TIBCO Spotfire Review

Even though advanced statistical approaches underlie capacity planning analysis, emphasis on the visuals make it easy to communicate out to managers without the stats background.


Valuable Features

Three main features:

  • Ability to work with many different data sources
  • Easy for beginners
  • Ability to be extended with R functions

This combination of features means it's relatively easy to take business users with little analytics background and scale them up to expert-level techniques.

Improvements to My Organization

One of my teams uses this for capacity planning. Fairly advanced statistical approaches underlie the analysis, but because Spotfire emphasizes visual approaches, it's easy to communicate out to managers without the stats background.

Room for Improvement

Setting up data sources: There's a lot of flexibility, but it's easy for users to pick a poor approach and needlessly complicate their sources.

I think most people coming to a tool like Spotfire will be coming from an Excel background. In a standard Excel scenario, you'll have a spreadsheet full of data, and all the manipulation you do on your data will take place within the spreadsheet.

However, Spotfire is built to pull data from sources as needed; basically, with bunches of SQL queries. If a user only knows the standard Excel way, they might try to write one master query to pull all the data in Spotfire, and then do all their manipulation there. In these "Big Data" times, that can result in degraded performance due to memory/processing demands. A better way to use Spotfire is to leverage your database - it can pivot, it can summarize - and using that pre-filtered result joined with subqueries can let Spotfire work with much leaner, faster data.

TIBCO offers training that covers this, and other options as well, but unless the user happens to take that class, or has enough of a database background to already know some of these techniques, they're likely to try the less efficient way, and Spotfire will happily let them go that direction. I would like to see, even without changing the functionality, just adding nudges, maybe more visibility of their extensive help pages, to encourage users to at least consider different ways of pulling data.

Use of Solution

I have used it for two years.

Deployment Issues

I had a deployment issue. There's a component to support automated tasks. Even with TIBCO support, I never was able to get that component to work the way I expected.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Technical support and customer service is 5/10. For technical questions, their support team is responsive and thorough, but their account managers tend to be nonresponsive, and have high turnover.

Previous Solutions

My organization had already chosen this solution before my involvement.

Initial Setup

I didn't see the initial setup, but from administering and upgrading it, it seems a more complicated process than necessary.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

TIBCO provides multiple licensing options, but this is an area where their competition is becoming more attractive.

Other Solutions Considered

In the process of learning the tool, I did review demos of competing products. The ability to extend Spotfire with R and Python is important to me, and Spotfire was one of the first visual analytics tools to provide that. The competition is narrowing the gap, however.

Other Advice

When evaluating TIBCO Spotfire versus other vendors, or even other Spotfire offerings (e.g., Spotfire Cloud), it's very important to understand what your organization's needs are. Not every tool supports every data source, or visualization technique, and some tools might be more or less appropriate, based on the balance of analysis creators vs analysis consumers.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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