In today’s big data world, every big business needs a software or service designed to retrieve, analyze, and report data to provide insight into business operations and customer satisfaction. Anything worth collecting is worthy of a report, especially if that report can help improve your business and increase revenues, decrease costs, or both. That report can be a dashboard that shows a 30,000-foot view and lets you drill down to determine the significance of individual factors. And the software and services that provide those kinds of reports are called Business Intelligence (BI) tools.
Naturally, that’s the topic for this edition of the PCMag Business Choice Awards. For more than 25 years, we have been augmenting our hands-on, labs-based product reviews (which receive our Editors’ Choice Award when worthy) with our Readers’ Choice Awards, in which PCMag readers rate the products and services they use the most. The Business Choice Awards extend the Readers’ Choice Awards by garnering feedback about the hardware, software, and services our readers deploy, administer, maintain, and use in a work environment.
Want to participate in future surveys with other PCMag readers? Click here and sign up for the Readers’ Choice survey email list to receive invitations.
Our survey asked respondents to rate their overall satisfaction with the BI products they use or manage and the likelihood they would recommend them to others. In addition, we inquired about their satisfaction with technical support, and the overall reliability of the solution.
If you select, deploy, or administer the products in our Business Choice Awards, or if you advise or manage people in these roles, then you know how critical it is to choose the right products. The results of the PCMag Business Choice Awards survey are invaluable when doing so. And on the next page we’ll reveal just who to turn to when you’re thinking your company needs some serious business
Business Intelligence Tools
Business Intelligence tools are typically developed and sold by big name players in database and business software. This is because it isn’t just about the reporting, it’s also about the ability to find and consume data, most of which is housed in databases built by behemoths.
In this year’s survey, four companies received enough responses to be included. Looking at overall satisfaction, IBM Cognos takes the lead followed by Microsoft BI at 6.7, Oracle at 6.6, and SAP BusinessObjects at 6.4.
Reliability, in this case the ability of the software or service to run every day and provide consistent results (click for the full table of scores below), follows the trend of overall satisfaction. IBM Cognos leads the way with a score of 7.3 followed closely by Oracle at 7.2 and Microsoft BI at 7.1. Trailing well behind is SAP BusinessObjects at 6.8.
Looking at tech support, only Microsoft BI had a reasonable number of customers requiring tech support with 15 percent. IBM Cognos and Oracle trail behind at 21 and 24 percent, respectively. SAP BusinessObjects brings up the rear with a full 30 percent of survey respondents requiring tech support. Tech support ratings are also relatively low, with Microsoft receiving a high of 7.6 out of 10.
Speaking of abysmal, SAP BusinessObjects had the highest tech support needed, the lowest tech support rating, the lowest reliability, and the lowest overall satisfaction.
We asked respondents to answer this critical question: “How likely are you to recommend your business tools provider to a colleague?” Here, we again see that no one is very likely to recommend their business tools provider to a colleague. IBM Cognos again leads with a 6.9 followed by Oracle and Microsoft at 6.7, and SAP BusinessObjects with a 6.4.
That same question is used to calculate the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is certainly the most fascinating statistic here. The negative numbers tell it all: No one likes their BI tool. Even our winner, IBM Cognos, has a strongly negative NPS at -14, meaning that customers are more likely to steer colleagues away from IBM Cognos than recommend it. It’s unclear from our survey why this is. My 25+ years as an industry analyst tells me it is because no matter how you slice it, business intelligence is tough stuff. There’s a lot of back-end integration required, followed by a lot of report customization. None of these solutions are as turnkey as their marketing materials would lead you to believe and that makes for some pretty unhappy customers.
From these results, we could arguably say that businesses might not need BI tools, but if your office does feel the need, we can say that IBM Cognos is the service to try.
Business Choice Winners: BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
IBM says that the Cognos software (which it acquired in 2008) will make any operation “top-performing and data driven” and our readers place IBM Cognos, in all its iterations from Express to Enterprise, at the top of the heap of available BI solutions.
For the 2014 Business Choice series, we emailed survey invitations to PCMag.com community members, specifically subscribers to our Readers’ Choice Survey mailing list. The surveys are hosted by SurveyMonkey, which also performs our data collection. This survey was in the field from June 16, 2014 to July 14, 2014.
Respondents are asked to rate their business intelligence tools provider. They are asked multiple questions about their overall satisfaction with the solution, as well as experiences with technical support within the past 12 months.
Because the goal of the survey is to understand how the BI tools compare to one another and not how one respondent’s experience compares to another’s, we use the average of the BI tools’ rating, not the average of every respondent’s rating. In all cases, the overall ratings are not based on averages of other scores in the table; they are based on answers to the question, “Overall, how satisfied are you with your business intelligence tools provider?”
Scores not represented as a percentage are on a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 is the best.
Net Promoter Scores are based on the concept introduced by Fred Reichheld in his 2006 best seller, The Ultimate Question, that no other question can better define the loyalty of a company’s customers than “how likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” This measure of brand loyalty is calculated by taking the percent of respondents who answered 9 or 10 (promoters) and subtracting the percent who answered 0 through 6 (detractors).
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