Tibcosoftware

TIBCO Spotfire Review
The ability to handle large volumes of data through its in-memory OLAP is valuable.


Valuable Features

It's not specific, but in general, the product's ability to handle large volumes of data through its in-memory OLAP is valuable, as well as its data visualization capabilities.

For most organizations which are generally not so tech-savvy, people usually rely on Excel to do their data analytics. But once the size of data hits a certain level, it becomes very inefficient to manage your Excel files. Once you are at this stage, you could either get a developer to come up with a solution (most likely an enterprise tool or some sort of OLAP database solution), or you could get a stand-alone version of Spotfire.

If you have someone in your team with a little bit of database development skill, learning to use Spotfire is not too difficult and you could save time and money on implementing a full-blown solution by IT consultants.

Improvements to My Organization

Our old executive reports were heavily text-based. People responsible for generating reports would spend a lot of time writing a report that nobody read. Once we implemented Spotfire, the reports have become data-driven and visually appealing.

We carefully designed the analytic report in a way that condenses text-based information into visual information that is easy to digest. It is true that you could also achieve the same outcome with Excel or other MS Office tools, but with Spotfire's data visualization capabilities, the job is much easier.

Room for Improvement

I'm not a technical expert, but based on my experience from the user/designer point of view, the level of visual customization (e.g., how graphical objects are displayed) needs more flexibility.

Learning to use the scripting language (Python) proved a challenge for me personally due to lack of good documentation, and the scripting editor is not so user-friendly. If you want greater flexibility and more powerful features than what's offered, you may need to hire a Spotfire developer to do the coding.

Use of Solution

I have used the solution for around two to three years.

Stability Issues

Generally speaking, the software is quite stable (both the application and back-end server). However, we did experience application crashes from time to time when memory usage is heavy, but we aren't technical experts, so we could not identify exactly when/why it crashed.

Scalability Issues

In terms of its ability to handle a big volume of data, it's highly scalable. But in my organization in which Spotfire was used mainly as a reporting tool, we found it a bit challenging to scale up our report configuration. For example, with MS Access, you create a master layout which can be used for several projects or customers. In Spotfire, we ended up having to create separate master layouts for every project. When there was a request to modify the report layout, it was a tedious task.

Customer Service and Technical Support

I haven't had enough experience dealing with technical support to answer this question.

Previous Solutions

We used a combination of out-of-the-box software solutions and Excel/Access before we added Spotfire to make our lives a bit easier. We did not switch completely from existing tools to Spotfire. It's more about adding Spotfire in order to enhance our existing system.

Initial Setup

Our requirements were simple (only at the department level in a large organization). So the initial setup of the Spotfire server was straightforward and was done within a few days. The main issue was obtaining security credentials from the IT department to access database servers we need to generate reports.

A less-straightforward step is when we needed to design our analytical reports that meet the requirements of our executives. Here, it is nothing to do with Spotfire or any other software but more about good communication with the stakeholders.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

My advice based on personal experience would be to start small and scale up when you're certain that Spotfire is the right tool for you. In our organization, we started with a couple of stand-alone licenses for one year. Only after that, we decided to implement a server-based license to expand our user base for the whole department.

Other Solutions Considered

We tried Spotfire and liked it, so we did not have the need to evaluate other options. However, other well-known (perhaps more popular) options include Tableau and QlikView. You can refer to the Gartner's Magic Quadrant report on BI tools.

Other Advice

In addition to what I have written regarding pricing and licensing, I suggest that having an in-house power user in your organization - who understands both the tool and your needs - is highly critical.

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

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