If you’re trying to determine which business intelligence (BI) tool is best for your organization, it’s hard to sift through all the information yourself. Many reviews are paid for by the company offering the BI tools, so you can’t really trust them to be accurate and honest. There are also a lot of options to pick from, so it’s hard to know how they all stack up.
You don’t have to rely on your own efforts when making this decision, though; research firm Gartner publishes a yearly report (the Magic Quadrant Business Intelligence report) that showcases multiple vendors in business intelligence and analytics. Their 2022 report include 42 pages of analysis for both vendors and marketplace trends. Of the 20 vendors in the report, only three of them were rated as “Leaders”, which is the highest rating given by Gartner. Qlik’s BI tool was one of them; the other two were Power BI and Tableau.
Not everyone has time to comb through 42 pages of technical details, but Gartner’s report includes a two-dimensional matrix which shows how all the vendors compare to each other at a glance. These are the criteria used for the graph:
- Completeness of Vision – includes innovation, market understanding, and product strategy
- Ability to Execute – includes the customer experience, product capabilities, company viability, and pricing.
Only three vendors scored high enough on both criteria to be named “Leaders”; the other vendors fell into the categories of “Challengers”, “Visionaries”, and “Niche Players”. Getting a ranking other than “Leader” doesn’t mean that a BI tool is inherently lacking; it just means that it may have more specific capabilities and less general usefulness compared to the top business intelligence tools.
Key aspects to consider
- Selecting a business intelligence tool with the necessary features is important, but that shouldn’t be your only consideration. For instance, capabilities related to data analysis are usually at the top of the list, but your organization might also want to prioritize mobile functionality or multi-cloud storage.
- The total cost of ownership may include a lot more than what the BI tool costs. It could extend to set-up costs, administration costs, increased data volume, or extra hardware. The cost of the BI tool itself could be manageable, but the total cost may not be.
- Make sure that the BI tool provides both passive and active data. Passive data is what you get in reports; it comes from historical data. Active data is generated in real time, and enables your company to respond immediately to key information.
- Data integration is crucial if you want your data to become a coherent whole. By transforming, combining, and cataloging raw data as it becomes available, the BI tool can leverage data more effectively.
Capabilities in top-rated business intelligence tools
When selecting the right BI tool, you don’t need to know about every capability being offered; the main thing is to know what the best BI tools include, and see how the option you’re considering compares. Whether you’re looking for the cream of the crop, or a BI tool that only includes a few specific capabilities, you should still have high standards for whichever BI tool you’re looking at.
- Interactive dashboards help users access real-time data, even if the data sets are complicated or large. The dashboards increase engagement with data, display performance overviews, and make it easier to generate reports.
- Augmented analytics implements machine learning automation, which enhances data profiling and quality. Users can receive notifications for outliers, anomalies, and other changes in data as soon as they happen; this lets them detect correlations, variances, associations, and trends automatically.
- Data visualization goes beyond pie charts and bar graphs to accommodate complex data sets that need more specialized visualizations. This feature is supposed to help users understand data sets at a glance, so it should be sophisticated enough to portray all types of data sets.
- Full mobile functionality lets users access the BI tool no matter where they are. Mobile-optimized dashboards help everyone stay in the loop, even if they can’t be next to their main desktops.
Ease of Use
- Embedded analytics delivers data to users with real-time reports, data visualizations, interactive dashboards, and analytical capabilities, no matter which part of the business intelligence tool they’re using. This improves efficiency in workflows, and increases accessibility.
- Data literacy is enhanced with a user-friendly interface and more natural-sounding language. This lets users start interacting with the data immediately, rather than having to learn how to use the BI tool beforehand.
- A single interface ensures consistency in the user experience, whether they’re performing a deep-dive into large data sets or generating a report.
- Scalability is crucial if you want a BI tool to grow along with your organization. Restrictions like user limits might not get in the way at the beginning, but they could present a serious problem later on if your BI tool isn’t fully scalable.
- Data integration means that users don’t need custom code or additional products in order to quickly access existing data sources.
- Governed self-service preserves the integrity of data while giving access to stakeholders across the entire organization. Since permissions can be set for each user, it’s easier to manage the risk of data corruption.
- A flexible cloud strategy means your organization won’t get locked into a data storage solution that may not be suitable for the long-term. A business intelligence tool might offer a decent data storage solution for the next five years, but what about the next two decades? A multi-cloud storage solution will give you all the flexibility you could possibly need.
During your search for the right business intelligence tool, there are two questions to ask. First, which option is objectively the best? As long as you can narrow down the list of top contenders, this shouldn’t be too hard. Second, how would the best BI tools work for your organization specifically? Once you’ve answered these two questions, you should be on your way to finding the BI tool your organization needs.