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Winner of the BI Bake Off

by Cindi Howson  |  April 21, 2015  |  9 Comments

The winner of Gartner’s first BI Bake Off was …. it was a tie!

Or more accurately, the winner depended on whom you asked and what their requirements were. This is, of course, as it should be. I mean, it’s like having Rita and I sample chocolate cake and fruit tart and asking us to pick the winner. I will choose chocolate, every time. Rita, the fruit tart. Meanwhile, Kurt wouldn’t choose either because he’s a mint chocolate chip ice cream man!

With the BI Bake Off, our goal is to have you think about your requirements as we help reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each product. Visual data discovery tools all fit in the same BI category (just as cakes and pies are desserts), but their differences in architecture, analytic power, data connectivity, use of visual perception and ease of use all vary substantially.

There were some amazing discoveries with the data and business question. We asked the vendors to use the same sample data on shelters, homelessness and population trends, facilitated by Posiba, an organization that helps charities leverage data. The data was somewhat messy, a norm for anyone dealing with external data, acquired companies, and so on.Shelters Data Prep But it’s a departure from BI tools that access nice, cleansed data in a central data warehouse. State and county information was stored in one column that needed splitting, counties combined facilities over time, and years were in multiple tabs on spreadsheets. This kind of messy data is why we are seeing a rise in start ups for self-service data preparation tools as well as so many data discovery vendors baking this into their products (check out the Market Guide for Self-Service Data Preparation and Best Practices in deploying).


SAS Visual Analytics BI Bake Off

The SAS dashboard showed the differences in number of beds in shelters versus homelessness. California has the biggest lack of shelters, but it has shown modest improvement. Michigan meanwhile seems to have closed the gap. I wonder if this is at all related to differences in climate in each state?



TIBCO, meanwhile, focused on Massachusetts where there are more beds than TIBCO Spotfire BI Bake Offhomeless people. At first blush, that’s the good news! But it seems the beds are not located where the homeless people are. Just south of Boston, there are more homeless people than beds. TIBCO also used their location intelligence to show where some can be supported through Veterans Administration facilities (more on their blog here and video of demonstrations here -reg required.)


In the last demo topic, we let the vendors choose a cool innovation to showcase, and Tableau chose to publish live to the cloud so that anyone can explore homelessness in their own state, here.  As a New Jersey girl, I was disheartened to see the shifts in homelessness by county following hurricane Sandy where homes and shelters were damaged or destroyed, and more people needed temporary housing.  Union County, for example, has one of the highest portions of homeless children.

Answering the business question is job one, and technology enables that. Sometimes we have to dig under the covers to see which tools provide the right fit and how they work. Qlik focused on governance, and you can read more on their blog here.

For this initial bake-off, we selected panelists based on number of inquiries but many more vendors participated by using the same sample data and demonstrating capabilities at their booths. MicroStrategy posted a video of what’s coming in version 10. (Note to vendors: feel free to post your link below if you also participated.)

While we had some technical difficulties during the bake off with the video (HDMI and 4 panelists seemed a stretch!), attendee feedback was overwhelmingly positive. So I hope this track will become a mainstay at future Gartner BI summits. Beyond the bake off, if you are looking for analyst opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of many more BI vendors, I see that our new “Critical Capabilities for BI and Analytics Platforms” is in final edit. So watch Twitter or create an alert on for when it publishes! I’m hoping any day now!


Cindi Howson


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Category: business-analytics  business-intelligence  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Winner of the BI Bake Off

  1. Thanks for mentioning the video. We’re very keen to see customers posting their own videos too!

  2. Alan Shelby says:

    It was a great forum to showcase the similarities and unique features and functions of the toolsets.

    Would love to see it continue and expand at future Gartner Summits.

    Thanks Cindi and Rita

  3. Dipak Bhudia says:

    Will the Dataset used for the BakeOff will be available online for others to play with?

    • Cindi Howson says:

      Hi, Dipak, the data set and scripted demo agenda were offered to all vendor exhibiting at the conference. You can still access the data sets as they are public data sets – Census Bureau and from Housing and Urban Development.

  4. TIBCO is represented with Spotifire or Jaspersoft? Or it’s just called TIBCO software?

  5. […] vendors to showcase how the data and analytics community can do good with data. We’ve analyzed homelessness, college debt, and this year, the rise in traffic fatalities using Department of Transportation […]

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