Analytics and Business Intelligence ‘Bake-Off’ Delivers on Social Goodness

Discussing the Opioid Epidemic at the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit 2018

Cindi Howson has been involved in “bake-offs” for more than 10 years, none of which involve cakes, pies or bread. Instead, the Gartner Bake-Offs that the research vice president on the business analytics and data science team moderates bear the fruits of vendor technology expertise using “data for good.”

The most recent session, “BI Bakeoff: The Modern BI and Analytics Platform,” took place during the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit 2018 in Grapevine, Texas, one of several such Gartner summits held around the world. Four Gartner-selected analytics and business intelligence vendors showed their prowess in using a public data set about the opioid crisis taking hold around the world. Representatives from Microsoft, MicroStrategy, Qlik and Tableau squared off in a side-by-side comparison to demonstrate how each company’s technology offerings can be used to highlight the problem and possible solutions.

“The opioid topic is upsetting and sensitive but consensus among the community and Gartner analysts was that we should use this platform as an opportunity to raise awareness while also providing useful findings from the vendors,” Cindi said. She also moderated the first three Gartner Bake-Offs.

More than 800 guests registered for the event, which is designed to bring out the vendors products’ strengths and weaknesses so that attendees can get a better idea of the technology that would best suit their businesses’ needs. Chief data officers, CIOs, business intelligence directors and other business leaders look to Gartner for targeted advice and vendor capability analyses, so this fourth annual bake-off fits right in.


Andy Cotgreave (Tableau), Josh Good (Qlik), Cindi Howson (Gartner), Will Thompson (Microsoft), Chris McNabney (MicroStrategy)

After the bake-off, some vendors reached out to Gartner representatives to say the presentation changed the way they were thinking about building software applications. Moving forward, they plan to take the data for good approach. Also, Cindi recently met with a major health benefit plan provider based in Tennessee, using dashboards from the bake-off. Additionally, representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Bloomberg spoke to Gartner associates about the event and the usefulness of the analyses that emerged.

Rita Sallam, also a Gartner business analytics and data science research vice president, and chairwoman of the summit, has heard directly from attendees over the past three years.

“Generally, the bake-offs score very high because it is innovative content in action that attendees can’t get anywhere else, unless they do their own event,” she said. “Audiences are able to experience leading vendors in various markets using select public data sets for social good.”

As for a recipe-for-good winner, there is no one vendor selected over the others. Instead, Cindi prefers to point out that the tool a business leader selects is not the most important ingredient.

“Instead, it’s the value that person will provide with that technology,” she added. “And in the example of the opioid crisis, it’s the lives they can save.”

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