Top 4 Business Intelligence Tools

Ed Bowkett

December 04th, 2014

With the boom of data analytics, Business Intelligence has taken something of a front stage in recent years, and as a result, a number of Business Intelligence (BI) tools have appeared. This allows a business to obtain a reliable set of data, faster and easier, and to set business objectives. This will be a list of the more prominent tools and will list advantages and disadvantages of each.

Pentaho

Pentaho was founded in 2004 and offers a suite, among others, of open source BI applications under the name, Pentaho Business Analytics. It has two suites, enterprise and community. It allows easy access to data and even easier ways of visualizing this data, from a variety of different sources including Excel and Hadoop and it covers almost every platform ranging from mobile, Android and iPhone, through to Windows and even Web-based. However with the pros, there are cons, which include the Pentaho Metadata Editor in Pentaho, which is difficult to understand, and the documentation provided offers few solutions for this tool (which is a key component). Also, compared to other tools, which we will mention below, the advanced analytics in Pentaho need improving. However, given that it is open source, there is continual improvement.

Tableau

Founded in 2003, Tableau also offers a range of suites, focusing on three products: Desktop, Server, and Public. Some benefits of using Tableau over other products include ease of use and a pretty simple UI involving drag and drop tools, which allows pretty much everyone to use it. Creating a highly interactive dashboard with various sources to obtain your data from is simple and quick. To sum up, Tableau is fast. Incredibly fast! There are relatively few cons when it comes to Tableau, but some automated features you would usually expect in other suites aren’t offered for most of the processes and uses here.

Jaspersoft

As well as being another suite that is open source, Jaspersoft ships with a number of data visualization, data integration, and reporting tools. Added to the small licensing cost, Jaspersoft is justifiably one of the leaders in this area. It can be used with a variety of databases including Cassandra, CouchDB, MongoDB, Neo4j, and Riak. Other benefits include ease of installation and the functionality of the tools in Jaspersoft is better than most competitors on the market. However, the documentation has been claimed to have been lacking in helping customers dive deeper into Jaspersoft, and if you do customize it the customer service can no longer assist you if it breaks. However, given the functionality/ability to extend it, these cons seem minor.

Qlikview

Qlikview is one of the oldest Business Intelligence software tools in the market, having been around since 1993, it has multiple features, and as a result, many pros and cons that include ones that I have mentioned for previous suites. Some advantages of Qlikview are that it takes a very small amount of time to implement and it’s incredibly quick; quicker than Tableau in this regard! It also has 64-bit in-memory, which is among the best in the market. Qlikview also has good data mining tools, good features (having been in the market for a long time), and a visualization function. These aspects make it so much easier to deal with than others on the market. The learning curve is relatively small. Some cons in relation to Qlikview include that while Qlikview is easy to use, Tableau is seen as the better suite to use to analyze data in depth. Qlikview also has difficulties integrating map data, which other BI tools are better at doing.

This list is not definitive! It lays out some open source tools that companies and individuals can use to help them analyze data to prepare business performance KPIs. There are other tools that are used by businesses including Microsoft BI tools, Cognos, MicroStrategy, and Oracle Hyperion. I’ve chosen to explore some BI tools that are quick to use out of the box and are incredibly popular and expanding in usage.