15 Best Business Intelligence Tools For Small And Big Business

Sisense: Top BI Solution


Small businesses have yet to leverage the power of big data the way their large counterparts do. Startups will have to have the proper tool for the job. The way some see it, the problem lies in the eternal debate–are you lacking the numbers to be successful, or the competence to understand the numbers you already have? This question is seen as of critical importance to both small businesses and large enterprises.

As opposed to the case before, organizations big and small can now take advantage of business intelligence tools to make sense of complex big data. These solutions can collect, analyze and convert such data into understandable reports that can provide businesses with valuable insights, which in turn drives corporate profits.

In this article, we will take a look at the best business intelligence software for small and big businesses currently in the market. Their features, functionalities, and pricing will be discussed in detail.

Business intelligence tools are currently being used for strategic corporate goals, which include KPI measurement, cost-effective deployment of resources, business health planning and generation of insights to quickly make strategic decisions, among many others. What’s good about such solutions is that they help businesses employ business intelligence across the organization. They are also easily deployed, utilized and integrated with any company’s system.

So why use business intelligence tools? The benefits of business intelligence tools far outweigh the investments they entail. They can help businesses gain valuable insights to affect growth, resolve urgent concerns, collate marketing data more quickly, provide a real-time view of the organization and allow for the anticipation of future outcome using predictive analytics and forecasting.

Source: Zionmarketresearch

As more and more business organizations turn to business intelligence software for growth, the market for such tools is expected to further expand. In fact, the global BI software market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of around 7.1%  from 2019 through 2020, reaching a total of $32.4 billion. This market expansion is expected as the technology has made strides in helping businesses grow. New BI software trends have been immensely providing organizations with new capabilities. Data discovery, which used to be the turf of experts in advanced analytics is now made easy using these platforms. This is accomplished through visual analytics, allowing decision makers to access and immediately act on data. Perhaps one of the most important trends in BI solutions is their provision of mobile support and cloud deployment, allowing users to access and analyze information from any device.

Let’s walk you through all the important aspects of each product, highlighting its unique strengths and features, pointing to specific applications and discussing any drawbacks you should consider.

1. Sisense

Sisense dashboard example

BI software Sisense enables businesses to collate, analyze and view data, which can be used in making sound business decisions and to come up with strategic plans. The tool can collate all needed information into a singular dashboard with its drag-and-drop functionality. Users can come up with reliable analysis using visual reports as basis, making the process far easier and hassle-free. The platform’s interface is easy to use, allowing users to learn system navigation quickly and easily.

This award is given to the best product in our business intelligence software category. It highlights its superior quality and underlines the fact that it's a leader on the market.
Sisense won our Best BI Software of 2018 Award

Sisense is currently rated as the top BI solution in our ranking list. The vendor offers a very good free trial plan for any users interested in trying out the key features of their tool. You can easily sign up for Sisense free trial here.

Case study

It is these functionalities and more that led Magellan Vacations to adopt Sisense. It took the luxury hotel a while before getting a grasp of the system’s functionalities, all along challenged to provide real-time feedback for agents, and involve non-technical users into analytical processes and reporting. With their service being phone-based and highly personalized, and their database unstructured and often modified, they found traditional methods for tracking sales metrics and closure rates simply inapplicable. It was at that point that CEO Andrew Vignuzzi gave Sisense a chance.

Sisense was not Magellan Vacation’s first choice, but rather the system that saved them from hiring staff and reporting at the rate of $80,000 per year. Ever since they deployed it, they’ve been reclaiming time and cost-effectiveness in their IT department, touting Sisense as the most user-friendly system they could have possibly chosen. They are now able to manipulate data on the fly, provide real-time feedback to their agents, and coach and counsel them in line with the company’s goals. Better yet, they drill deep into the performance of each agent and department, share insights in a snap, and prepare custom reports instead of sticking to any inapplicable approach.

What is unique about Sisense?

  1. Single-Stack architecture: A single tool that helps you collect, prepare, organize, and analyze data
  2. In-Chip Engine & Proprietary technology: Running ad hoc queries and receiving answers on dot (no need to prepare data whenever a new question arises).
  3. Optimal use of computational resources: No need to hire professional analysts, maintain complex hardware, or make excess IT investments
  4. Minimal TOC: The platform requires no DBA and manual mashups, and there are no special scripts to learn. You will also skip investing in data warehouses and professional maintenance services, as all data analysis operations are conducted in the same system.
  5. Joining diverse tables and charts coming from multiple sources: Sisense’s unique power is that it automatically recognizes and brings together charts and tables from different data sources, and then combines the data contained in them without you preparing it.
  6. Data crunching for beginners: A customer-oriented and intuitive interface that takes no time to learn, and no size limitations.
  7. Effective use of CPU cache memory: Sisense handle terabytes of data rows and thousands of users per day without compromising the quality of performance. You will get results from ad hoc and concurrent queries of rapidly changing data within seconds.
  8. Diverse data granularity: Regardless of the complexity of your data models, Sisense will allow you to explore, filter, and drill down inside them, and customize the visual environment independently.
  9. API-first approach for developers: Sisense emphasizes scalability, extensibility, and security, which makes it ideal for ISVs, OEMs, and customer-oriented and embedded analyses. Using its suite of RESTful API, you can integrate Sisense in any JavaScript application you’re using.
  10. A 90-minute real test-drive for prospective clients: Sisense is the only BI system you can test with actual rather than sample data. Entrust them an actual business case, and they will solve it in 90 minutes.

2. Looker

Looker dashboard example

Data discovery app Looker also makes it to the top of our best business intelligence tools list for its intuitive data exploration approach. It has a web-based interface that can be used to exploit the expertise of companies’ analytics teams. Using the system, teams can build and share reports in an instant helping their organization use data to boost business decisions and actions. 

Looker also lets users build their own analytic modules and design visualizations using a single code. Queries can be easily produced and optimized with the platform’s ML code. It can analyze both web-hosted and SQL data and is able to accommodate well over 25 data variations, including Vertica, Hive and Google BigQuery. This piece of software has been helping companies boost customer satisfaction and convert site traffic into eCommerce data.

The vendor offers a comprehensive Looker free demo here the better to appreciate this BI platform.

An award given to products our B2B experts find especially valuable for companies
Looker won our Expert's Choice Award for 2017

Case Study

It is because of the need for insightful intelligence that was drawn to Looker. Back in the day, no one at the nonprofit could have foreseen the popularity that their organization is experiencing now or assume that maybe, someday, they’ll have to rely on operable intelligence to make a decision. Becoming aware of their own success story, executives also understood the need to make data publicly accessible, and to obtain real-time data insights pulling in info from a variety of sources. The very same system that would respond to their needs was also the one that ought to take care of their complex partnerships and help them develop useful decision-making practices.

The insights Looker provided were simply astonishing: The non-profit recorded a 65% increase in lifetime giving for donors who’ve been sent ‘thank you’ cards upon donating and discovered that transferring reporting to an automated system saves as much as 400 hours of manual reporting a year. The organization was also able to prepare a poverty breakdown pie by school, and redirected 80% of projects toward helping low-income educational institutions. Meanwhile, they received 292,000 new requests for school supplies and 227,000 requests for technology, as they were able to depict and pinpoint the hottest trends in US education.

What is unique about Looker?

  1. LookML. Looker is best-known for developing an easier approach to data analytics, namely a brand new database query language call LookML. The language operates like a simplified version of SQL which is reusable and modular, and thus, way easier to learn for first-time users.
  2. Workbook analytics. Looker adopts your company’s unique business logic. Connect it to any of your relational databases (BigQuery or Redshift, for instance), and it will automatically generate a data model based on your schema.
  3. Support for SQL window functions. Window functions are not-that-well-known SQL functions designed for users to rank customers based on specific behavior without adhering to complex self-joints and first-time variables, or even a series hacks that may require them to transfer data to a third system.
  4. A variety of field parameters. With Looker, you can define fields with a number of field parameters, including dimensions and dimension groups (manipulation-prone columns and tables), measures (alike aggregate SQL functions that provide row information), and templated filters (unique to the user, he can create new ones upon need).
  5. 70% trial-to-win rate. The possession of a modern exploration language and comparably easy adoption ensured Looker a trial-to-win rate of even 70%, compared to the 11% average measured for the SaaS industry in general.

3. Yellowfin

Built for businesses of all sizes, Yellowfin is an analytics solution offering end-to-end business intelligence tools. With this, you can easily bridge critical information from different data sources and get real-time insights to better understand how your business is doing. It comes with highly configurable dashboards that help you get access to all the information you need without hassle. More importantly, it can alert users via notifications whenever it detects relevant changes in forecasts, so you can adjust your plans ahead of time. Yellowfin also offers machine learning and automated insights so digging through your data for answers is much faster.

You can use all the features for free for a period of time to see if the software matches your needs. Simply sign up for a Yellowfin free trial here.

Case Study

The difficulty of identifying discrepancies in processes was what pushed St.LukesHealth to look for a reliable business intelligence solution. They were slowly realizing that their workflow was no longer able to keep up with the demands of their clients. However, they were having trouble pinpointing the problems in their processes. This is when they first stumbled upon Yellowfin.

With the platform’s robust set of features, the company was soon able to find out what aspects of their processes are too time-consuming and which activities are putting a damper on productivity. St.LukesHealth was able to leverage automated reconciliation alongside their existing software ecosystem to find discrepancies in processes and resolve errors as quickly as possible. In fact, after rolling out the platform, they experienced 25% to 33% processing efficiency gains and reduced time-consuming processes that took up a whole afternoon to finish into tasks that only take half an hour or less.

What is unique about Yellowfin?

  1. Data storytelling options. Yellowfin goes beyond static graphs, tables, and charts for data visualization. It allows users to create immersive and interactive presentations that accurately capture and highlight the important aspects of your collected data.
  2. Real-time alerts for sales and trends. Be aware of sales trends and crucial changes to your forecasts via real-time alerts and notifications.
  3. Collaborative business intelligence. This tool comes with collaborative BI tools that let you and your team members share insights throughout the organization. This also has features that let you distribute, export, and email any BI content to your stakeholders.
  4. Web API. Yellowfin can integrate with other applications, add-ons, and business systems. This allows you to streamline your workflow and source your data from your existing software solutions.
  5. Custom Dashboards. All companies have different priorities and they need access to different types of data to manage these priorities. This is why Yellowfin allows you to choose from different dashboard types so you get access to the kinds of data you need.

4. Tableau

Tableau dashboard example

BI platform Tableau aids businesses in visualizing and making sense of data. It enables organizations to connect, visualize and share data through PC or iPad. Users can easily create dashboards, publish and even share them with colleagues, partners, and customers–all without the need for programming knowledge. The software can connect to numerous information sources and import and visualize information in a very short time.

The software is intuitive, facilitating ease-of-use and allowing data analysis using a drag-and-drop functionality. It fosters collaboration, allowing for group analytics and keeping all team members in the know at all times. Users can also accomplish tasks from virtually anywhere at any time as the app comes with a native mobile app.

Case Study

These and more functionalities made Arby’s Restaurant Group decide to use Tableau. What the restaurant company was searching for then was a reliable retail analytics system. They imagined their ideal tool to map retail success from the field, focusing in particular on trends for retaining customers in time of renovation and casual closing. For the purpose, that system should be able to combine supply chain visualizations, maximize cost efficiency, and provide intelligence on sourcing and warehouse management. In short, they were looking for Tableau.

How did Tableau help the restaurant group? The system put in place improved decision making on material usage, as it integrated data across several applications. Thanks to the tool, the company was able to order supplies in line with its demand trends. Another invaluable benefit was managing risk and comparing their performance to internal and market expectations to wrap up a deficiency percentage and tackle it accordingly. Arby’s Restaurant Group also relied on Tableau’s warehouse management kit to gain visibility into the efficiency of individual employees and shift groups.

What is unique about Tableau?

  1. A pioneer of drag-and-drop analytics. Tableau was among the first BI systems to present intuitive analytic dashboards where users can manipulate data with a simple drag-and-drop mechanism. Where it is today, Tableau also counts as one of the most innovative products on the market, constantly presenting new features and functionalities, and following trends.
  2. Choosing between a 32-bit and 64-bit runtime version of the product. Generally, the choice of version to deploy will depend on your operating system, given that the 64-bit version is the preferable option that addresses larger chunks of memory and improves speed.
  3. Dashboard-to-dashboard interactions. With Tableau, you can copy different dashboard elements and transfer them to other workbooks, which give you plenty of iteration and development possibilities. For instance, you can combine the work of different analysts on a new, seamless dashboard.
  4. SAML authentication. The newest version of this system can be delegated to SAML authentication, an open source method that makes it possible to create single sign-on on experience. This makes Tableau connectable to any third-party app/system, and usable in all of your departments.
  5. Web authoring on mobile devices. Tableau will not only display data on mobile devices, but allow you to modify existing views, analyze data, and save new versions with a dedicated app.
  6. Tableau Public. Tableau offers a free version for Windows and Mac users with 10GB of storage, unlimited users and visualizations, personalized profiles, and social media sharing.

5. SAP Crystal Reports

SAP Crystal Reports dashboard example

BI software solution SAP Crystal Reports is designed to work with databases, collate and filter data for analysis. The system presents data in the form of reports, generating such based on data captured from a variety of sources. Its report wizards help users in coming up with reports and completing common reporting tasks. The solution uses cross-tabs, formulas, conditional formatting and sub-reports in data analysis, allowing users to uncover less than obvious data relationships.

SAP Crystal Reports comes with a myriad of features that allow for easy access to pertinent data, presenting them through reports, financial statements, invoices and order forms. This intuitive system can likewise provide insights that lead to sound business actions. The platform can be used by virtually any kind of business and can be deployed on-premise or through the cloud.

Case Study

A testament to SAP Crystal Reports effectiveness is Automatic Data Processing, Inc.’s (ADP) experience in using the product. The company has more than 60 years of payroll and tax administration experience and a very diverse sales management process that was practically impossible to frame in a single automation solution. Darrin Farnsworth is the company’s sales automation projects manager, who witnessed first hand the problem of not being able to create a one-size-fits-all report. Before testing out SAP Crystal Reports, he remembers accepting duplicates and excess report databases as something ‘one has to live with.’

Luckily, SAP Crystal Reports worked around what the company has long given up on, and transformed it into reality: ADP is now using it to standardize its reporting procedures, a process that may take a while, but will eventually be completed. Ever since the tool was first deployed and implemented, ADP’s agents are able to run reports on schedule, update data and inspect the pipeline by sharing information and integrate the tool easily with Salesforce to allow painless data migration. SAP Crystal Reports has also helped them improve data quality by 15%, team coverage by 10%, and retrieve and manage scorecards in less than 30 minutes per day. Reports are also able to save even 60 minutes of reporting time on daily basis.

What is unique about SAP Crystal Reports?

  1. Richly-formatted reports in 24 languages. SAP Crystal Reports imports data from a variety of sources and helps you create a number of different interactive reports in 24 languages.
  2. Intuitive tools. SAP Crystal Reports offers an array of intuitive design tools for you to create detailed and precise report layouts. This way, you can save time adjusting templates and wizards, and set your own parameter values and rules for sorting customers. Designing reports is further accelerated with automated creation of hyperlinks, instant barcodes, and a single panel for all parameters.
  3. Compelling data mashups. SAP Crystal Reports is integrated with SAP Crystal Dashboard to help you convey information in a compelling way, as for example What If scenarios. You will also be able to use Adobe Flash dynamic charts and graphs and embed Adobe Flex for executing business decisions.
  4. Flexible deployment. With SAP Crystal Reports, you can deploy and share your reports in a variety of ways (new data access, data-driven publishing, SDKs, SAP Crystal Server, XML exporting, drivers, email, and so on.).
  5. Highly embedded technology. SAP Crystal Reports is a very useful system from an OEM perspective as it is embedded in many popular software systems and technologies including CA and HR.
  6. Best fit for developers. The system also integrates with programming technologies such as Java and NET. so that your developers can write their codes in a language familiar to them.
  7. Early detection of changing conditions and trends. SAP Crystal Reports present broad business insights where data is regularly updated, which means you will be able to detect both negative and positive trends in time.

6. Domo

Domo dashboard example

Self-service BI software Domo is a cloud-based system that provides organizations with excellent solutions to the most challenging problems. This is done by enabling decision makers to view data in real time, all from a singular dashboard. It has a visually pleasant interface, dashboard widgets, and displays, which are complemented by very useful sparklines and trend indicators.

The system is easy to use, allowing anyone to operate the system without any formal training. It works by providing data visualizations and business intelligence, from which sound decisions and actions can be derived. The solution can meld data sets with standard SQLs and even create personalized model cases, which integrates local and cloud-based information. Aside from basic analytics, Domo has social sharing functionalities that can be used for online discussions.

Case Study

These features and more attracted payment processing giant Mastercard to Domo. Before Domo made its big arrival in Mastercard’s daily office operations, users had to log in on different platforms and pull in data from all of them to plan a campaign successfully. With Domo, all data is stored in a single place and are accessible to all entitled users. Domo also optimized the company’s marketing efforts by measuring customer engagement, and uniting customer insights for different regions and products. One of the biggest benefits of this system is certainly the possibility to gather and observe social media data, and use it to organize and drive a modern business towards success.

What is unique about Domo?

  1. Two generic types of data flows. Domo offers GUI-based and SQL-based data flows. This means that you can choose to master its ITL processing interface (known as Magic), allowing you not only to process but also join, and stack column-based data, or use MySQL when transforming 1-3 millions data rows, and Redshift when processing a larger number of them. SQL users can also mix local and cloud data to model specific business scenarios.
  2. Cut for collaboration. The functionality of Domo will be adjusted to the role of the user, which is how the system became known for contributing to BI, finance, sales, and marketing departments. Access to data is consequently role-based and depends on whether you’re an admin, privileged member, editor, or participant. Information, on the other hand, is arranged in Cards, and it is the Card owner (creator) that assigns these roles. To overcome misunderstandings, Domo allows users to share dashboards and metrics, customize links to frequently used resources, and chat in separate messaging bars.
  3. Hundreds of data connectors. When you use Domo, you can import data from LinkedIn, Facebook, Dropbox, Google Analytics, Adobe Cloud, Box, Hadoop, QuickBooks, Salesforce, Workday, Open Database Connectivity, and many more.
  4. Social sharing with Domo Buzz. With Domo, you will not only be allowed to share data cards with colleagues but also submit them to group discussions and make presentations like PowerPoint ones. All details of shared content are automatically updated, and you don’t have to worry whether your colleagues are on the same page. This way, Domo provides one of the most powerful storytelling features on the market.
  5. Sophisticated visualizations. Domo’s data dashboards are predominantly graphical, which means they work with charts, tables, pies, graphs, and similar elements, but you can also visit Appstore/iStore and get predictive analytics and machine learning support.

7. Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI dashboard example

Business analytics tools suite Microsoft Power BI is designed to help businesses analyze data and provide actionable insights. The solution essentially turns business information into understandable visuals allowing decision-makers to come up with sound decisions. It identifies trends in real time, aiding business on the path to growth. With the system, businesses can be tracked with answers provided by its dashboards. What’s even better is that Microsoft Power BI can be accessed from any device.

The software has new connectors that can help users boost their campaigns. It can publish reports and visualizations on the web, allowing users to target emails and social media posts. These reports can be accessed by relevant parties who may be interested in them. The product can likewise authenticate on-premise data sources outside any system’s firewall. User interaction with data is also simplified through its drag-and-drop feature.

Case Study

The robustness of the system is exemplified by Metro Bank’s success with its use. Metro Bank, which consistently led London’s market, implemented changes within the institution’s operations. What remained unchanged though, is devotion to surprise and delight, given that Metro Bank’s key targeting strategy relies on being praised and recommended by satisfied users. Having confirmed the efficiency of Microsoft products, they made the smart assumption that Power BI could be the right system for them to examine the quality of customer interaction.

Bruce Rioch, Microsoft Technologies & BI director at Metro Bank, couldn’t be more satisfied with the system. As he explains, the system allowed his team to provide innovative and personalized service for all customers, and turn them into fans. It is the exact visually-appealing, dynamic, and user-friendly tool every developing company needs, and has thus, brought a number of critical benefits. With it, Metro Bank tracks its call center operations, including customer demographics, call times, and call volume; analyzes online customers’ behavior via their mobile and internet banking services, and pulls off unique customer dissatisfaction reports to help plan workload more adequately. What they like the most about the system are rich data visualizations and regular feedback from Microsoft’s specialists that help them make the most of this tool.

What is unique about Microsoft Power BI?

  1. Non-technical and IT-free performance. Power BI changes the notion of analytics being reserved for busy IT departments and makes complex operations accessible to non-technicians. Even without experience, you can connect it to any data source, and summarize the findings in any type of report.
  2. Microsoft’s DAX query language. Instead of Excel’s cumbersome formula language, Microsoft Power BI relies on Power Pivot to develop and execute analytic measures and thus has a comparably shorter learning curve than any other BI or discovery system.
  3. Power Query data sharing. Power Query is the system’s best-known feature that helps eliminate many data loading concerns. Data is imported automatically and can easily be sorted, filtered, and modified before you’ve loaded it to Excel (for instance, taking back a month-old data from a 10-years old database). You can also connect Facebook and oData files, and share them as separate workbooks.
  4. Desktop app built into Excel. Another unique possibility offered by this system is that you can download a dedicated desktop app to build your Excel summaries and visualizations. Using Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power View extensions, you will also be able to combine large data sets and share them easily on the web.
  5. Drags in all of your enterprise reporting packages. With a total of 7 years changing experience, Power BI eliminates the need to use external, enterprise-grade applications to prepare reporting suites. The system is connectable to each and every data source, so you can basically use it to report on any matter.
  6. Simple and free sharing. The traditional way to manage report sharing is to include such inexpensive and premium packages, but that’s not the case with Microsoft BI – This system allows users to email reports directly from the platform, and embed them on any web page.
  7. Making use of all data sources. Power BI doesn’t restrict connectivity – you can process data coming from Salesforce, MailChimp, Google Analytics, QuickBooks, Azure, oData, local libraries, and even Facebook.
  8. The largest number of customizable visualizations. With Power BI, you can arrange your data in all types of charts including Bubbles, Table Heatmaps, Tornado Charts, Tadpole Spark Grids, Aster Plots, Histograms, Cards, and many more.
  9. Cost-effectiveness. Many companies choose to launch their BI journey with Power BI, exactly because of the cost-effectiveness of this system. Power BI’s desktop app is free, and so is the web-hosted version for data up to 1 GB. Transition to a paid plan is also made painless, as you can add data for only $10 per month.
  10. Curated data and Personalized views. Keeping an analytic team satisfied with Power BI will be very easy, as the system packs content in line with individual requirements. Each member will get a personalized dataset where he can only see the business metrics that matter to him.

8. Qlik Sense

Qlik Sense dashboard example

A robust and easy-to-use analytics tool, Qlik Sense automatically generates personalized reports and custom dashboards. It allows users to explore massive data and come up with insights that can be used to make sound business actions. This piece of software is suitable for any business size and even freelancers.

With Qlik Sense, users can collect valuable insight and even share them with relevant individuals. Its smart search feature allows for data analysis through interactions with charts and visualizations. Aside from these, the platform provides smart visualizations, information summaries, color gradient use, and responsive design.

Case Study

The product has time and again been proven useful to many organizations, like in the case of Deloitte Netherlands. Finance and Control manager Frank Kneefel believes that in a 24/7 world driven by loyalty and transparency, accurate information is both free and scarce. Before he discovered QlikSense and decided to give it a try, he was afraid of Deloitte’s highly complex reporting environment and struggled to bring in a unified approach for audit, consulting, tax and risk management analytics to save the company both time and money. For a worldwide service provider renowned for diversity, affordable and unified productivity management reporting approach sounded like Utopia.

Then, the hero arrived. QlikSense’s flexibility, user-friendliness, and analytic powers turned out to be just what Deloitte needed. With it, the company brought its multiple data sources under the same roof, including diverse Excel files and SAP warehouse data. Within a month, the new reporting app was set and ready to go, and consultants were able to save an average of 10 hours reporting hours per month. As time passed by, Deloitte’s upper management became more and more fascinated with the effects of QlikSense that they ordered the creation of two new apps: One for tracking human resources, and the other for forecasting customer/market behavior.

What is unique about QlikSense?

  1. Full spectrum of visual analytics: QlikSense adopts a platform-based and self-data discovery approach, and puts in place centrally deployed analytics that are easy to adjust as your business grows.
  2. Externally governed assets and data modules: QlikSense encourages natural data exploration, and solves in such way the eternal problem of non-intuitive self-service analytics of complex data modules.
  3. Columnar data stores. Qlik offers an engine able to concentrate on a pre-defined suite of columns and run calculations on those instead of processing the whole table. The system is also equipped to calculate aggregations and compute dimensions instantly.
  4. Automated associative indexing. The Qlik engine maps and collects chosen data from multiple sources, and automatically maintains the desired associations. The engine is also capable to recognize important data you may have missed considering in your analysis, and highlights it in gray.
  5. Data compression. QlikSense is one of the very few discovery and BI systems that compress in-memory data to even 10% of its initial size, helping you complete your operations much faster than expected.
  6. Intelligent searching. You can start using QlikSense by importing the simplest and most natural analytical operations, and the system will guide you from there on, as it offers multiple advanced possibilities for all data sources.
  7. Buildable platform. As a developer, you will find it very easy to design a personalized QlikSense application, as the platform offers open standard APIs and mashup extensions.
  8. Mobile-first. QlikSense’s design is fully responsive on different mobile devices, and thus deployable everywhere and for everyone. Its interface will easily adapt both to the device and the interaction method it uses.
  9. Policy-based security rules. Thanks to its security APIs and customizable  Qlik Management Console, you will be able to adjust security rules and precautions to your need. Sharing is also based on a self-service model, which means there is little chance your data will end up in the wrong hands.

9. IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics dashboard example

Smart BI software IBM Cognos Analytics is designed to help businesses determine and make decisions quickly and effectively. It enables users to create and configure dashboards and reports all from a single system. The solution is highly-scalable, able to grow together with organizations. It can be deployed either on-premise or from the cloud.

IBM Cognos Analytics comes with formatted and interactive dashboards that have excellent distribution and scheduling functionalities. In addition, the product has a wide array of analysis tools that include those used for what-if analysis, advanced analysis, analytical reporting, and trend analysis. What’s good about IBM Cognos Analytics is that users can interact with reports from their mobile devices or even offline.

Case Study

These functionalities and more make IBM Cognos Analytics popular among organizations, big and small. Proof of this is Cincinnati Zoo’s experience using the software. If you ask the company’s specialists and c-level executives, one of the most critical benefits of business intelligence software is securing an interactive, self-service environment for organization-wide access and exploration of data. As a middle-sized company, nevertheless, you may be challenged to pursue those benefits because of upfront costs and difficult implementation. With disparate and complex data coming from a variety of sources, you may as well have given up by now. But Cincinnati Zoo did not.

Sometime in late 2007, Cincinnati Zoo officials realized that with 1.3 million visitors per year, they do have a story to tell, but business analytics was still an abstract term to them. The management knew about IBM Cognos Analytics, but was under the false impression that they could not afford it. So, they contacted an IBM specialist and discovered that the company does offer a solution for their budget. Among other things, they sought to gain membership and admission analyses, and use customers’ demographics for their marketing and segmentation strategies. IBM Cognos did not only make that possible, but a team of specialists was assigned to help them discover new opportunity areas. Cincinnati Zoo is now regularly upgrading to newer IBM Cognos versions – so far, they’ve identified long-running promotional programs, and they save $40,000 a year on targeting the right prospects with their discount strategies. The zoo also reports a dramatic revenue increase (86% in only 3 years), and 411% higher ROI rates.

What is unique about IBM Cognos Analytics?

  1. Self-service analytics. What IBM Cognos Analytics is best known for is self-service analytics, thanks to which employees can upload and analyze data maintained by the IT department without necessarily relating their operations to what others in the company are doing. The same procedure applies for ad hoc and enterprise reporting, which means that you won’t have to purchase an enterprise-first tool as your business develops.
  2. Accurate and safe reporting. IBM Cognos Analytics emphasizes secure and certain reporting. As the administrator, you will get the unparalleled capacity to set and adjust safety rules, and govern data access.
  3. Intent-based process modeling. With IBM Cognos, even non-technical users can pull data together and understand the indicators being presented to them. The system works independently to interpret both the attributes and their intent and then searches for data sources that will match those attributes, and prepares possible scenarios.
  4. Cross-department predictive analyses. IBM Cognos utilizes a variety of sources to analyze current and past information, and predict further events. The same system can be used for online analytical processing, thanks to the point-and-click interface that helps users skip requesting information from other departments.
  5. Query Studio. One of the IBM Cognos modules we find to be most useful is Query Studio, which is, in fact, a simplified reporting functionality that provides instant answers to important business questions. As simple as they are, these mini reports still come equipped with useful charts and diagrams.
  6. Event Studio. IBM Cognos Analytics comes with a special notification tool that detects the occurrence of business events and exceptional circumstances based on the condition of your data. Notifications can be sent via email, or be published on the company’s live portal.
  7. Extendable functionality. To make your IBM Cognos suite even more powerful, you can make use of several add-ons such as Go!Search, Go!Dashboard, and Go! Office. The widgets will help you add Microsoft Office components in your system, and perform a full-text search of your documents and published content while connected with Google’s search engine. Go!Dashboard, on the other hand, provides access to a Viewer Portlet where all reporting elements are displayed as interactive and changeable units.

10. Google Analytics

Google Analytics dashboard example

Popular freemium web analytics service Google Analytics imposes BI standards, sporting analytical features that cater to both mobile and traditional users. It uses a variety of funnel visualization methods and creates data summaries on robust dashboards. Its native tracking codes can load much larger JavaScript files from its web server to each it sets individual variables.

These codes automatically load and capture vital information from browsers. It can also collect ClientID information and analyze user actions on the website. The platform’s native mobile app has mobile site-ready tracking codes, which works with PHP, Perl, ASP.NET or JavaScript pages. To make things even better, the software provides a lifetime free plan for any type of client.

Case Study

There are definitely tons of success stories associated with the use of Google Analytics and one of them involves Airbnb. As it turns out, the popular property and vacation management platform was ‘one BI system away’ from improving data vendor collection by incredible 90%, as well as reducing dramatically its tag deployment time. Their choice was what would be a natural choice for many of us: A reputed system with proven capabilities and member of the world’s leading productivity suite – Google Analytics.

Airbnb was challenged by tagging complexity as they use a large number of website tags, including unique ones for AdWords accounts and vendors interested to measure conversion. The breaking point for them to implement a BI solution was realizing that they operate with even 88 different audience lists and over 100 tags. An individual add-on for each type of report could have solved their problem, but it would also break the bank doing so.

What did Airbnb do? Being familiar with Google’s products, they opted for Google Analytics and Tag Manager as affordable and straightforward solutions to their problems. They were immediately able to cut tagging time from days and months to hours, and thus implement brand new and more intelligent marketing strategies. Now they can use more third-party vendors, launch new advertising programs on any platform, and collect vendor data for 90% of conversions at once.

What is unique about Google Analytics?

  1. World’s best audience insights. The reason why Google Analytics’ main target group are online retailers is that the system actually discovers where users are coming from, and defines what they’re looking for. You will be able to understand their preferences and behavior, and easily compare conversions to your goals. What makes Google Analytics even more special is audience demographics, as the system divides visitors according to their age, gender, and location.
  2. Information coming from multiple channels. While analyzing where your customers are coming from, this platform will examine: URL redirections, organic search, paid search, referral, social media recommendations, and effective email campaigns.
  3. Shaping a marketing strategy. Once you’ve understood your audience, you can unveil easily the marketing channels that are driving most of your traffic, including the possibility to distinguish the parts of your website that are most attractive. This will help you shape smarter placement decisions.
  4. Sets important data first. With GA, you can personalize your dashboard and prioritize widgets that showcase a particular metric, including pie charts, timelines, or combined dimensions. This way, the platform will be able to recognize important data and examine it first.
  5. Bounce-rate examination. GA makes it easy to distinguish between top-performing and worst-performing website content, based on the bounce rates measured for each. This way, it profiles pieces users click on the most, and pinpoints pages and elements that need improvement.
  6. Ease of use. The friendly and intuitive dashboard is what Google Analytics is best known for, and so is the affordable pricing scheme. This is why even first-time bloggers with no BI experience find it easy to track the metrics of their site and improve their targeting strategies.


BOARD dashboard example

Management intelligence toolkit Board is a BI and performance management software rolled into one. It is designed to provide business intelligence, business analytics, and corporate performance management to midsize and enterprise-level businesses. The system is capable of capturing data from virtually any source and come up with full reporting as well. Such reports can come in formats such as CSV and HTML, among many others.

Aside from creating a fully tailored experience, users get to access a wide array of data visualization options. Its data collection and analysis tools enable businesses to view data in a different but relevant manner, which can aid businesses in decision-making. Data security is of no concern as the system stores all information in a virtual repository, which can be accessed by relevant individuals from within company premises.

Case Study

One inspiring story about BOARD is the way it helped Volkswagen’s Mexico branch. The branch is one of Volkswagen’s largest production plants and employs over 65,000 full-time workers and 49,000 supplier employees and engineers in Silao and Puebla. Before 2015, all of these people operating on 3.6 million square meters were managed with disconnected, inflexible, and dauntingly long Excel sheets, while the firm’s predictive analyses were completed using several different applications. As expected, duplicate data and mistakes were not uncommon to the company’s annual plans.

Looking for a flexible PA & performance management system that can solve this problem, it was recommended that Volkswagen try BOARD, as it was one of the very few systems that combined BI and predictive analytics with FP&A and strategic and financial performance management. They also considered it because of the inbuilt ETL, thanks to which no coding skills were required to manipulate data. The very first year, BOARD helped VW launch successful financial planning applications for their Marginal Contribution Calculation program, Integration programs, Input Consolidation, Variation Analysis, and Reporting. They are using it to collect and process financial information coming from global systems in Germany and to work with a fully-organized repository of all Mexico end users. Recently, they also implemented BOARD’s Variation Analysis and Reporting module, thanks to which they’re producing and delivering more than 20 standard reports to VW’s headquarters.

What is unique about BOARD?

  1. All in one. BOARD is the only BI & CPM platform that combines performance management with data discovery, business intelligence, and analytics.
  2. Building planner applications. Unlike similar BI systems, BOARD orients most of its efforts into facilitating planning, which may as well be the core reason to choose it. This is how it works: you import and populate data into so-called BOARD Capsules, and the system synchronizes them with pre-populated dimensions to ensure that each change will be reflected in them.  This way, you can model the business logic of your operations without a single line of code.
  3. Automated processing. BOARD will not only collect and organize data from different sources but also immediately suggest the most appropriate analytic model for it. The reason is that BOARD discovers dimensions, codes, descriptions, and hierarchies absolutely independently.
  4. Maximal development speed. Experts recommend BOARD because of its HBMP in-memory technology, and dynamic data-fast tracking models.
  5. Proof of concept. Before you’ve made your purchase, you can visit BOARD’s official website and ask for a POC (proof of concept). The system will then handle an actual business case to show you firsthand how it can be useful to you in the future. According to the company, 95% of all submitted POCs so far have been successful, which is probably why the company records incredible 97% of renewal cases.

12. Dundas BI

Dundas BI

BI platform Dundas BI is a robust tool that is designed to make analytics and data access much easier for businesses. It is preferred by both budding and large businesses for determining the efficacy of their operations. The solution brings into play numerous analytic tools through its dashboards and comes with open APIs to accommodate customization and tweaking.

The system generates visually pleasant visualizations in the form of charts, tables, and graphs. It also has robust security features, saving data in a highly-secure storage facility, which can be accessed using mobile devices. The product is scalable and can cater to the requirements of all business sizes.

Case Study

One particular case where Dundas BI’s benefits clearly stand out is the story of SIEMENS Visual Analytics Group. The company is in charge of end-to-end reporting solutions and all internal BI needs of the company. Given the size of SIEMENS’ organization, the BI experts found it very difficult to provide an actionable solution that works equally well for all departments without disturbing at the same time the balance stroke between upper management governance and self-service capabilities. What they needed to solve this problem was a program that can handle all of their logistics processes, customer service, and financial reporting, and enhance in parallel time the experience of self-service users while browsing for metrics.

The best fit for their needs was exactly Dundas BI, due to its unique set of capabilities and seamless integrations. They chose it also because of its modern and user-friendly interface, great in-memory capabilities, fast turnaround times from ideas to finished dashboards, dedicated support, and affordability. Dundas BI helped solve some of their biggest problems, including the introduction of a single BI environment used by thousands of people working on 35 different projects. A unique benefit, as pointed out by visual analyst Christoph Malassa, was answering the question of why supply rates were different in different regions, and how each of the patterns affected the organization. Thanks to such data, Siemens is now saving 25% scrap costs and has reduced cycle times by 12%.

What is unique about Dundas BI?

  1. Custom scripts for user interactivity. Process designers recommend Dundas BI because of its easy navigation and built-in filtering, as they are allowed to build custom interactions with hover-over click actions, forward/back actions, buttons, etc. Each attribute or property on a Dundas dashboard can be modified by the user, and he can create his own templates for consistent styling.
  2. Data correction. A distinctive aspect of Dundas’ storytelling is that it corrects data mistakes and wrong estimations. It will follow the latest status of your business to add more accurate numbers, values, and patterns so that there is no need to check work twice.
  3. Large screen automated displays. With Dundas BI, you will be able to configure the duration of dashboard views, the same as with PowerPoint. All slideshows are directly connected to the live view, which means viewers can comment and ask questions during the presentation.
  4. Recommendations & Data brushing. Dundas’ smart engine provides viewers with suggestions on related visualizations, and also ‘brushes’ data that has already been presented in a different visualization. This way, users know whether the data they’re looking at is relevant to the action they’re trying to perform.
  5. Uncovering of hidden relationships. Dundas BI uses special relationship diagrams to showcase explicit connections between different data points. The function is supported with Sankey diagrams to exhibit the distribution/loss of values in different flows.
  6. Flexible mobile platform. Dundas BI is built on the latest HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS standards, and thus displays and acts perfectly on all mobile devices. Efforts were made to provide the best possible mobile experience, which means that the user can scale and resize screen sizes up to his own preferences.

13. Birst

Birst dashboard example

Cloud-deployed BI software Birst is designed to cater to the needs of end-user data visualization and querying and production-based BI. This is accomplished through its data management architecture. The solution can be used by anyone within a company, from IT to executive management people. It has numerous third-party applications and supports mobile devices.

Birst is capable of collecting raw data and automatically creates a data warehouse, making them ready for analysis. Data can be accessed using visual analytics and reporting tools, enabling users to get quick and comprehensive answers to their queries. The product is highly-dependable and provides users with excellent support if ever issues crop up.

Case Study

One testament to the product’s excellence is medical systems company Vital’s experience with its use. The number-one provider of medical visualization technology for clinicians has a fairly complex production line, which makes it very difficult for the team to manage their sales pipeline, and to make accurate forecasts. To do so, they needed a powerful sales analytics product that manages orders and tracks opportunities, making sure that no important indicator is left undocumented.

In the attempt to find that product, Vital investigated and tried several applications, but concluded Birst was the only complete BI stack that doesn’t require additional IT resources (and will thus, support their growth without any financial risk!). Thanks to its data collection powers and integration with Salesforce and NetSuite, Birst is estimated to cut Vital’s employee productivity costs by more than 50% each year and praised for using a special Automated Data Refinement & Adaptive User Experience technology to save the time that was otherwise invested in combining and distributing data. The system is actively used by the sales department, where it helps recommend products and services and predict duration from opportunity to cash.

What is unique about Birst?

  1. Automated data refinement. Birst collects, combines, and refines data rapidly to the attention of non-technical users, thanks to its automated data refinement, live access, and query federation technology. Legacy or discovery systems, on the contrary, have to do so with complex manual processes or extract data scripts from third-party tools.
  2. Global views. Birst enriches local data with networking, end-user, and quality global views, which means you won’t have to blend data via siloed sandboxes and extracts.
  3. Networked BI architecture. Birst links automatically all of your independent virtual spaces to ensure analytical consistency wherever in the company’s value chain that data later appears. This is also not the case with traditional legacy systems, as they either ensure consistency with a single instance or require you to schedule multiple checks for the same model.
  4. Adaptive Open Client interface. Birst’s adaptive UX supports different analytic styles, including basic dashboards, reporting, mobile discovery, visual discovery with Excel, and many more.
  5. Always-On virtual spaces. This feature allows you to see and track value, virtual spaces, instant movements and upgrades of data accounting at the same time all system downtimes and manual changes.

14. datapine

datapine dashboard example

A business intelligence and data visualization solution, datapine connects all your data sources in a unified location and creates detailed visualizations to help businesses comprehend their data better. Its data integration capability makes it effortless for users to connect and analyze information across various sources, including CRM, ERP, various documents, and others. Even non-tech savvy users can fully take advantage of the software’s capabilities without experiencing a steep learning curve due to its drag-and-drop interface and a large selection of visual charts.

datapine comes equipped with modern data dashboards that help provide a clear picture of your goals, progress, and other information that can help you drive growth to your business. Thanks to its accessibility, all users can access pertinent information, display modern data dashboards, and create easily digestible data visualizations.

What is unique about datapine?

  1. Centralized data management. datapine connects all data sources and stores them in a single location, making it easy for users to manage and access important information.
  2. Data visualization. You can create detailed visualizations on specific data without asking for the assistance of the IT department. It has a large selection of charts to choose from, allowing you to generate beautiful visualizations that are easy to digest and act upon.
  3. Data dashboards. Create professional dashboards that display layers of data you need to understand your current business standing and goals.

15. BDB

BDB is an advanced end-to-end AI and analytics solution that acquires and connects data from various sources into one’s business solution. It acts as a one-stop solution for acquiring insights from structured, unstructured, or streamed data without resorting to expensive tools. Thanks to its ease of use, complete with a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface and text or voice-based search functionality to find relevant data, those with minimal technical expertise can easily take advantage of the platform’s full capabilities.

The platform provides scalability thanks to its REST API, which allows for seamless integration with all any business system, and offers mobility as it is deployable in the cloud or on-premise. With its access control for defining user roles and permissions,  you can maintain utmost security while providing users with the right set of tools to effectively analyze data.

What is unique about BDB?

  1. User-friendly self-service BI. Its easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality enables users to easily make their own dashboards and reports.
  2. Conversational analytics. Dashboards and reports can be generated or found by inputting simple text or using its voice-based search capability.
  3. Data Transformation Workspace. BDB makes it effortless for users to load and transform their data. It has tools such as data preparation and wrangling, data merging, data mining, and profiling, to name a few. Gaining quality insights is also made easy thanks to its data connectors.

So there you have it, our 15 best business intelligence tools for small and big businesses. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses but one is bound to suit your requirements.

Category: B2B News, Featured Articles

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