MicroStrategy vs Cognos BI: Who is the Winner?

To make this comparison unbiased, we have used the BARC 2013 Survey results as a place to begin. The BARC BI Survey 13 examines the 30 odd BI products in several areas such as business benefits, costs, proportion of employees using the product, competitiveness, recommendation, innovation, performance, customer satisfaction and agility.  Out of the 30 BI products featured in the survey results summary report, only two products have been selected for this comparison post, namely MicroStrategy and IBM Cognos BI. The comparison has been conducted strictly from the business point of view—keeping the benefits that users derive in mind.


The BARC Survey 13 is based on findings from the world’s largest and most comprehensive survey of business intelligence end-users, which was conducted last year. A total of 3,149 respondents have been reported as participants for the survey— with 2,298 respondents providing in-depth usage details about their favorite BI product.  Within the scope of this survey, 30 BI product brands were enlisted for a thorough analysis.

An overview of comparison items 

One thing that all BI deployments ought to have in common is that they should deliver business benefits. Here are two quick snapshots of the comparison items. 


The BI market witnesses MicroStrategy aggressively tackling rivals like IBM Cognos. To the uninformed, it may appear that both these products have powerful BI capabilities that can be exploited for analytics and reporting needs. The BARC survey proved otherwise. The survey users responded that throughout the implementation and maintenance of these products, they experience vastly different benefits in the BI capabilities of these two products.

MicroStrategy is reputed to deliver superior performance, scalability, usability, efficiency, and reliability, which can ultimately impact a business’s bottom line; hence the truth must be shared with the entire user community.

The challenges of current business analytics are many—shrinking profit margins, shrinking IT budgets, higher business demands, exploding amounts of business data, newer sources of data, and tremendous speed of data acquisition. Products like MicroStrategy require lower IT footprint; and can empower business users to easily create their own reports without much reliance on IT support. 

IBM Cognos BI

IBM Cognos provides BI capabilities to answer key business questions. The features set enables business users to easily view, organize, and customize information to create a unique perspective. The ability to explore a wide variety of information from multiple enhances the user’s understanding of the hidden patterns that exist in business data. IBM Cognos BI allows business users to gather statistical evidence within the product’s BI environment. Here, users can analyze the data and predict strategic outcomes by conducting more advanced predictive or what-if analysis.

The comparison table derived from BARC summary report 

As mentioned before, the BARC 2013 BI Survey Results Summary Report was taken as the starting point of the following table. From the comprehensive graph data of all 30 products in comparison, the relevant ranks and scores of MicroStrategy and IBM Cognos BI have been extracted and included in the table. The AVG column head is supposed to indicate whether the rank of the compared product in a particular category falls above or below the average (median) rank in the actual graph in the BARC report.

Definition of Peer Groups

In order to ensure that only similar products are compared with each other—

Some peer groups were created to allow fair and useful comparisons of products that are likely to compete. The following peer groups were used in the BARC survey to allow for fair comparison:

  • Large International Vendors
  • Enterprise Reporting
  • Dashboard

For the comprehensive BARC 2013 BI Survey Results Summary Report, try this link The BARC 2013 Survey Results Summary for Information Builders.

Analysis of the table contents 

The following trends present in the table are worth mentioning:

  1. IBM Cognos BI was not part of the Dashboard peer group.
  2. MicroStrategy has more or less ranked above average in most of the categories, while IBM Cognos BI has ranked below average in a large number of categories.
  3. Although Microstartegy consistently ranked high in both the Large International Vendors and Enterprise Reporting peer groups, its rank fell below the average in most of the Dashboard peer group comparison. This indicates that the competition between products in the Dashboard peer group was much tougher.
  4. In some categories the difference in ranking of MicroStrategy and IBM Cognos BI is significant.
  5. In query response time and performance categories, both the vendors have ranked below average.
  6. In project length (time to implement) and implementer support categories, both the vendors have ranked below the average.
Source of information: BARC 2013 BI Survey Summary Report for Information Builders

Source of information: BARC 2013 BI Survey Summary Report for Information Builders

Source of information: BARC 2013 BI Tools Survey Summary Report for Information Builders

Source of information: BARC 2013 BI Tools Survey Summary Report for Information Builders

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