Sisense Review

We Considered Cognos, Hyperion, QlikView and BO, but Chose SiSense for Usability, Performance and Low TCO


My team needs to provide information and analysis about numerous aspects of the company’s activity to a wide range of business functions across the company. Examples include detailed Web behaviour analytics, Google Adword spend tracking, email marketing activity tracking, booking pattern analysis for each type of booking and Financial P&L. We require dashboards and reports that include interactive drill-down features so that each user can quickly find information and discover useful insights without requiring the involvement of IT or external consultants.

Before implementing Prism, we were using Excel and an OLAP cube, but this approach didn’t provide an effective way to build nice dashboards or deliver an easy drill-down interface. Also, IT involvement was required to modify the cube every time a new view was required. I have lots of prior BI experience with tools such as Cognos, Hyperion and Business Objects, but I felt that these tools were too expensive and resource-intensive for our needs.

I downloaded and installed a number of modern BI tools in order to evaluate them for our purposes. It didn’t take me long to discover that Prism was much easier to use than the other tools. It was easy to get all my data into Prism and I was able to get a first dashboard up and running without reading any instructions at all, just drag and drop. The other tools required much more time, effort and had a steep learning curve. For example, Qlikview’s 1000-page manual scared me off, plus it was clear that implementing it would have required bringing in a consultant and spending more time and resources than we wanted.

We now use Prism to deliver interactive reports and dashboards across alpharooms.com’s various functional units. We run a number of Elasticube datastores, currently handling about tens of millions of rows, until recently on one standard Windows 7 machine with 8GB of RAM. We have recently replaced our Reporting Server with a new server running Windows Server 2012 with 32GB of RAM, with SSD drives and have now moved our main Elasticubes over to this new server on one of the SSD drives. This was not due to any performance issues with Prism, it was just to centralise all business critical reporting.

We use Prism to analyse bookings activity from a number of different angles. One of the most valuable ways we’re using Prism is to discover opportunities for directly approaching hotels for which we have enough bookings – so that we can avoid the extra cost of going through wholesalers. We now have efficient reporting around each type of booking (hotel, flight, car, etc.) in a very easy, fast, do-it-yourself environment.

Other ways we use the software include analysing website usage patterns, optimizing email marketing campaign performance, optimizing purchasing strategies, tracking and analysing our multi-million pound Google Adword spend, tracking call centre performance and conversions by rep and running reports on all customer activity by search keywords, travel destination, common packages and so forth. We also use Prism to analyse our website content to identify missing or incomplete destinations so that the content team can fix them.

I'd say that the greatest benefits of SiSense Prism are usability, rapid time to insight, no need to read a manual or learn a lot, no requirement for outside consulting, low-IT overhead, very fast processing speed and low total cost of ownership.

I love the data hierarchies in Prism – it is extremely easy and flexible to drag and drop any fields you want without worrying about indexes or joins. One of the DBA’s, an expert in Microsoft BI tools and reporting services asked me why we needed a separate tool when we had the Microsoft stuff. I told him about a particular report that I needed and asked him how long it would take to create that with Microsoft’s tools. He said 4-5 days. I told him that I completed it with SiSense in less than two hours.

Disclosure: IT Central Station has made contact with the reviewer to validate that the person is a real user. The information in the posting is based upon a vendor-supplied case study, but the reviewer has confirmed the content's accuracy.
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9 Comments
Tech Support Staff at a tech company with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

There are indeed many reasons Prism is a viable option for a business looking for a suitable BI tool that will meet its needs. Unlike many other popular BI tools available in the market, this product is efficient and it takes less time for most tasks to be completed. Moreover, the product is very easy to use and thus persons without know-how in using the product does not have to read through pages and pages of manuals. This is realized through its 'drag and drop' feature; it is the flexible data hierarchies that render Prism an easy to use BI tool. Last but not least, Prism's high performance and affordability cannot be overlooked. However, the trick lies in finding a product that works for the business since one man's meat can actually be another man's poison due to distinct needs and general structure of the company.

24 November 13
kapilmalik1983ConsultantTOP REVIEWER

Nice article. I would say that drag and drop feature of Prism is quite useful which makes the interface very user friendly even for those users who want implement as a new. Most of the BI tools doesn't have this functionality.

Could you please share your operating system architecture you installed it on? I am just curious to know whether I can make it ready on open source OS like Centos or do I need to buy Microsoft windows license as well ?

24 November 13
BI Expert at a energy/utilities company with 501-1,000 employeesVendorTOP REVIEWER

Lee- I don't have any experience with Prism yet, but i'm wondering about the different options for connectivity and distribution methods that can be used? The interface sounds great - have you found any limitations that the drag and drop GUI present? How does it compare to MS's BI stack? Thanks for the helpful article - i'll be downloading the trial version shortly!

25 November 13
Lee EckersleyReal UserTOP REVIEWERTOP 10

Sorry for delay in responding kapilmalik1983 and jfuhrman.

kapilmalik1983 - We have only installed the software on Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012, I believe you need a Windows 64 bit operating system. I can't comment on Centos, as I have never used that OS, Prism offer a free download trial version, so you could always just try and see if it will install.

jfuhrman - Regarding connectivity, you can connect to a range of database servers, like SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL etc, you can also connect to tables in Access, Excel Files and CSV files, and also Web based data for example Salesforce, Google Analytics, Google Spreadsheets, there is a good range of connectors, on these you can then connect the data from these multiple sources in the Elasticube Manager if there is a relationship between the data sets.
With regards to distribution, once you created your dashboard in the BI Studio, users can access that dashboard via the Prism Viewer(requires software to be installed), opening up a dashboard is the equivalent of opening any file on your computer like an Excel file, or a word document, through this the dashboards have a great range of functionality, for example if you have a graph with a date range, you can highlight part of a graph and that acts as a filter for the rest of the Widgets on the dashboard to that period highlighted, it is very interactive. Through the Prism Viewer you can Export the data shown to Excel, or create a pdf of the dashboard you are seeing on the screen. As the file is just like the equivalent of an Excel file, you can email your dashboard to a colleague with the software and share it that way. As well as the Prism Viewer, you can set up Prism Web, it does this for you in the install, you may have to tweek your IIS settings slightly afterwards but the SiSense support team guide you through this, when you have Prism Web installed I highly recommend using the Active Directory Settings, this means that it connects up with your directory of users, so the process is as follows once you have it all set up like we have, you can do the following as an example:
Create a new View of data in SQL Server for example for a particular reporting need.
Go into the Elasticube Manger, click New and give your Elasticube a name, connect to SQL Server, using Server Name, Username and Password, find your view and click on the tick box and click Ok (or something like that, don't have it in front of me at the moment)
Click build Elasticube, it then builds the Elasticube.
Go into BI Studio and click connect to new elasticube, and select your Elasticube from the dropdown.
Create a quick dashboard, with some filters, a pivot, a graph, maybe add some Hierarchies all through drag and drop.
Click on Publish.
Click on Publish and View.
This creates and opens your new created dashboard in your browser.
Click Share, type the names of the people in the business you want to share the dashboard with they will then get an email to let them know they have had a dashboard shared with them, they click on the link and they can see your dashboard through their web browser.
If the View is connected to a live database where that view changes every hour, then you can go back into the Elasticube Manager and set-up a Build Schedule, say hourly, if you have set that up, the dashboard on the web will automatically update every hour.

The above steps can be accomplished in about 15 minutes, maybe less, that's why I love this product. This is just a brief example, we have some Elasticubes with Several tables, 20GB of data+, with Dashboards that have 15 tabs each with different views of data from the same Elasticube, but we also have one's like the above that may only have a few MB of data as I just need to be able to share some top level figures for something with a group of people.

With regards to limitations, I have not found a problem that I have not been able to find a workaround for, examples as follows:
Problem: I only want our overseas direct Hotel contracting team to be able to see their Sales data for their Region.
Solution: Elasticubes are that quick to build, so filter the data on the SQL side using a View and create a separate Elasticube for each region. Have one generic dashboard and save it, and copy it multiple times and change the Elasticube data sources for each dashboard to connect to the right Region.

Problem: I want to update the dashboard on a different schedule to what the Elasticube Manager Build Schedule allows.
Solution: We use the SQL Server Agent Job Schedue to run an XP_cmdshell, that opens a batch file that uses Prism Shell to fire off the refresh of the Elasticube.

Re comparison to MS's BI Stack, we still use SSAS to utilise a particular financial data set in Excel, as Finance do like their spreadsheets, as per last paragraph of original post, I had not used SSRS so can't really comment, but if it is anything like the IBM Cognos Report Studio, it is just easier to use.

Hope the above helps you and others reading this, understand more about how it actually works.

29 November 13
Head of Data Center at a university with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

Hi Lee Eckersley,

Thanks for the great article. I can tell that you really have a lot of experience with this product. I'm no a BI analyst, but I'm in-charge of installation and initial configuration of servers being used for BI analysis. So far, we have been using Pentaho as our BI tool when we migrated data from our legacy database to our new Oracle Peoplesoft Campus Solution system. We also have access to Oracle's BI suite as part of our acquisition.

My questions though revolve around installation and configuration of Prism. From my experience with Pentaho and Oracle, it requires a fairly powerful machine so that you can effectively use the tool. Have you tried to install this on say, a laptop? I'm asking this question because our head BI analyst would like to have a "mobile system", so that he can do data analysis on the go.

05 January 14
Lee EckersleyReal UserTOP REVIEWERTOP 10

Hi Francis,
I have the complete program installed on my laptop, and it works great, I have an Intel(R) Core i5 2.67 GHz with 4GB of ram and a 64 bit Operating system so nothing special.
We have some of our overseas contracting staff who also have the complete installation on their laptops so that when in the office they can build the cubes required pulling the data off the network servers down on to their laptop hard drive, then they have a kind of cached version for when they fly out and meet Hotel chains etc without having to VPN on to the network or even be connected to the internet.
Hope that helps, if you need any further explanation, let me know.
Cheers
Lee

05 January 14
kapilmalik1983ConsultantTOP REVIEWER

@Lee Eckersley - Thanks, however, I am not able to locate trial version of Prism for linux operating systems. If you get any idea about installation packagee for any open source OS, please share.

15 January 14
Head of Data Center at a university with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

Hi Lee Eckersley,

Thank you very much on the reply. It's good to know that you guys are doing this on laptops with just the modest of specs. Being on the go is more of the trend now, and having a BI tool in your laptop without going through VPN to your office is just a great way to be productive.

Kind Regards,

Francis

21 January 14
Senior Development Manager - Innovation - ERP Protheus with 1,001-5,000 employeesReal User

Did you try Gooddata? It's a great solution for cloud BI.

05 May 14
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