Few companies make important decisions solely based on gut instinct. Successful businesses only make informed decisions, whether they’re minor marketing strategy decisions or major sales decisions. Every decision you make when it comes to running your business can impact your bottom line. Fortunately, making an informed decision isn’t as difficult as it once was because of the massive amounts of data accessible to companies today. However, knowing what to do with that data is a whole other matter. Implementing a number of different business intelligence tools can take out all the guesswork for you.
Business intelligence is the use of tools and techniques that collect and organize raw data into easy-to-read metrics that you can use to guide your business decisions. Essentially, they analyze your data and make it easy to read at a glance, allowing you to judge the performance of various marketing and sales strategies.
Business tools are useful due to the significant amount of features that they offer. However, not all business tools are the same, nor do they always offer the features that you might want. These are the BI tool features worth investing in:
Business intelligence tools that display data in real time is essential so the metrics you choose to display will update as soon as new data becomes available. Then you can make adjustments on the fly if you so desire and can make accurate data-backed decisions when you need to make them.
One of the biggest advantages of using business intelligence tools is that they not only collect and analyze raw data, they will (typically) display that data in easy-to-read charts, graphs, and tables that anyone can use. Use a BI tool that focuses on high-quality data visualization.
Find a BI tool that has solid security. The last thing you want is someone hacking into your business intelligence system and obtaining all the data you’re analyzing. A good BI provider should routinely run audits and penetration tests. Additionally, most BI tools will provide users with system level security, allowing you to implement authentication, permissions, and user management so that you can control who within your company has access to your BI tools or certain sets of data displayed by your BI tools.
Most dashboards are customizable, meaning that you can choose what metrics to have displayed so that you have access to the most important real time data you need at a glance. Even though data is analyzed in real time, good BI tools will generate easy to read, customizable reports. You can schedule these reports to be automatically generated according to your business needs.
There may be times where you are confused about one of the tool’s features, and need customer or technical support as soon as possible. The best BI providers will have customer and technical support that’s easy to reach in a number of different ways (such as by phone, email, or online chat).
The advantage of using BI tools is that they should be user friendly, meaning that users don’t have to be trained data analysts to use the dashboard or make sense of the data being displayed. Since many BI tools boast customizable features, make sure that these are easy to set up as well. The easier your BI tools are to use, the more your employees will use them and take advantage of all their features.
In a day and age where data is everything, you’re doing your company a disservice by not using business intelligence tools. Just consider the following benefits that BI tools can provide:
There are many different business intelligence tools on the market to choose from. Different BI tools have different features and capabilities. Choosing the right BI tool for your business depends on the specific needs of your company. The following are some of the criteria to keep in mind when comparing BI tools:
It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, you can benefit from the use of BI tools. However, the size of your company will affect your BI needs in the following ways:
Resources may be limited if you have a smaller business, meaning that a BI tool that is user-friendly is very important; however, your business will likely grow larger and larger (if things go as planned), so choose a BI solution that is not only flexible in case your needs change if, but that can scale as you grow.
If you are running a medium-sized company, it likely means that your business is growing, which means that you need to make sure you have a BI tool that can help keep your workflow organized and efficient. It should also provide interactive visual dashboards and reports to speed up analysis, while at the same time meeting all of the needs of your company’s users, developers, and analysts.
Large companies have massive amounts of data that need to be organized and analyzed. You’ll need a BI tool capable of doing this that can also be leveraged by your team to take immediate action based on real time data to answer important questions, better understand your customers, or scale the productivity of your data analysts and users.
Choose a BI solution that can help you achieve both short-term and long-term goals. For example, a short-term goal could be the ability to track the performance of various marketing strategies so that you can adjust them on the go to help improve the effectiveness of a current campaign. A long-term goal might involve predicting future trends based on data collected on current and past campaigns so that you can better plan future marketing campaigns.
Look for a BI solution that has the infrastructure and architecture that makes it possible to adapt to changes in technology. A BI platform that is unable to add new features and technologies over time will become outdated quickly and have difficulty scaling and adapting to the changing needs of your company.
While you’ll likely want a BI solution that is user friendly, you should also look for one that offers self-service analytics, allowing users to access relevant data, generate reports, and perform queries on their own whenever needed.
Data comes from many different places. If you have databases or applications that were created in-house or that were customized for your company’s use by a developer, make sure that the BI solution you choose has integration and connectivity capabilities. Look for BI tools that are not only capable of integrating with the data sets you currently have, but also with any data sets you may have in the future.
Advanced analytics are essential. This means choosing a BI tool that has data mining capabilities. Data mining will allow you to obtain information that can help predict growth, determine opportunities for improvement, and identify problem areas. It’s also important that you choose a BI solution that allows you to embed analytics into your current systems. This will allow your users to access analytics from whatever application they are using.
Branding is important, both in terms of customer-facing actions as well as in-house. Many BI providers will allow you to white label your BI tools to ensure that the look and feel of the dashboard matches that of the application of your company and brand. For example, being able to white-label your BI platform means that you can choose fonts, colors, and design themes of the dashboard and reports. Not only is this a plus for branding purposes, it also helps create a more seamless and consistent user experience.
Although BI tools provide access to real time data, you likely do not have the time or the resources to ensure that someone is tracking your company data at all times. This means that important changes that may be occurring and that are being displayed on your dashboard may go unnoticed. Look for a BI platform that allows you to automate alerts and actions so that you don’t miss important insights.
Sisense is one of the most popular BI solutions on the market. It’s suitable for both smaller companies due to its easy-to-use interface as well as larger companies due to its scalability, flexibility, and extensibility. The tool lets you gather, analyze, and view data on a single dashboard and provides a granular view of your data. Its drag-and-drop functionality adds to the user-friendliness of the platform.
Looker is another BI tool that’s effective for businesses of all sizes (although its somewhat high cost might price smaller companies out of their budget). It’s an easy to use data discovery application that has a web-based interface. Looker produces clean and easy-to-read data visualizations that has excellent collaboration features, such as the ability to share data and reports through USL, email, and other applications. It’s incredibly effective at analyzing both web-hosted and SQL data and can accommodate over 25 data variations, including Google BigQuery and Vertica.
Tableau is an innovative BI tool used for data discovery and visualization. Using Tableau, you can easily create dashboards as well as share them and publish them. It’s also a self-service analytics tool, which means you can quickly access data you’re looking for as well as answer questions you have. In addition to drag-and-drop functionality (Tableau was one of the first BI tools to introduce it to its interface), it also allows group analytics. The tool uses an easy to use and integrate platform that can connect with hundreds of data sources in the cloud and on-premise on both Linux and Windows.
Tableau has three different products to choose from. Tableau Desktop is available to everyone for free, Tableau Server is locally run analytics tool for organizations, and Tableau Online is hosted analytics for organizations.
Yellowfin is a very flexible BI solution that provides end-to-end analytics. It’s suitable for businesses of all sizes and combines machine learning, visualization, and collaboration to get actionable insights and data-driven predictions about your company’s performance. One of the reasons Yellowfin is so flexible is that it allows you to connect directly to data sources or build your own connectivity and transform your data into valuable insight. One feature in particular that is quite helpful is the ability to send out curated analytics throughout your company. Yellowfin works best for mid-sized and large companies.
QlikView is a BI data discovery tool that will automatically generate personalized reports and customized dashboards. It’s main selling point is the tool’s ability to use associative data indexing in order to explore a significant amount of data through global search to identify hidden patterns and trends.
SAP BI offers users a variety of advanced analytics solutions, from machine learning and predictive analytics to planning and analysis. There are a significant amount of functionalities that you can take advantage of by implementing SAP BI, including data visualisation, data monitoring, office integration, mobile analytics, and much more.
Although Microsoft Power BI was initially planned as an add-in for Microsoft’s ecosystem, it eventually evolved into one of the most comprehensive BI solutions on the market. It’s a self-service BI tool that will convert your data into easy-to-read and aesthetically appealing visuals and will help you identify trends as they occur. One of their biggest advantages is the number of data source connectors, including a MailChimp Database. Embedding into customer developers’ apps is possible as well. Additionally, you can purchase a Personal Gateway tool that allows Microsoft Power BI users to authenticate more on-premise data sources that are located outside the firewall.
Domo makes a strong case as one of the best self-service BI tools available because of its expansive customer support and data set. Its dashboard allows users to view multi-part widgets, trend indicators, and sparklines along with comprehensive data visualizations. The tool will also let you combine a variety of data sets with standard SQLs in addition to being able to develop a personalized model combining both local and cloud data. This means that you could connect data from Google Analytics, such as page views, to specific products in order to measure its influence. Domo was also designed with collaboration in mind–dashboards can be shared as well as commented on. Domo is built to operate at enterprise scale (it comes with enterprise-grade data and security controls); however, it’s suitable for startups as well.
TIBCO Spotfire is a good place to start for smaller businesses. It was designed to grow with the needs of any business, so you’ll have no issues scaling as you expand. As a BI solution, TIBCO Spotfire provides big data analytics, predictive analytics, location analytics, content analytics, data discovery and visualization, and more. Although the BI solution is available on desktop and platform, the cloud edition is the more ideal version. Using the cloud version of TIBCO Spotfire, you can create dashboards, evaluate data, and share analysis with all of your team members. Only a single database is used to handle hundreds to thousands of users over the Internet or Intranet, thereby cutting the cost of ownership. There are plenty of visualization options as well, from heat maps to line graphs to pie charts and more.
Whether you’re a small, medium, or large company, the benefits of implementing a business intelligence tool are too great to ignore. In fact, not using business intelligence is eventually going to hurt your business and allow your competitors to gain a serious advantage. Choosing a BI tool may seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you just glance at what’s available on the market today. However, the tools listed here are commonly regarded as some of the most comprehensive and flexible BI solutions available. Compare the pros and cons of these tools and make your choice based not just on the current needs of your company, but also your company’s future needs.
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