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Birst Review
We deploy dashboards using the integrated data warehousing and visualization abilities. Setup is complex.

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Valuable Features

1) Connection to external sources : Birst uses several connection methods to take data in from your data sources and stages it into its own “Data Mart” if you will.

2) Staging and Warehousing: This stages data from several sources makes Birst a fairly robust data warehouse solution. A lot of vendors can do that well and so does Birst.

3) Modeling: Birst utilizes a start schema for dimensional modeling of the data that is staged.

4) Visualization: In most vendors Data warehousing and then data modeling were two separate functionalities. The idea was to be able to sell visualization tools as a separate suite to users who already had an in-house warehouse.

However, recently, several vendors have started combining the warehousing and visualization abilities into one stop shop. For example, for a long time, Tableau was and probably is the leading provider of visualizer tools but warehousing data through tableau is much more cumbersome and resource intensive. Birst, Qlikview etc. have not been able to provide the exact beautification and features in the visualizer for self-service dashboards as Tableau but they have managed to seamlessly allow data visualization and dashboard development from the warehouse on the go.

This goes into the technical inter-operability of the warehouse with visualization, data understandability, query performance and render time.


Improvements to My Organization

The objective of using Birst-mediated dashboards is to deliver interactive and online information to our clients in a client-specific and data-distributed format. We are yet to realize the real return on the investment given the need to alter the underlying intention of the product’s use.

Room for Improvement

From a visualization perspective, this tool claims to make several advances that are indeed interesting to a large proportion of the user base. However, it needs to prioritize several extremely fundamental features associated with charting, formatting and layout control.

Some basic features that Birst needs to improve are:

  • Line graph between two measures (comparing one measure to another without summing them) – Basic scatter plot sums the measure up automatically.
  • Spark lines need to be made available.
  • Editing trend lines and gridlines in graphs – An option for customizing label location, label background under formatting chart elements such as gridlines and labels, custom label backgrounds and transparency, etc.
  • An option to customize the alignment of headings in any table as left, right, center, top, middle and bottom. Also there is need to add label customization in a table that is not associated to any measure but just plain text, instead of having to change it on the dashboard as a text input, which also does not re-size in the same ratio as the other components do when the screen size is modified.
  • Conditional filter – An additional option to use a filter “where variable-xyz in (a,b,c,d,)” type of statement for filtering attributes. This is helpful when the list of attributes is long and can be used instead of manually select each box.
  • Conditional display of KPI – For example, if the date range is x, then display KPI A; if the date range is y, then display KPI B.
  • Conditional indicators – A solution to give conditions to KPI indicators rather than to have a measure to check against a predefined number.
  • Unnecessary padding spaces around graphs, KPIs, tables – An option to be able to define the space and padding.
  • An option to customize a measure within a given timeline, embedded in the measure itself. There should be way to define that timeline dependent on a user-selected time in dashboard filters. Currently, there is no ability to display several measures on different time scales in the same table. For example, measure 1, 2 and 3 current, over last quarter and over last year.

Use of Solution

I have been using it for three years

Stability Issues

I have encountered several workspace migration errors that alter internal (backend) report/dashboard address associations.

Scalability Issues

Some minor scalability issues include:

  • Copy over time
  • Data connectivity
  • Render time

Customer Service and Technical Support

I would give technical support a 6.5/10 rating.

Previous Solutions

Our organization did not use any other solution. We decided to select Birst as our vendor as an initial choice.

Initial Setup

The setup was complex in terms of:

  • Availability of professional services
  • Definition of custom requirements and initial set-up of a data model

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

I would recommend others about the following:

  • Vet the product based on existing feature set.
  • Roadmap delays may impact urgent requirements therefore plan the selection choice accordingly.
  • Gain sharing model of pricing should be better if there is the room for negotiation wherein the product can be received at the base cost and then a payout based on promised service level achievements.

Other Solutions Considered

Birst was a choice, made prior to me joining the company. Even though I
am not the right person to comment on this, in my understanding Tableau, Crystal
and others were also being considered.

Other Advice

I would suggest the below:

  • Clarity on end goals
  • User perspective and utilization
  • Medium of delivery to the user
  • Availability of internal/resident admin(s) for Birst networking and data modeling
  • Availability of Birst professional services
  • Thorough vetting of existing feature set v/s critical business needs
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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