The process of choosing a business intelligence (BI) tool for your company can be complicated. For one thing, there are plenty of options to choose from. For another, a lot of online reviews are biased because they’re sponsored. You can learn about a BI tool’s best features in these types of reviews, but you won’t hear much about any possible shortcomings.
One option is to look at what BI tools say about themselves since you’ll get an in-depth look at what they offer. For instance, Qlik’s analysis dives into facets of the BI tool that don’t always get explored in third-party reviews. The main drawback with this approach is that you’ll still have to find the information for each BI tool separately and make the comparisons yourself.
A better approach is to find an unbiased, comprehensive comparison like Gartner’s 2022 report on 20 different analytics and business intelligence vendors. You’ll get 42 pages of detailed analysis on these vendors, plus insights into marketplace trends.
If you don’t want to explore all 42 pages, you can go straight to the graph that gives you a visual representation of how the vendors stack up. At the top right there are the “Leaders”, which is the highest rating. At the bottom, left is the “Niche Players”, who have the smallest range of appeal. At the top left and bottom right are the “Challengers” and the “Visionaries”, respectively.
They rank somewhere in between the other two categories. The vendors are rated based on criteria like company viability, product strategy, pricing, market understanding, product capabilities, and innovation. In this year’s report, only three BI tools made it into the “Leader” category.
Features of the Best BI Tools
If you’re curious about which features to keep an eye out for when choosing the best business intelligence tool, here’s an overview.
1. Data Analytics
- Data visualization is key if you want to view and understand large data sets at a glance. However, many data sets are far too complex to be accurately represented by a pie graph or other basic visualizations. The top BI tools offer a wide variety of visualizations.
- Full mobile capabilities let stakeholders use the BI tool even if they’re away from their main desktops. Mobile-optimized dashboards make the user experience seamless, and a wide range of features ensure continued productivity.
- With interactive dashboards, users don’t have to leave what they’re doing to perform tasks like generating reports, seeing performance overviews, or engaging with complex data sets.
- Machine learning automation makes augmented analytics possible; this feature improves the data quality and data profiling. The augmented analytics feature can notify users of key changes in data, as well as anomalies and outliers. It can also identify insights on associations, correlations, and variances so that users don’t have to do the work on their own.
2. Ease of Use
- When a BI tool is first being used by an organization, some of the stakeholders might not know how to use many of its features. If the BI tool emphasizes data literacy, they’ll still be able to navigate the platform thanks to natural-sounding language and a user-friendly interface.
- If a BI tool includes embedded analytics, it brings analytical functions and data visualizations to users so that they can view key data from their dashboards. The interactive dashboards enhance efficiency and accessibility, no matter who’s using them.
- Whether stakeholders are using the BI tool at a basic or an advanced level, a single interface will maintain consistency. They could be creating basic reports or diving deep into massive sets of data; either way, the interface will be the same.
See Also: How to Create a Dashboard in Power BI
3. Data Management
- Scalability in a BI tool means that an organization has plenty of room for expansion. If a business is growing, the last thing they need to worry about is switching BI tools because their current one doesn’t meet their needs anymore. With scalability, though, that doesn’t have to be a concern.
- Data integration is important if users want to connect with existing data sources without prior knowledge on how to write code or use additional products.
- Stakeholders should have the ability to interact with data without putting data integrity at risk. Governed self-service is a feature that makes this possible, through managing permissions for all users. They can access the data they need, but they’re also less likely to inadvertently compromise data quality.
- A flexible cloud strategy gives organizations the option to expand or alter their data storage solution if they ever need to. This may not be a pressing need when they first start using a BI tool, but after several years they might need a multi-cloud storage solution.
4. Additional Factors to Think About
- As you consider various BI tools, you’ll probably encounter some features that your organization won’t need. However, it might benefit from using them in the future. When choosing a business intelligence tool, you should think about the features you’ll definitely need, as well as the features you may need later on.
- Data quality is vital if you’re going to use it to inform your decisions, but for accurate data, you’ll need a BI tool that includes data integration.
- Another part of making data-informed decisions is using active data (or real-time data), not passive data (or historical data). Make sure any BI tool you consider brings you active data from established analytics pipelines.
- It’s easy to compare the relative costs of different BI tools, but you also have to calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO). This could include set-up costs, extra hardware, added administration costs, and more. The cost of the software might not be prohibitive, but each BI tool will come with its own TCO.
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Sorting through all the options for business intelligence tools takes a lot of effort, but if you start with the top contenders you can focus your efforts and make your search more effective. If you know both what to look for and what your organization needs, it’s just a matter of time before you find the right BI tool.