Birst vs Tableau Summary
Birst and Tableau should not really be considered as competing products – if anything they are complementary technologies. Birst is a cloud (private or public) based business intelligence platform that addresses both enterprise needs and individual and workgroup needs. Its sophisticated data management technology means everyone can get to the data they need and see a single version of the truth. Tableau on the other hand is a point solution to a very specific need – end-user data exploration and visualization. The data architecture is certainly not as sophisticated as Birst, and as such it delivers much narrower functionality. The two can be used together, since Birst offers an open interface to other technologies, including Excel and Tableau.
Organizations looking for an enterprise business intelligence solution will likely find a suitable candidate in Birst. This is not the case with Tableau, since it does not support production reporting, and neither does it support the easy-to-use advanced analytics that Birst offers. Tableau does provide an R interface, but it isn’t exactly easy to use.
Birst would be overkill if an organization simply needed to create charts and dashboards. In this respect Tableau would be more appropriate.
Birst Review Summary
Birst is a cloud (public or private) based BI platform that addresses the needs of both production oriented BI and end-user data visualization and querying. The company calls this a 2-Tier approach, and it is possible because of the excellent data management architecture of the platform.
Many contemporary data visualization platforms are, in effect, point solutions. They confuse the data picture rather than clarify it, by creating their own versions of the truth within a database of their own. They also do not cater for production BI needs which, although currently somewhat unfashionable, are nonetheless here to stay. Production reporting (weekly sales reports for example), executive dashboards and other ‘fixed’ information needs will always be with us, despite the current fascination with all things visual.
So Birst competes very well with the ease of use of products such as Tableau and Qlik Sense, while also providing a true enterprise BI facility, with support for regular, production oriented reporting.
The impressive feature list of Birst includes native and offline mobile support, embedded predictive tools, intelligent data functions, automated data refinement, drag and drop data visualizations, and quite unique levels of data management. This integrated environment means that everyone gets the same version of the truth, that predictive models can be embedded into dashboards and charts, and that there should never be data ambiguity.
The architecture of Birst is sophisticated and involves several layers, most of which concern themselves with the data. While we all want to create attractive visualizations, it is the underlying data architecture that empowers accurate and meaningful data visualization.
The total cost of ownership of Birst is reported by users and analyst firms to be low, and of course the time to value is very low. Birst is a contemporary alternative to most conventional enterprise BI platforms, while delivering modern user interfaces and well governed self-service capability.
You can find a full Birst review here
Without doubt Tableau Software set the pace for easy-to-use data visualization and exploration software. In practical terms this means business users can get to their data, typically without assistance from IT, and create graphs, charts and dashboards in a way that is most meaningful to them. Authoring takes place on Tableau Desktop which, as a stand-alone environment, can perform its own analysis, either against the Tableau in-memory database, or against external data sources – databases, cloud data sources, spreadsheets and so on. In a group or enterprise setting Tableau Server acts as a central facility for data access, delivering visualizations, enforcing security and managing user access. Tableau Server distributes visualizations through the web browser to almost any device that supports a web browser – desktops and mobile devices.
The architecture of Tableau Server is scalable, and is well demonstrated by the Tableau Public free service where millions of visualizations (albeit simple ones) are served up every day. It does support some level of extensibility, particularly the coding of bespoke applications that are not natively supported, but users have to resort to XML code to achieve this.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Tableau is its integration with the analytic language R. It is such a stark contrast – the easy to use Tableau product set, and the not so easy to use R programming language. Even so it does give advanced users, and programmers the ability to add other forms of analysis into the Tableau environment, and particularly statistical analysis and predictive analytics. This contrasts with some of the competition (Spotfire particularly) who, in addition to an easy to use visualization capability also offer easy to use statistics and predictive analytics tools.
I set out by saying that Tableau set the pace, but in reality it is now at least equalled by several other products. Qlik Sense and Spotfire have both been reengineered for an easy to use experience, and there are cloud based products such as Sisense and GoodData. And of course we should not forget Microsoft’s latest foray into the world of data visualization and exploration with Power BI Designer. It’s immature, but it will be disruptive.
Tableau is not an enterprise business intelligence solution, and the fact that several other suppliers use it as a data visualization front end betrays its real use. It is a powerful augmentation of a broader business intelligence solution.
As an organization Tableau is very much in tune with business user sentiment. Their marketing and sales activities are sometimes seen as a bit aggressive, but the rapid growth of Tableau demonstrates its effectiveness. They have taken business intelligence to the masses, and in the process have almost turned business intelligence into a consumer product, with associated marketing style and branding. There are dangers associated with this, but Tableau is addressing the frustrations of business users, who simply want to see their data in a meaningful format.
Read the full Tableau review here