Nine Best Business Intelligence Tools

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 Defined

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.

Features Of Business Intelligence Tools

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:

Real-Time Data

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.

Data Visualization

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.

Security

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.

Reports And Dashboards

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.

Customer And Technical Support

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).

User-friendly

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.

Benefits Of Business Intelligence Tools

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:

  • Obtain valuable insight – The biggest and most obvious benefit of using BI is the ability to view actionable data in real time. This enables you to generate reports using data visualizations that are actually relevant to the decision making of your company.
  • Establish benchmarking – You can use BI to benchmark your productivity, revenue, and other success metrics against those of your competition. Benchmarking is often a challenge for many companies; however, the use of BI allows you to obtain actionable reports and easy-to-understand reports that make benchmarking much easier to establish.
  • Manage performance goals – Using BI, it will be easy to track the progress of your data-based goals on a daily basis. You’ll be able to receive important updates in real time as well that can help you address problems that come up right away.
  • Streamline operations – Using BI can help you reduce inefficiencies throughout your company, especially the operational and administrative bottlenecks that can easily be automated by BI (such as data organization and other repetitive data-related tasks). The use of BI not only helps make your employees more productive by cutting down on time-consuming tasks, it will also save money and reduce human error. BI can also help to identify whether you need to increase staff or downsize based on how well your company is performing.
  • Eliminate the guessing game – Without the use of data, you’re essentially making educated guesses when it comes to important management decisions based on what you think you know. Using BI tools will help you make much more informed decisions, thereby making much better use of your resources.
  • Improve your inventory management – You can use BI tools to generate more accurate and more timely reports detailing your inventory needs, thereby improving inventory, procurement, and purchasing management. BI tools can also provide insights that can help you identify future buying trends and reduce inventory waste.
  • Stay competitive – The previous points are all advantages that you will have over companies that aren’t employing business intelligence. Conversely, by not using business intelligence, you’re ceding a competitive edge to your competition.

Criteria For Choosing A Business Intelligence

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:

Company Size

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:

Small Company

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.

Medium Company

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 Company

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.

Short And Long-Term Goals

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.

Infrastructure & Architecture

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.

Self-Service Analytics

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.

Integration & Connectivity

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 And Embedded Analytics

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.

White-Labeling

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.

Automated Alerts

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.

1. Sisense

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.

Pros

  • The ability to gather a significant amount of data from many different data sources.
  • Easy-to-read dashboards that are accessible on all devices.
  • In-Chip engine processes data faster than than other tools, providing the ability to answer user questions immediately.
  • Easily customizable for multiple user levels.
  • The ability to connect with almost all data storage platforms, making it easy for users to view data assets from different applications.
  • The ability to automatically recognize and collect charts and tables from different data sources and to accurately consolidate the data within those charts and tables without preparation.
  • The ability to embed entire dashboards or individual widgets.
  • The ability to export data to a variety of formats, including PDF, CSV, Images, and Excel.
  • Great customer support.

Cons

  • Navigating and using the filtering feature on the mobile version of Sisense isn’t as intuitive as it could be.
  • Sharing dashboards created by multiple users is a bit complicated.

2. Looker

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.

Pros

  • Users don’t need to be data analysts to be able to use Looker as it’s relatively user friendly. You don’t even need SQL knowledge.
  • Provides support for SQL Window functions.
  • The ability to connect to any relational database, such as Redshift or BiQuery, and to automatically generate data models based on your schemas.
  • Dashboards are easy to build. A mapping feature is available for users without a lot of BI tool experience that lets them prepare highly technical visualizations.
  • The ability to enable and streamline collaboration among users through any web browser and on mobile devices.
  • The ability to create mini-applications using LookML that can improve your data exploration’s efficiency and power.
  • Reliable customer support.

Cons

  • Most likely too expensive for smaller companies on a budget.

3. Tableau

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.

Pros

  • Embed dashboards and comment on them.
  • Translates queries into visualizations.
  • Supports many data sources, including Google Analytics, SalesForce, MS SQL, Oracle, and MS Excel.
  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface that allows you to drag different elements from one dashboard to another.
  • SAML authentication capabilities, meaning that you can create a single sign-on experience that makes Tableau connectable to any third-party application or system.
  • Use a mobile app to modify existing data views, analyze data, and save new versions.
  • The ability to choose from various runtimes based on your operating system’s memory and speed.

Cons

  • Despite a user-friendly design, it has a steep learning curve and training is required to get the most out of the platform.

4. Yellowfin

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.

Pros

  • Yellowfin provides you with a variety of useful tools, including data transformation, collaboration tools, and automated insights.
  • The ability to deploy the platform on the cloud or on-premise.
  • A Storyboard feature that makes it easier to relay the importance of your insights through presentations, interactive reports, live reports, custom images, custom videos, and custom text.
  • Over 50 types of charts for visualizing your data.
  • The ability to use a variety of dashboards, including strategic, operational, and analytical dashboards.
  • Real-time alerts and notifications for sales trends and important changes.
  • The ability to integrate with other add-ons, business systems, and applications.

Cons

  • Customization options are somewhat limited compared to other BI tools.

5. QlikView

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.

Pros

  • You can use both default and custom data connectors along with open database connectivity connections.
  • Makes use of an open API, allowing it to seamlessly integrate with almost every software ecosystem. This also allows you to eliminate the need to use more than one system to process data.
  • Provides exceptional collaborative capabilities through sharable insights and data visualizations.
  • Complete control over your data through the creation of personalized, data-driven discoveries that are highly customizable.
  • QlikView also provides granular control over all layouts and dashboards through total control over access, permissions, and management.
  • You can use the tool’s scripts to build custom apps as well as use the Workbench feature to extend development.
  • Tons of visually pleasing templates that can be used to build reports.
  • Ability to distribute reports as Microsoft Office documents.
  • Responsive design allows for mobile use.

Cons

  • It’s tier system (and how it’s priced) is a bit complicated. Tthere are several different free and enterprise options, making it confusing as to what features come with what package.
  • The enterprise version of the tool is very expensive.
  • Although building reports isn’t difficult, it can be tedious.
  • Designed more for technical staff and not for users with no experience using BI tools.

6. SAP Business Intelligence

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.

Pros

  • Obtain more advanced analytics through smart querying and ad hoc reporting.
  • Scalable interface that allows you to process datasets, both small and large.
  • The ability to create role-based dashboards, which allows you to create different dashboard formats based on the role of each user (thereby preventing sensitive data from being seen by those who shouldn’t see it).
  • The ability to share reports through a secure platform.
  • Seamless integration with Microsoft Office.

Cons

  • There’s a steep learning curve for beginners.
  • Full functionality depends on the use of other SAP products.

7. Microsoft Power BI

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.

Pros

  • One of the most user-friendly BI platforms out there.
  • Extensive library of interactive data visualizations.
  • Shareable dashboards and compatibility with all leading operating systems for easy collaboration.
  • Drag-and-drop system makes it easy to identify trends and natural language queries, which helps make getting answers an incredibly fast experience.
  • Unlimited access to data located on the cloud and on-premises.
  • Significant amount of data source connectors.
  • Users have access to tutorials, presentations, and other learning materials in addition to excellent customer support.
  • Relatively affordable compared to other BI tools.

Cons

  • The refresh cycle is somewhat limited on the platform’s free version.
  • Data prep tools are divided on desktop and web versions.

8. Domo

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.

Pros

  • Offers one of the widest data sets and one of the most expansive connector support on the market.
  • Exceptional collaboration features, such as the ability to communicate with employees in real time.
  • Ability to set up instant notifications for each data update.
  • Visually appealing dashboards with the ability to visualize your data any way you want.
  • Optimized for mobile use.
  • Open ecosystem allows anyone to build and deliver apps to Domo’s app store, which means you’ll have access to third-party app bundles.
  • Access to Domo University, which is a database that provides support reports, whitepapers, testimonial videos, interactive lessons, and more.

Cons

  • Steep learning curve for beginners.

9. Tibco Spotfire

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.

Pros

  • Scalable platform is perfect for smaller to mid-sized businesses.
  • Allows the creation of dashboards, custom big data analytics apps, and more.
  • Set up alerts and notifications through smartphones.
  • Excellent cross analysis functions with few scripting requirements.
  • High-quality data visualizations.
  • Integration with numerous third-party tools, databases, and apps.
  • API capabilities makes the tool easy to configure to meet your changing needs.
  • Flexibility in its ability to be deployed on the web or on-premise.

Cons

  • Online documentation could be better than it is.
  • Many of the features found on the cloud version are also available in the Windows version.

Select The Business Intelligence Tool For You

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.

Do you need assistance with Business Intelligence Tools? Get in touch with our specialist for help!