Business Intelligence vendors make it hard for buyers to buy

It’s not easy being a buyer of Business Intelligence (BI) software. How do you decide which vendor to select when many seem the same? That’s the impression buyers might get when they visit BI vendors’ websites.

In my sixth annual assessment of the positioning strategies 22 of the leading BI vendors, seven claim some form of decision making, six give you “insights” and two are “transforming your business.”

As you can see below in Figure 1, not many BI vendors make it easy for buyers to make decisions about who to consider and who to take off the consideration list. You may question whether a few words can make a difference in the buying process, but they do.

According to Neuromarketing, the decision-making portion of the brain wants to make a quick decision. Differentiation helps buyers do so; for example, which vendor to buy from.

Without differentiation, the decision-making portion of the brain becomes confused. The result is long sales cycles, no decision or a price war. I’m sure BI sales professionals can relate!

Here is a perceptual map that makes it easy to see how the 22 vendors evaluated for this assessment are positioned relative to each other. The perceptual map was created 10-4-20:

BI Evaluation

Figure 1

What is a position?

A position is the mental space in your target audience’s mind you can occupy with a positioning statement that has compelling meaning to the recipient. It’s in this mental space where your solution to the target audience’s most pressing problem meet and form a meaningful relationship.

It takes at least 18 months to claim a position. Ideally, you’ll want to stick with your position for several years if it is unique and important – it solves a pressing target audience problem.

Yet 14 vendors changed their position in less than a year from November 2019 to October 2020. The table below (Figure 2) highlights in red when positions changed including my preliminary assessment in August. Since then – in less than two months – five vendors changed their positions.

Eight vendors didn’t change their positions, but five of them probably should because three position around the notion of “insights” while two are in the crowded “enhanced decision making” position. You can read the exact wording of each vendors’ position in the table below (Figure 2) that identifies when positions changed.

Tableau and Qlik both changed their positions in the last year, but unlike many of their competitors, they did it right. Both make unique claims that are important to buyers who have a filter system that rejects meaningless or confusing information. Just think of how much TV advertising you ignore.

Repeat your position so often you get sick of it

Repetition is another way to get through to the decision-making portion of the brain, which notes a statement that is repeated, earmarks it as important and thinks, “I should remember this.” But with so many vendors saying the same thing – “insights,” for example – buyers might hear it from Microsoft and think they heard it from Oracle. That is, if “insights” can get through the filter system, an effort that takes time and persistence.

I’ll let you decide which positions seem important in the table below. A red highlighted position indicates a change to a new position. In yellow are the vendors who didn’t change their positions in the last year:

Company October 2020 August 2020 November 2019
Qlik Accelerate business value with data Accelerate business value with data Data management and analytics platform built to transform your entire business
Tableau Get a full picture of your business, inside and out Get a full picture of your business, inside and out Changing the way you think about data
Birst Improve decision-making with Birst Transforms the way you do business—often in 90 days or less Better business outcomes. Faster time to value.
Board The #1 decision-making platform The #1 decision-making platform The #1 decision-making platform
SAP Make faster, more informed decisions Make faster, more informed decisions Make faster, more informed decisions
Pyramid Analytics Connects your teams, drives confident decisions, and produces winning results Connects your teams, drives confident decisions, and produces winning results The Analytics Operating System for Data-Driven Companies
Info Builders Eliminates ambiguous decision-making Eliminates ambiguous decision-making Turn every kind of data into actionable insights
Salesforce BI Make the right decision every time Make the right decision every time Not included in the evaluation
Domo Respond quickly; Make more informed, confident decisions No position The quickest, easiest, and most secure way to drive your business with data
Looker Drive better outcomes through smarter data-driven experiences Drive better outcomes through smarter data-driven experiences No position
IBM Cognos Accelerates data prep, analysis, and reporting for smarter business Accelerates data prep, analysis, and reporting for smarter business All the answers you need, in one place
Sisense Powerful analytics platform for developers; fast actionable insights for users Powerful analytics platform for developers; fast actionable insights for users Power to the builders; Insights for everyone
Oracle BI Discover new insights Discover new insights Discover new insights
Power BI Discover insights hidden in your data Discover insights hidden in your data Turn data into opportunity by driving better decisions
ThoughtSpot Find insights hidden in your company data in seconds Find insights hidden in your company data in seconds Find insights hidden in your company data in seconds
Dundas Game-changing insights Game-changing insights Not included in the evaluation
SAS Powerful insights at your fingertips Powerful insights at your fingertips Powerful insights at your fingertips
MicroStrategy Deliver Intelligence Everywhere with the #1 modern, open, enterprise platform Transform your business into an Intelligent Enterprise Transform your business into an Intelligent Enterprise
Tibco Augment Intelligence for Your Business Augment Intelligence for Your Business Augment Intelligence for Your Business
Alteryx Transform your business with Analytic Process Automation Automation that lets data speak and people think Revolutionizing business through data science and analytics
Yellowfin Transform your business through data Transform your business through data Generate transformational value from your data
LogiAnalytics Embed visualizations, dashboards and reports that will delight your users and accelerate your innovation The #1 Embedded Analytics Platform The #1 Embedded Analytics Platform

Figure 2

More impressions:

  • There are two problems with Board’s claim to be the “No. 1 decision-making platform:” 1) Board is far from No. 1; Gartner ranked Board as a “Niche” player in its most recent BI Magic Quadrant; 2) it’s an inwardly focused claim; buyers don’t care that Board is No. 1. They only care about themselves and how Board solves their pressing problem. Board’s position doesn’t do this. It’s more like chest beating.
  • Information Builders gets the award for the most interesting way of stating its decision-oriented position: “Eliminates ambiguous decision-making.” But interesting writing or creative writing can’t make a common claim unique.
  • Sometime between November of 2019 and August, Microsoft changed the Power BI position to: “Discover insights hidden in your data.” Either Microsoft ignored two competitors’ positions or it stole a little bit from each one – Oracle BI and ThoughtSpot. “Discover new insights,” is Oracle’s position which hasn’t changed nor has ThoughtSpot’s: “Find insights hidden in your company data in seconds.”
  • Neither Alteryx nor Yellowfin explain how their BI solution can “transform your business.” Making a claim that you can’t prove should be an indication it’s not a valid position. Plus to suggest that a BI solution is going to transform a business is preposterous.

Buyers are in stealth mode for more than half the buying cycle doing research which probably starts with a visit to BI vendors’ websites. As we all know, first impressions count a lot. If visits to the websites are the only factor in deciding which vendors to consider, more than half of them might not make the consideration list.