if its competitors’ positions don’t exist. Tibco has the same bad habit.

Tibco decided to hedge its “me too” bet, and also claims better decisions with this positioning statement: “…quickly uncover insights for better decision-making.” The only positive – if there is one – about the “better decision-making” claim is that there are only two other vendors making the claim today compared to seven a year ago.

Unlike IBM, SAP and Information Builders now have no product position because they make multiple claims. For example, which of the following claims is Information Builders’ position: 1) make better, smarter decisions; 2) the right information delivery approach for every kind of user; 3) transforming data into business value; 4) gain a competitive advantage? None because they compete against each other. SAP tops Information Builders by making five competing claims.

“Insight” position attracts lemmings

Qlik, Alteryx and Panorama acted like lemmings and switched from “better decisions” to this year’s “me too” position – “insight.” They joined those who mistakenly stuck with “insight:” Microsoft, Tibco and Oracle.

“Insight” is not a desirable position for two reasons. First it is overused in B2B software and technology. When you use “insight” you sound like everyone else. It is best to avoid words that everyone is using. Second, “insight” isn’t an important claim because it does not solve the target audience’s No. 1 problem.

Oracle also has a problem with dueling positions with this positioning statement: “Oracle leads the way in helping organizations gain more insight, across more data, and drive better outcomes in every aspect of their business.”

Oracle would be better off to drop out of the “insight” competition and lay claim to “drive better outcomes,” a position no one else is claiming. To learn how to make a unique claim in your market, download my eBook: “Positioning – How to talk so the market will listen.

Effective positioning equals success in the BI market

Not surprisingly, one of the fastest growing BI vendor is also doing one of the best jobs of positioning, and didn’t change it from last year to this year. While Tableau appears to have tweaked the wording of its positioning concept, the idea is the same – “understand your data.” Last year it was expressed as the “fast, easy way to understand your data.” This year it is expressed as “see and understand your data.”

Pentaho also gets high marks for its stick-to-itiveness with no change to this positioning concept: “easily translate data into value.” As you can see, this is a unique claim, and it also addresses a key customer concern. That’s ideal!

As this blog has pointed out, a lot of BI vendors have changed their product position in the last year. But only IBM did it right and now makes a unique claim joining Pentaho and Tableau as the only vendors differentiating themselves in a crowded, noisy market. The other 10 have a good reason to change their position unless their strategy is to blend in with the crowd.