Few topics that come up during a business meeting are at once as simple and as challenging to address as the question of how the company is doing. It wasn’t long ago that someone involved in the process would toss around printouts of a few Excel sheets and declare the discussion over. In recent years, however, business intelligence has taken on a life of its own. Even in small operations, hard data is in-demand.
There are four popular tools used to handle BI work these days. They are:
- Power BI
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.
Power BI gains a lot of its strength from the fact that it’s built by Microsoft. That means companies that are deep into the MS Office ecosystem can quickly use their existing data from Excel and Access to produce new insights. It’s built to handle data from a number of different inputs, and you can create everything from widgets to full-fledged dashboards with ease using Power BI. It’s a popular choice for companies that need seamless integration and dedicated support.
For those who want visualizations and ease of use, Power BI is a great choice. It was originally designed as an add-on for Excel and has grown into a fully formed product in its own right. Power BI is a relative newcomer, and it’s generally not seen as a good option for companies that need to power through big data sets or produce complex visualizations. It does, however, provide support for R-based analytics, a programming language popular with statisticians and data miners, so advanced data people shouldn’t instantly dismiss its usefulness.
Microsoft is moving toward a monthly pricing model for most of its major business applications, and Power BI is no different. The basic version is available for free, and it’s designed to process 10,000 rows of information each hour. The advanced version is available for a monthly fee of $10. Both allow you to create dashboards that are compatible with Windows, Apple iOS and Android devices.
Tableau is designed to put a lot of analytic power in the hands of people who don’t have PhDs in stats. It handles many types of analysis that are often thought of as advanced functions, including trend analysis, regression modeling and correlations. It also allows you to quickly derive metadata from your existing information sets. You can simply group points together and produce new visualizations with a few clicks.
One thing Tableau does incredibly well is mapping. It comes with worldwide map data out of the box, and it also does a very good job of recognizing what formats correspond to what countries. You can readily throw together a visualization of your company’s country-by-country performance in Tableau by simply importing an Excel sheet. Within a matter of minutes, you’ll have a presentation element that looks professional.
Tableau is widely considered the BI industry standard for visualization projects. It is, however, lacking in deeper analysis capabilities. Many users, however, pair it with a separate engine because it’s so hard to sacrifice its gorgeous visual output. Tableau is available in both free and paid versions.
If you’re looking for something that’s powerful and able to rapidly mine data, QlikView may be the option for you. It has a bit of a reputation for a steep learning curve, but QlikView also is likely the bit-for-bit analysis champ among the big BI tools on the market today. It’s a popular choice for users who value analytics above visualization.
QlikView does visualizations, and it even can produce dashboards. It’s just not the preferred choice for those who want to produce beautiful data. If you’re looking for simple charts, it’s a solid contender.
QlikView is available in a personal edition that’s free. The personal edition is fully featured. Both the free and paid versions allow cloud deployment of applications on the company’s QlikSense platform. The paid version’s business model is built on allowing a larger application size, more storage and unlimited users.
SAP BusinessObjects is the preferred BI tool for companies that require predictive capabilities. It’s designed specifically for managing customer relationships, tracking finances and handling supply chains. If you’re looking for a program that can quickly compile your data and answer basic questions about profitability and efficiency, SAP is likely to be your BI weapon of choice. The package also comes with a variety of reporting a data visualization options.
Where the SAP offerings take a hit is pricing. It’s far from being as cost-effective as other BI options on this list. The range of offerings is diverse, and the company does not make a point of disclosing licensing fees upfront. Generally, you should expect to spend a couple thousand dollars to get started with SAP. The opaque licensing regime and poorly streamlined family of programs often turns potential users off SAP.
There isn’t a clear contender for the biggest BI tool in the all the land. If clean and effortless visualizations are your thing, Tableau will be your choice. QlikView offers raw power. Power BI provides easy integration. SAP is a great choice, but only if money isn’t an object.
If you need help figuring out which option is the best for you, ask one of our experts. We can help you choose and get you started in the right direction.