Business Intelligence Software Vendors 2015
The essence of a Fat Free Guide is brevity, and so there will be no feature-by-feature comparisons, which are fairly meaningless anyway. Each product is positioned for its particular strengths, and it is then up to the user to decide on the capability they actually need from business intelligence software.
Trends in Business Intelligence Software
Business intelligence software is used for diagnostic and descriptive purposes. In its diagnostic role it allows us to understand where problems or opportunities might exist. It is descriptive in that it allows us to see the status of business operations – a KPI dashboard being a good example. It is important to understand that it does not necessarily allow us to know why things are as they are. Knowing why requires a separate investigation, and possibly the use of additional techniques such as data mining.
Business users have been prevented from getting direct access to their data for decades – until very recently. The technology and techniques were just too cumbersome and complicated. Large data warehouses and OLAP databases gave some relief, but they still had to be pre-configured and the tools used to access them fairly clumsy.
Today, thanks to cheap memory and processing power, many business intelligence applications can run on a desktop computer, typically using highly compressed, columnar databases – ideal for the multi-dimensional analysis users need to perform. Cloud based business intelligence software also provides access to low cost computing resources, which can scale up or down as needed. And so we see a new generation of visually oriented business intelligence software, with easy to use interfaces, and powerful, behind the scenes data processing capability.
The current emphasis on data visualization and exploration is understandable, but a bit overdone. Data visualization is a qualitative analysis technique depending upon human interpretation. Give a data visualization to ten people and you will probably get 10 different interpretations. Some will see outliers, others a trend, and others perhaps nothing at all. So qualitative methods need complementing with quantitative methods – data mining and statistics being two examples.
Some suppliers of business intelligence software are already moving in this direction, and even Tableau, a pioneer in data visualization software, has integrated its platform with the open source R programming language. The suppliers that are more advanced in this respect will be pointed out in the profiles.
Integration of business intelligence software with other forms of analytics will be a major trend in the coming years. And not only will these additional methods be embraced by business intelligence, but it will be embraced by them. Data exploration is a necessary first step in the creation of predictive models, and several suppliers of predictive analytics technologies have embraced a business intelligence front-end – Tableau being flavor of the month at the current time.
Assume these various business intelligence software support big data – unless stated otherwise.
Anyway – enough pontificating. Let’s position the business intelligence software platforms.
Business Intelligence Software Positioned
Differentiators: 1010Data is a cloud based business intelligence software with advanced analytics capability, and some novel methods for data analysis.
1010Data uses a high speed columnar database for big data query, reporting and analytics needs. Its Trillion Row Spreadsheet operates in a web browser and provides data discovery and analysis in a spreadsheet environment. It has a large number of built-in analytics functions for statistics, predictive modeling, forecasting and machine learning.
Best for: Users who need a broad range of analytical tools, and need to deal with very large data sets.
Differentiators: Cloud (or on premises) based business intelligence software with good visualization tools.
BellaDati can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises – as required. The browser based user interface is easy to use and supports creation of various reports, charts and dashboards. It comes with particularly good APIs and a SDK for embedding reports and charts into applications. Mobile support is also excellent.
Best for: Businesses that need a data visualization environment on top of other analytics platforms. OEMs and ISVs will find the platform of interest too.
Differentiators: Cloud based business intelligence software with a large number of connectors and fast in-memory columnar database.
Bime connects with most data sources, and users decide whether to upload them or connect on-premises. Lots of chart types, dashboards, and good map visualization capability. Features such as security, data scheduling, email push of visualizations and single sign on.
Best for: Business with cloud, on-premises, social, and big data sources. All the facilities for enterprise wide business intelligence, but no advanced analytics.
Differentiators: Birst cloud business intelligence software is one of just a few platforms that will do the whole job.
Birst’s multi-tier architecture supports enterprise reporting, predictive analytics, dashboards, discovery, and mobile. It also provides an open client interface to other analysis and visualization tools – if needed. Other layers address data management and access, with interfaces to online, enterprise and cloud based data sources.
Best for: Large businesses that want a cloud based business intelligence facility.
Differentiators: Easy-to-use cloud based business intelligence software, with good functions for calculation and data manipulation.
Chartio is a fairly simple product, and admirably satisfies the needs of business users who want to visualize their data in an uncluttered environment. It does support a large number of functions for calculation and data manipulation, making it quite flexible.
Best for: This is a platform for ad-hoc visualization and querying of data, and will augment business intelligence software that is weak in this area.
Differentiators: Extremely competent business intelligence software without all the slick marketing of many other products. Affordable pricing and lots of functionality
InfoCaptor is available through the cloud, or can be installed locally – in both cases it provides a browser interface. Technically this is a very competent offering, with a bewildering number of chart types, and the facility to easily create and distribute dashboards.The drag and drop interface means business users can create their own, ad-hoc BI solutions and data visualizations, and a large number of database and other data source connectors mean that composite reports and charts can be easily created.
Best for: Businesses of all sizes who just want a practical, pragmatic solution to their business intelligence software needs.
Differentiators: Sophisticated, complex, business intelligence software aimed at large corporations.
Information Builders (IB) provides its WebFOCUS BI and analytics platform to address the information needs large businesses have. The reporting tools are some of the most advanced available and address complex requirements – from compliance to HR reporting. Dashboards, mobile support, graphs, charts self-service BI and embedded BI applications are all available, both hosted in-house or through the cloud. WebFOCUS RStat is an integrated BI and data mining environment, using an engine based on R.
Best for: Large businesses with significant reporting needs and possibly a need for more advanced analytics.
Differentiators: DOMO is really an cloud based executive information system, and not a general purpose business intelligence software platform.
DOMO majors on ease-of-use and the provision of dashboards and applications to business managers. The environment is very easy to understand and use, and various data connectors do a very good job of both managing and accessing a large number of data sources. Social sharing and networking is a major feature of the product with support for such thins as action items – and so it is as much a simple social network platform as a business intelligence software.
Best for: Large businesses (it’s fairly expensive) where management are committed to using business intelligence software applications.
Differentiators: A full cloud based business intelligence software suite with easy-to-use visualization tools.
GoodData is a cloud SaaS analytics platform which connects to a large number of data sources – big data, databases, online apps, social data, and so on. It provides simple mechanisms to create charts and dashboards, and is extensible through its ability to run analytic functions written in R directly within the database. The platform features a dual-stage Data Storage Service (DSS) that stores raw data in a Hadoop-based system as well as a highly-scalable, clustered columnar warehouse for enriched, analysis-ready data.
Best for: Enterprise wide business intelligence where the emphasis is on data visualization, with possible need to incorporate more advanced analytics.
Differentiators: JReport is a good reporting and data visualization platform capable of addressing demanding needs, and used by some very large businesses to serve information to customers.
JReport from Jinfonet excels in embeddable reporting and data visualization. JReport is used by some of the world’s largest businesses such as Visa, IBM, and Target, typically to provide online reporting facilities to customers, but is also used in many businesses to provide information directly to employees and partners. At the current time, around two thirds of Jinfonet’s business comes from OEM, ISVs and other third parties who provide embedded intelligence in a variety of services and products. JReport supports dashboards, charts, data analysis reporting, and connects to a wide variety of data sources, including big data, relational databases and cloud based data.
Best for: Demanding reporting needs, and the embedding of business intelligence into production applications.
Differentiators: Good cloud bases business intelligence software for medium to large businesses. Excellent reporting tools.
Matillion provides a down-to-earth self-service reporting environment through a cloud based service. It has its won in-memory database and OLAP facility and interfaces with Excel and more generally the Microsoft Office Suite. Data visualization tools produce HTML5 charts and sophisticated data integration tools support creation of a central data warehouse.
Best for: Businesses that needs a broad capability business intelligence platform for production and end-user functionality.
Microsoft Power BI
Differentiators: Easy to use desktop Power BI Designer with sharing via the cloud. Lots happening here so watch this space.
Microsoft seems to have admitted that there can be business intelligence outside Excel. Its new Power BI Designer data visualization platform is immature, but will be disruptive. Added to the support for a wide variety of data sources, and Microsoft’s own cloud based data stores, it’s all adding up to an interesting proposition.
Best for: Eventually many users, but right now it’s businesses of all sizes with existing investments in Microsoft technologies.
Differentiators: A full business intelligence software suite with good big data support, application embedding and advanced analytics.
Pentaho supports a wide range of interactive visualizations with drill through, lasso filtering, zooming, and attribute highlighting. The analytics is particularly sophisticated with powerful algorithms such as classification, regression, clustering and association and algorithms can be incorporated into Pentaho’s visual interface.
Best for: Users who want a full business intelligence platform with advanced analytics options.
Differentiators: Excellent data discovery with its associative data engine, and good extensibility with various APIs and scripting language.
Qlik Sense provides an easy to use data visualization platform that is complemented by assisted data discovery. Unsuspected relationships between data sources are presented to users for investigation. Qlik Sense is also very extensible and ideal for real-world enterprise use.
Best for: Enterprise wide BI, although no real production reporting capability.
Differentiators: Very fast cloud based business intelligence software, with easy-to-use visualization interface.
Sisense majors on the speed of its technology, achieved through a columnar database and meticulous use of computer hardware. The motto os this company is – join, analyze, share, and the technology does indeed allow business users to do this. Rich easy-to-use data visualization capability, but no advanced analytics.
Best for: Business users will get a lot from Sisense, but it isn’t a fully blown business intelligence capability.
Slemma is a cloud BI and dashboard software that allows devs and non-devs alike to do ad hoc visual analysis against data. Slemma plugs in directly to the most popular databases (including XMLA data sources), cloud storage and cloud services, and allows to bypass the need for a warehouse. It is easy to create a dashboard by using intuitive drag-and-drop interface or writing and running SQLs to build charts.
With the dashboards created in Slemma, team and clients can access dashboards through the web. And they can slice and dice the data in real-time by dimensions and measures for their own needs. The platform also supports data transformation features like aggregation, calculations, filtering, sorting and ordering data.
A free version supports Excel and CSV files and integration with Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. Paid subscriptions start at US$ 29 per month.
Differentiators: Easy to use visualization capability through to predictive analytics and statistical analysis. Extends to TIBCOs event based analytics and integration technologies.
Spotfire 7 was a deliberate attempt to meet the ease-of-use challenge, and placed it up with the likes of Qlik Sense and Tableau. But Spotfire also offers easy-to-use text analytics, predictive analytics and statistical capability, with support for various analytical languages (R, SAS, S+, MatLab) if users want that level of sophistication. Very scalable, and very capable.
Best for: Businesses that need a full blown analytics environment, although Spotfire can simply be used as a data visualization tool if needed.
Differentiators: very scalable, easy-t0-use data visualization platform.
Tableau has been the trend setter in easy to use data visualization tools, but it is now equalled by several other products. The platform is very scalable, to very high workloads, but it is relatively difficult to extend. The integration with R is fairly basic, with no special facility for executing R scripts.
Best for: Pure enterprise wide data visualization, and an adjunct to broader capability business intelligence software platforms that lack good data visualization capabilities.