Business Intelligence (BI) tools allow businesses to gather, process and analyse large amounts of data so that they are able to make decisions and see opportunities as well as visualise and report on key metrics for Stakeholders.
The range of Business Intelligence tools available to use is an ever-expanding list with newcomers to the market appearing every year.
With so much choice available, we wanted to gather the insights from experienced users of some of the best premium, open source & free BI tools available to help you decide on what tool or software might be best for your organisation.
1: Microsoft Power BI
“I enjoy using Microsoft Power BI in my organization as it integrates well with Google Analytics, so every time data is collected, it is easily gathered and centralised,” says Dennis Bell of Byblos Coffee.
He continues; “Being a web based BI, I can access the platform from anywhere, anytime. It is easy to use, and I can quickly connect existing spreadsheets and apps through built-in connections and APIs.”
“It’s best feature is that it has a publish to web feature that lets me add my visualizations directly to my website.”
“Power BI is essential for my sales team. It generates pages of visualizations that come from a single dataset. It also has interactive visualizations and a drag-and-drop feature to add different visualizations into reports.”
“The main drawback of using Power BI is that it cannot handle complex relationships between data. When you add more than one link between data, it is confusing for the system.”
Microsoft Power BI also partially qualifies as a free business intelligence tool as they offer a free tier on their platform.
Andrei Vasilescu, CEO at Don’t Pay Full also highly recommended Microsoft Power BI in his response: “MS Power BI software is an intuitive platform consisting of many smart data visualization and business intelligence features.”
“With the help of its intuitive visualization and efficient tables you can easily convert raw data into useful insights and statistics. These useful analytical insights play a vital role in allowing businesses to make critical decisions.”
“It can be used on both on-premise and cloud platforms in both desktop and mobile devices. Using MS Power BI greatly helps any business for these notable benefits along with other useful ones.”
Andrei also noted in his response, much like Dennis regarding Power BI’s flaws; “It sometimes stumbles to handle complex tables with multiple links and has limited options for complex configurations.”
“Tableau Public is a public and open-source business intelligence software that allows its users to produce creative and interactive charts that demonstrate the data and also allow users to use a live dashboard and even publish their findings online,” says Omair Khan, Outreach Consultant at Gigworker
“It is a great tool especially since the data can be customized for various viewing mediums such as mobile and tablets. It’s also a free tool to use for businesses.”
Michael J Hickey, Director of Analytics and Data Science Solutions at Skylytics has used both Tableau and the previously mentioned Power BI, he drew comparisons between the two in his response: “We have had great results using PowerBI and Tableau on client engagements.”
“These tools are intuitive and easy to use. One can quickly connect to a data source and produce high-quality reports and data visualizations.”
“Both have very strong online communities that can be extremely useful for questions, sharing experiences, and even sharing code and visualizations.”
3. Zoho Reports
In his second recommendation, Omair Khan recommends tableau alternative Zoho Reports; “Zoho Reports is a business intelligence tool that can connect to almost any data source and show a visual presentation of all the analytical data.”
“As it can process many data sources to assist anyone in analyzing all of their data points. It is also able to provide insights on data sources in a matter of seconds. The free version of the tool also allows for a maximum of 2 users.”
4. IBM Cognos Analytics
Brett Downes, CEO of Haro Helpers was more than happy to recommend IBM Cognos Analytics in his response; “Part of the Microsoft family, IBM Cognos Analytics is a cloud-based business intelligence software that uses AI recommendations when creating dashboards and adds geospatial capabilities to extend your data.”
5. The ELK Stack
“Our favorite open source business intelligence tool has to be the ELK Stack”, says Matt Bertram CEO of EWR Digital. “It is an open-source technology stack that was originally designed for search.”
“It provides us with a way to import all our data sources into one searchable location where we can track our client’s customer interactions.”
“The tool allows us to understand how users navigate the client’s website before making a purchase and to identify any sticking-points where users get lost or confused.”
“The main disadvantages are that installation is not always straightforward and the tool’s complexity can be daunting to start with.”
One way to elevate the difficulties of setting up and upgrading an ELK Stack can be to use a Hosted ELK service such as the one provided by Logit.io. We also have business analytics tools which can be used to achieve all of the benefits of ELK noted above.
“The most highly recommended business intelligence tool that I have come across is MicroStrategy.” says Carol.
“I prefer this tool because it gives you excellent, and actionable insights on trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement,” she continued.
“It's easy to set up, use, and input data for analysis. The insights are also presented in a manner that is simple to understand for the entire team.”
When asked to describe why MicroStrategy was a good fit for their operations, Kristian provided the following insights; “MicroStrategy is really helpful in the visualization of large data sets.”
“You can save the templates with various parameters, filters, and rules which are easy to update with a refresh in a click. You can also save the widgets and export them as excel sheets, and pdf, to extract data in shareable files.”
“Another great feature is that they provide contextual insights. You simply need to hover with your mouse, and the software will recognize the relevant data, directly on the website, applications, and devices you use.”
When asked for his favourite open source business intelligence tool, Gilad Rom, CEO of Huan recommended BIRT.
“BIRT is an open source BI dashboard & analytics platform that creates data visualizations, reports and dashboards that can be embedded into rich client and web applications.”
“It has a responsive user and interface and integrates well with database tools and web applications.”
“The reports can be created via drag and drop and tailored to our specific needs. There have been occasions where it has struggled when I was continuously changing my report. I’ve used BRIT to generate online forms, email reports and data visualizations.”
A relative newcomer to the marketplace, Knowi was recommended by Todd Ramlin, Manager at Cable Compare; “I’m recommending Knowi, a new name in the business intelligence field.”
“The platform takes a unique approach to business intelligence by focusing on three big differentiators that haven’t been a part of traditional solutions.”
“These features are data virtualization, search-based analytics, and native support for NoSQL data analytics.”
“Knowi is a little unpolished since it’s still a startup, but the cutting edge features they provide could have a big impact on how BI gets done going forward.”
Abraham Klein, CEO at Sitepod, was keen to recommend his alternatives for open source BI tools for the users that are more comfortable with data analysis; “Metabase was designed to handle crucial, but less complex questions which are a part of day-to-day analytics operations.”
“Its simplicity is its key feature, being that it’s easy to install and use. It comes with a graphical interface, and eye-appealing charts of your data which you can generate in a matter of a few clicks.”
“One drawback it has is that advanced SQL users struggle with the data interface which is not in the style of SQL, but Metabase was not designed with them in mind.”
10. Apache Zeppelin
For his second recommendation for open source business intelligence tools, Abraham gave the following reasons for using Apache Zeppelin; “Apache Zeppelin is a data analysis notebook tool compatible with a number of programming languages such as Python, R, Scala, Spark, etc.”
“It’s great for connecting to a range of data sources, and generating analyses in documented forms is super easy. I recommend this one for power users, as it requires analysts who can write code, due to it being pretty barebones.”
We hope you enjoyed this list, think we’ve missed a tool that you love to use for Business Intelligence? Then feel free to send your review to firstname.lastname@example.org