Data School
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Data School

Comparison between different BI tools

An overview of the main BI tools on the market for Data Analysts! By Ahmed Masmoudi

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Introduction

As a Data Analyst, delivering insights to my customers is a daily responsibility with an ever-growing requirement checklist. And one of my main tools to demo my results is Google Data Studio. However, some scenarios push me to further explore more options for my dashboards, and here I summed up the journey of investigating different BI tools commonly used in the market.

Why do we use business intelligence tools?

First off, data discovery, which used to be limited to the expertise of advanced analytics specialists, is now something everyone can do using these tools. And not only that, these tools give you the insights you need to achieve things like growth, resolve issues that are urgent, collect all your data in one place, forecast future outcomes and so much more.

Overview of the market’s main BI tools

DataStudio

https://datastudio.google.com/ (Powered by datadice)

DataStudio is a popular tool for dashboards, which is part of the Google Cloud tools suite. Google is constantly improving this tool and it is closing the gap with the market’s big competitors with its easy-to-use features and native implementations of Google’s numerous services.

DataStudio offers a lot of possibilities with the integration of third-party tools and the many features to manipulate the charts and the data imported.

Key Features

  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface: Drag your KPIs into the interface and build a professional dashboard without any advanced coding skills needed.
  • Interactive dashboard features: Advanced dashboard features such as drill-downs, hierarchical filters.
  • Multiple reporting options: You can embed DataStudio into your own application, share reports via URL, or embedded iframes on your website.
  • Customised templates: DataStudio offers the possibility to create templates for your dashboards by defining the colour accent and chart characteristics to have uniform themed reports.
  • Native integrations: DataStudio is very powerful when it comes to the direct and easy use of Google’s other services such as BigQuery for data warehousing purposes and Google Analytics for tracking user activities.

Shortcomings

Non-intuitive drag-and-drop for charts and for quick alignments. And data studio does not offer a mobile version. Also, DataStudio does not offer any predictive tools integrated.

Looker

https://looker.com/

Recently acquired by Google, Looker goes beyond BI to help organisations deliver impact through data experiences that fit the way people work. This tool integrates seamlessly into business workflows, embeds into third-party systems, and enables companies to build their own data applications. All while delivering world-class business intelligence capabilities.

Key Features

  • Collaborative environment: Looker offers a one-stop-shop version-controlled modelling layer where analysts can define their business logic and iterate on that business logic in a version-controlled way.
  • Optimised for the cloud: Looker’s architecture takes advantage of modern cloud databases’ native scalability and performance. Unlike most competitors, Looker doesn’t rely on stale data extracts or a proprietary in-memory architecture that forces you to predict the questions your users will ask.
  • Modern in-product live support: Looker is known for its live customer support, which enables its users to avoid the technical support queue waiting.

Shortcomings

As it is newly introduced to the market, Looker has some improvements to make when it comes to customising the dashboards. Plus it has a longer learning curve for users as it introduces new concepts compared to other tools and its pricing plan is not friendly for small budget projects.

Datapine

https://www.datapine.com/

Datapine is a well-known BI software for advanced analytics where you can connect from various sources. With this tool, you can create a powerful business dashboard, customised reports, or even implement alerts for anomalies or specific targets.

With its SQL mode, Datapine enables analysts to create their own queries. And with its drag and drop interface, it offers a visually intuitive way of entering values and creating powerful charts and dashboards for the average business users.

Key Features

  • Easy-to-use predictive analytics: Advanced analytical tools which include predictive analysis based on a forecast engine. You only need to select the indicator, the number of data points to forecast, and define the model quality (confidence interval).
  • Multiple reporting options: You can embed datapine into your own application, share reports via URL, enable viewer access or send automated e-mail reports.
  • Smart insights and alarms based on AI: You can set up your dashboard to alert you for anomalies and generate multiple types of insights, including growth, trends, value drivers, or conditional scenarios.

Shortcomings

The mobile view feature is restricted to datapine exclusive app and you need to customise the mobile view separately.

Power BI

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/

Power BI is the data visualisation tool created by Microsoft to work alongside its diverse analytical tools. PowerBI has many powerful features and offers many possibilities of integration with different data sources.

This tool provides the user with the possibility to create dimensions and new relations between tables without the need for an external tool to do that.

Key Features

  • Quick information breakdown: Ease of access for the data exploration which helps users to make increasingly informed decisions in reaction to business needs.
  • Refreshing data: With regards to not having every data source supporting live querying, Power BI offers an automatic refresh feature for your dashboards multiple times a day, that you can set on specific times that meet your business requirements.
  • Cross-platform accessibility: Unlike most other tools, Power BI provides a built-in exporting feature to support not only embedded web applications but also mobile devices like Android, IOS, and Windows.
  • Cost: Power BI has two versions; Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. The entry-level is Power BI Pro, which gives you all the functionality in the Azure cloud for a low cost per user per month.

Shortcomings

Limited customisable layout controls for the implemented charts, can be frustrating for specific user’s requirements.

Tableau

https://www.tableau.com/

Tableau is a trendy BI tool that many businesses are embracing, and it is unique for its aesthetics and design powered by Pixar artists.

Being around for more than 16 years, Tableau stands out for the user experience it offers to users. Even beginners will not have a frustrating first experience using it.

Key Features

  • Remarkable visualisation capabilities: Tableau converts unstructured statistical information into comprehensive logical results, which are fully functional, interactive, and appealing dashboards with different types of graphics.
  • High performance: Tableau is unique for its robust and reliable performance. This tool is fast even on big data compared to other famous tools.
  • Thriving Community: Business users can scale up their knowledge on data parsing and reporting and get many useful insights thanks to Tableau’s ever-growing community of experts and companies.
  • Mobile compatibility: Tableau offers an efficient mobile app available for IOS and Android, which provides full functionality that Desktop and Online versions have.

Shortcomings

Tableau is not flexible enough to provide a case-by-case approach for its customers. So every business regardless of their needs has to purchase the extended license from the start.

Other tools worth mentioning

Aside from the different examples of popular BI tools listed above, some other tools are having a big chunk of the market that should be talked about.

Qlik Sense

Qlik Sense is a well-known tool that has improved over the years. It offers custom and embedded analytics. It has good insight suggestions out of the box. But Qlik Sense needs to provide more advanced analytics and the ability to customise its dashboards in a more advanced way.

SAP Anlaytics Cloud

SAP offers a powerful tool with strong API integration with other systems and an intuitive interface that enables the user to even extract data back from its dashboards easily. Well, this tool has more to offer than a simple dashboarding tool, however, it needs to make some improvements in that specific department.

IBM COGNOS ANALYTICS

IBM offers this unique tool for analytics that allows users ad-hoc reporting and it handles big data well. Otherwise, this tool has a large learning curve and IBM has been chasing Tableau and Qlik with their reporting tools, while they can work on making the rendering more efficient and data manipulation easier for basic users.

Conclusion

With different tools in the market, every business is embracing the most suitable one for their requirements and needs. And we can notice that a lot of companies are shifting more frequently between those tools, which is only explained by the competitiveness between them and the quick improvements and features implemented in each of those BI solutions.

But the future is leaning toward the tools with most third-party integrations, the services they offer, and their integration with cloud solutions regardless of the company’s basic architecture.

Cross-platform solutions and the ability to collaborate between analysts are both big advantages in the market now.

Customisation is also very important because customers are not satisfied with standard solutions when they can get a dashboard with specific requirements fitted to their needs.

Pricing can be a decisive factor too because businesses are now storing huge amounts of data which can higher their bills at the end of the month when decision-makers select the unsuitable solution for their reporting.

Useful links

https://www.trustradius.com/ (for tools comparison and experts reviews with pros/cons)

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Data School is a publication from datadice, an agency of Business Intelligence specialists, based in Coburg, DE. Building modern, customized and cloud-based data warehouse solutions. https://www.datadice.io/

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datadice

datadice

Agency of Business Intelligence specialists, based in Coburg, DE. Building modern, customized and cloud-based data warehouse solutions. https://www.datadice.io/

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