Advice From The Community

Read answers to top Business Intelligence (BI) Tools questions. 425,773 professionals have gotten help from our community of experts.
Menachem D Pritzker
Which BI tools are the best out of the box for basic calculations that all SaaS businesses need to track to survive? Are some tools better for startups vs enterprise?
author avatarMahalingamShanmugam
Real User

Looker, Domo, Sisense, Tableau, and Power BI are tools are good for enterprise. If you are looking for SMB (Small Medium Business), where you have 5-10 users who use BI for portfolio, then you should look at small Startup (, ToughtSpot etc.) for a per-user license, which is comparatively low in the market.

author avatarDavid Hudgins
Real User

This is a common question for many businesses that have gone down the SaaS route. SaaS Applications provide a critical application in the cloud based on a subscription model, which is great for companies looking to add software or shift capital expenses to operational expenses. However, the problem is that most of these applications are getting your data out of the SaaS and into a reporting data warehouse or another third party application.

The most common means of accessing your data is normally via an ODBC/OLE connection that is purchased at an additional monthly cost from the SaaS. This is normally a read-only connection but does provide a limited degree of access to your data. Don’t expect the SaaS Company to provide you with ER diagrams or table structures, nor should you assume the data model or schemas will follow any of the best practices or common design methods. They won’t. You must remember that SaaS-based applications try to fit everyone’s needs into a standardized set of tables. So expect odd columns and table joins throughout the application.

Once you figure out where your data is, you need to decide if you're just going to query the data from the SaaS database when the reports are run or if you're going to extract your data into a data warehouse nightly and then run your reports. This also means you now have to have a database server either on-premise or in the cloud.

I prefer the latter of the two options however it does introduce a gap in the data since the extracted data won’t be real-time. The benefit is that you can query the data as often as you want without impacting the live application. The most common tools normally used for this are MS SSIS and SAP Data Services. Both applications perform similar functions however there are many other ETL tools on the market.

Once you have the data extracted, your reporting software can run it reports. Gartner provides in-depth studies on the various applications however it really comes down to the following tools:
Microsoft Power BI
SAP Business Intelligence

These are the top reporting applications. Each has their pros and cons when compared however each can do basically the same thing as the others.

Here’s what makes them stand out from each other:

Microsoft Power Bi - Easy for end-users to create Adhoc reports from almost any dataset out there.
SAP Business Intelligence- Global standard for reporting, established tools and community
Qlikview/Qliksense- Top-rated dashboard and visualization tool.

author avatarJayesh Bohara (Capgemini)

Oracle EPM is more robust and provides comprehensive coverage for calculating KPIs. The products follow a global standardized pattern which has ease of adoption and implementation.

author avatarAgus Kurdiyanto (Ericsson)
Real User

Power BI, Tableau, and Qlik have the capability to do calculations for KPIs, are easy to create visualizations, and also have the capability to get the source from any data sources. Qlik and Tableau have more advantage than Power BI. Qlik and Power BI provide the desktop for personal use. Tableau only provides trials. For the Enterprise version, it has a feature to share and collaborate with the team. Now, only Tableau can deploy the tools on Linux environments (Qlik and Power BI only for windows).

author avatarChunqiangGong
Real User

I think Qlik is strong at data processing and has a high performance within a large scale of data with its unique in-memory database.

author avatarAngus Lou
Real User

I have been doing data science by Python, now looking for a tools that can easily scale up the projects at low cost. KNIME seems to be a good one so I had tried it for a few months, but find difficult to copy my concepts in Python to KNIME.

Take 07_Customer_prediction_with_H2O as an example, I can code it in Python and well understand the concepts and codes, but when it comes to "nodes" in KNIME, I can't easily understand the relationship between nodes. I copied the sample process and modify a bit according to my data and understand the propose and concept, but I still don't understand why "Parameter Optimization Loop Start --> H2O Cross Validation Loop Start --> ......" in the Random Forest Metanode for instance, now I just copy to make it work but don't understand what reasons to put the nodes in that way.

Having said that I like the concept to make data science in nodes, as I am quite experience in playing around with Node-Red.

author avatarAlfredo Vidal Davalos Mora

Domo or Pentaho and the differences between the startup version and enterprise version are the tools that you can use to pull out or get in the data and it is important to have the flexibility to get the information in different ways.

Ariel Lindenfeld
Let the community know what you think. Share your opinions now!
author avatarExecutive Vice President at a tech vendor with 51-200 employees

Total cost of ownership is often overlooked during BI product selection. Cheap products do not equal cheap ownership experiences, whether it is missing functionality which must be provided by additional products, poor integration of modules which causes duplication of effort, weak support from the vendor, high cost of maintenance or constant changes to the product portfolio.

The key factors to consider are:

Is this product right for the intended user-base? It should not be necessary to purchase one product for IT, one for business analysts and one for 'end-users'. There are considerable cost savings associated with using a single platform (not a single vendor with many products they have built or bought).

Does the product have the depth of functionality needed, and foreseeably anticipated?
Is that functionality accessible? Can an expert easily access complex, deep functionality, without the occasional or new user being overwhelmed by the interface?

Can it reach all the necessary data sources? Both inside and outside the corporation.

How fast is the user experience, both in developing reports and dashboards and in retrieving the data? Speed of both allows iterative learning and development by new and occasional users, while ensuring high productivity for expert users.

Does it work with our real world data? Too often evaluation of products still relies on superficial test on restricted volumes of data, or the lower complexity data as "it would take too long to build a fully representative testing environment" - big mistake. Identify the product(s) you believe are suitable and then bear the cost of proving they can deliver in your own use case. Too often a poor acquisition is followed by increasing spend to "make it work", when money spent earlier on selecting and proving the right tool would lead to much lower overall cost of ownership and more importantly early success and hence ROI.

Does the company have a history of good backward compatibility? You will build a vast amount of intellectual property with a BI tool. You will become dependent on the insight it provides your organization. So investigate how well you chosen product has allowed users to migrate that IP forward through new revisions of their products. Rewriting IP is a good opportunity to clean it up and start over, but it's a massive unnecessary expense if you have built what you need and it is the vendor forcing you to rewrite your work.

author avatarGestor de Capacidad at a logistics company with 10,001+ employees
Real User

It is really difficult to choose the right one, in my experience, the most important thing is not the tool that we choose. The most important thing is to design the correct scope, what we need to give us the tool based on two factors, the data we want to obtain and for whom that data will be. If a good approach is made, the chosen one will be the correct one.

author avatarMark Selinger (Exago Inc.)

Use case! What and or for whom are you trying to provide reporting capabilities to and from what applications and data sources. What are the skill levels of these users - basic business users or analysts. Ease of use should be top of the list as well as a quality customer support experience.

There are many choices today around BI solutions (embedded, self-service, etc.) and finding the right one depends upon answering these questions.

author avatarAimee White
Real User

Easy to use, performs well, cost, and not going to send me insane integrating it with other systems. Everything else is gravy.

author avatarDirector of BI / Solution Architect at a tech vendor with 51-200 employees
Real User

Key Evaluation Points for BI Tools:
1) Ease of use – Self-service analytics and data exploration, End-user report consumption and Time to develop new reports
2) User Interface and Visualization effectiveness – If it does not look good business will not use it
3) Styles of BI Supported – Scorecards Dashboards, Operational Reports, OLAP Reporting, Predictive Analysis, Notification and Alerting
4) License/TCO – Open Source vs Enterprise Software – support and maintenance structure – development and administration costs, environment deployment constraints, admin tools
5) Performance and data scalability – Depends on the business requirements and data volume
6) Data source connectivity – Depends on the source systems that need to be integrated and backend data integration
7) Security – Authentication, Authorization, Application, Object and Data level security
8) Extensibility and API/SDK – If integration with external applications is required
9) Feature Set/Product Roadmap – scope of product features, speed of platform innovation

author avatarUser

Most folks tend to think of UI and the flashy, sexy stuff. However, experience has proven that adopting a platform approach is key to success - a Platform that can access any data source and provide capabilities for internal and external users from the same platform, and not merely serve as a data visualization tool. The ability to do disconnected analytics cannot be discounted; Further having a platform that does NOT mandate creating a data warehouse as a prerequisite; i.e. It shoild have the ability to access operational data sources with minimal impact to the back-end systems.

author avatarManager, Business Intelligence at a consumer goods company with 1,001-5,000 employees

I believe you have to match product capabilities to company BI strategy first and then consider infrastructure standards and internal competencies. if you do these things you should get value. The type of BI solution is important but don't be fooled by the "it's all about data visualization or big data". it is not in most organizations...

author avatarAlberto Guisande
Real User

"Time to insight" is very important for me. Since the business questions arise non stop and need fast responses, going from raw data to answer a business question in the lesser time possible, with the easiest way of doing that, could be a huge differential in selecting a tool (set of tools).

Pierre-Paul Haineault
I am researching BI tools in the Oracle world. Which would you recommend and why? Thanks! I appreciate the help. Pierre-Paul
author avatarTs Nurul Haszeli
Real User

That is no right answer for this. It actually depends on the needs, user capability, available infra and tools, and management's requirement. You can use Pentaho, Power BI or Superset if you are looking for free or cheap solutions. Else, you can go with Alteryx and Tableau, Enterprise Power BI, Qlik Sense, etc.

author avatarAmitKumar2
Real User

It all depends on couple of points, example: Targeted Users, Tool Usage, Budget for the tool,infrastructure etc.. Based on these factors you can decide about the tool. More or less all tools provide similar set of features. If you wanted to stay in Oracle area, you may use Oracle BI. Personally I like Power BI /Qlik Sense. Power BI is a very powerful tool for data analysis. However, along with Attunity and integration with snowflake makes Qlik sense a very good tool to be used on cloud.Also the insights from Qlik makes this tool great.

author avatarArtour Aslanian
Real User

Currently, there are a number of different BI tools in a market that allows you to work with different data sources. In the Oracle world, there is an Oracle BI itself that is rather sophisticated and not as intuitive. Cognos requires a pretty complicated modelling and programming in order to use all its flexibility together with a limited performance when many big dimensions used together and a security that I had to rework and automate in order to avoid a time-costly administration (not talking about other inconveniences), some other products are not cost-effective and not self-serve.

I would prefer (and now switched to) a Microsoft Power BI that has a wide range of sources to connect to (if no driver issues), cost-effective, simple to use, highly graphical, cloud-ready, allows a self-serve in most cases, nice performance, continuously improving software and providing new capabilities and objects, simple security system, though based on a cloud may have some refresh delays. I would stay now with MS Power BI.

author avatarGiuseppe-Naldi
Real User

Restricting this to the Oracle products world, the standard choice would be OBIEE or the Oracle Data Visualization tool. Otherwise, there are plenty of other tools: Tableau, Qlik, PowerBI.

author avatarUser
Real User

There are now good BI tools in the Oracle world. Go for an independent BI supplier like QLIK tech.

author avatarRichard Grondin

Depend of your use case, we are currently in an evaluation process for embedded analytics, the short list is: Looker, YellowFin, Domo, Sisense

author avatarGoran Cekol

I would definitely recommend IBM Cognos. I have worked with many BI solutions that were based on IBM Cognos and Oracle.

If budget is an issue then PowerBI is a very good solution too. I have also worked with some open source big data solutions - for reporting and visualizations Apache Superset and for OLAP Apache Kylin.

author avatarRam Chitta

Power BI..Cost Effective, Self Service BI, Highly Graphical, Cloud Ready, Operational Report, Data connectivity.

Julian Chan
Hello, Our company is looking to replace our current BI Reporting infrastructure which consists of using BIRT & Pentaho's Spoon. We've found a third party plugin that allows BIRT reports to run in Pentaho's ETL and has lasted us for 7 years.  We are now trying to replace this solution with a more scalable one that fulfils our company's main requirements: - Dynamic Emailing (Users will only receive their own data from a report) - Report Scheduler: Schedule times to send reports to users in email - ETL Capabilities - Dashboards for Management We are also currently utilizing Microsoft PowerBI for Management Dashboards but we want to explore possible solutions. Thank you!
author avatarAltan Atabarut
Real User

I may suggest Alteryx + one of the three {PowerBI, Tableau, Qlik}

1) BI tools are either are really bad at ETL (a lot of coding likle DAX or R or Qliks own language) or worse they don't even have the capability

2) Dynamic E-mailing and Scheduling exists in Alteryx,

3) Plus Alteryx is a full ETL tool that can do in-database and big data without coding #codefree

4) You can scrap web pages, read all sorts of data

5) It also has visual reporting and can output to top 3 BI tools natively...

6) What is best is with alteryx you can do AI, ML too... predictive analytics

7) You can do forecasting

8) Even you can do optimization, linear programming etc.

Alteryx + PowerBI is a really economic and game changing solution
Alteryx + Tableau you can create fancy graphics
Alteryx + Qlik if you are a retailer, sales dept. etc will benefit a lot from associative queries...

author avatarAlberto Guisande
Real User

I'd explore Alteryx as the heavy loading ETL + Data Blending + Transformation + Analytics. This tool'll give you a very fast time to process the data (No matter the size of your data or Company).
For visualizations, you can explore Tableau, PowerBi, Qlik and see how they fit into your companies volumes (handling + overall costs).

author avatarConsultant

As an SAP BW consultant company, we are working with frontend SAP BO tools.
Currently, Lumira software is the one we are using for dashboards and
But, we need to know about other tools like Poder BI, Pentaho, Tableau, just in case our clients prefer this tools instead.

author avatarSin Hin Teoh
Real User

Based on your requirements, you might want to consider Qlik Sense with Qlik NPrinting.
You can download a free desktop Qlik Sense to try it out, but not Qlik Nprinting (as it needs to run in a server mode environment).

With Qlik Sense's data manager, you can do basic ETL, and definitely dynamic on-the-fly analysis & dashboard. For reporting, Qlik NPrinting allows re-using the visual objects on Qlik Sense app onto its reporting editor to create end to end generation & distribution of MS Office, HTLM and PDF reports on a scheduled basis.

Alternative to Qlik products, is Jedox which provides ETL, dashboard and report generation on Excel / MS office. Jedox is preferred over Qlik if you do not need the association capability of data modeling and analysis, as Jedox provides a hierarchical and cube based to data modeling and generation of dashboard. If you use lots of Excel for input and reporting, than Jedox can 'tied up' all those Excel workbooks into a single repository for real time update, control and manageability.

Hope the above helps.

author avatarBob Edis

There are many good BI tools available: IBM Cognos Analytics, SAP Business Objects, MS Power BI, Tabloux, ClikView, etc.

Cognos Analytics does the following requirements well:
- Dynamic Emailing (Users will only receive their own data from a report)
- Report Scheduler: Schedule times to send reports to users in email
- Dashboards for Management

However, NO Bi tool does ETL, or does it well. You need an ETL/ELT tool for that. IBM, SAP, and MS all have very good ETL tools that can support your needs. The questions should be:
- What is my TCO going to be (3-5 years)
- What skills can I leverage in-house?
- Where are the users of the reports and what's the best way for them to consume the information?
- How extensible is the technology?
- Can I use this BI and ETL tech in a SaaS mode?
- What is the upfront cost to me?
- What training is available?
- Is the tool UI zero footprint on developer's machines?
- Can reports be consumed on mobile devices or in web browsers (zero FP on consumer device)?
- Are skilled external resources (contractors) available in my area at reasonable cost?
- What support does the vendor provide?
- What data sources can the tool support?
- Will the tool run in my company's technology platform?
- Does my company's ICT dept have a tool already or if not what are its procurement rules and processes?
- Is this a shadow IT action or going through the company's ICT dept?
- If not supported internally by ICT, how will the business manage the tool?
- If the tool does not work with the company's current tech environment, what will be required for it to operate effectively?
- Can I run the tool on existing hardware or do I need additional server/s?
and many more ...

author avatarUser

There are numerous tools you could take up.

I did this once for an Insurance Co I worked for and Cognos was selected. But other products such as QLIK are now competing strongly with Cognos. Cognos was chosen then for its budget fit, and functionality for a small-medium sized firm and it ticked the most boxes for that firm's requirements. It had its own ETL tool, but it doesn't now since IBM purchased it.

To be realistic these are the guidelines

1. Know your critical requirements - which you seem to indicate here that you know
2. Know your budget!!
3. Get vendors in to build one model (even if simplified) and build schedules to test emails that deliver data (bit of a challenge that one? security and report size are the first things that come to mind) within a set time frame e.g. 4-5 days. You need to have all data sources, model and reports defined for them (wouldn't a portal be more secure and controllable, where the user downloads their report data?)
4. Measure time spent by each vendor against what was delivered. A good test of a software product is to set a tight delivery time.
5. Look at product licenses and cost basis (CPU's, Data sources etc., annual support costs, which country support is available from. The main product I currently use either has support in USA or India. We use India but it does not come online until mid-day in Australian time).
6. Look at how much of the build required SQL scripts, procedures and scripts(.bat or .sh), the less the better. The less external calls the less issues!!
7. Look at ease of reporting over sources and publishing of reports internally and externally.
8. Look for performance monitoring built and automated alerting on set thresholds.
9. Look for built-in install of ODBC software, so much easier than having to install separately to the product.
10. Look for admin console that covers LDAP connectivity and automated LDAP refresh. Performance dashboard and common data source connection control.

Anyway, could go on with more but time to stop.

Informatica and Control M can deliver what you require, but I would not recommend using these products unless you have done a proper selection process and compared all products in the BI spectrum which is very competitive ... that is one factor favoring you when starting afresh.

author avatarApplication Analyst with 1,001-5,000 employees

They are many tools available in the market, we had an experience with Pentaho also, we also have SAP Analytic cloud, but seriously the best tool for analytics is QlikView.

It can be managed in-house, as fewer license issues, and dynamic results.

author avatarMarketing at a tech vendor with 501-1,000 employees

In case you need a modern platform that integrates Dynamic Emailing, Report Scheduling, Interactive Dashboarding, ETL capabilities with ease of use and time to solution take a look to BOARD

See more Business Intelligence (BI) Tools questions »

What is Business Intelligence (BI) Tools?

Assessing business intelligence tools means first answering the question, “What is business intelligence?” Business Intelligence, usually referred to as “BI” for short, refers to software designed to analyze data with the goal of discovering useful business insights. For example, a multi-site retailer might use BI tools to reveal a previously unknown pattern of revenue changes correlated to time of day.

BI is related to data analytics and business analytics, though the connotation of BI is that it’s accessible to a bigger group of end users. As some reviewers on IT Central Station note, everyone, not just IT people or data specialists, should be able to use business intelligence software in their daily jobs. As a result, ease of use figures prominently into many user reviews on the site.

IT Central Station reviewers want to know how little training is required for a BI tool to get non-IT end users going. They want BI to be easy to implement. Users want tools to enable easy report building and administration as well.

The desire for BI tools to be easy to use flows from a trend in the technology over the least few years. BI has gone from being complex discipline reserved for highly-skilled people to being something the general knowledge worker can use every day. It’s not an either/or scenario. An organization might have some BI workloads that are reserved for data scientists, with others available to everyone. Regardless of where BI is deployed, however, continued support of end users and technical training for the support team are critical for success.

In addition to security, performance, scalability and stability, users emphasize the importance of BI’s ability to integrate with other systems. BI is not a standalone technology. It works in concert with database management and business applications. For example, BI must integrate with OLTP databases with minimal footprint. BI also needs to integrate easily with graphical tools and reporting software. A business intelligence toolset ought to integrate with visualization tools - with ability to produce visually appealing, value added dashboards, charts, and standard reports. Mobility also counts, with workers wanting to be able to do analytics on mobile form factors such as tablets.

Given that the “B” in BI stands for business, the business use case is considered highly relevant in choosing the right business intelligence toolset. BI should meet business needs. The total cost of ownership (TCO) should be well thought-out. And, any initiative to undertake BI should have clear executive management approval and a business plan for success. A thorough business needs analysis is essential.

According to IT Central Station members, the best BI tools support multiple file output options and publication options. For instance, can the tool produce interactive files (e.g. Xcelsius output) that are shared externally via .pdf, Excel, etc.? A business analytics solution should easily access multiple types of data sources, with data blending capabilities.

Find out what your peers are saying about Tableau, Microsoft, Domo and others in Business Intelligence (BI) Tools. Updated: June 2020.
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