10 Powerful Business Intelligence Tools for Data Analysts

January 4, 2021

Intense competition in global industries has made businesses seek out ways of managing their business processes for sustained growth. Organizations are seeking business intelligence (BI) solutions to achieve competitiveness through advanced data analysis (especially in this era of Big Data).

Business intelligence tools can enable organizations to collect, manipulate, and analyze data to create meaningful insights. With these actionable insights, businesses can make strategic decisions that enable them to grow.

There is a wide variety of BI tools that organizations can use for business intelligence. Choosing a suitable BI tool can be a daunting task. This article takes you through 10 powerful business intelligence tools data analysts (and organizations can use) to grow their businesses.

Introduction to business intelligence

Business Intelligence entails using strategies and technologies to conduct data analysis and integration of business information. It is a concept that encompasses the tools, software, and processes that analyze, collect, and integrate data to generate actionable information.

Business intelligence combines three main concepts with data analysis: data collection, data storage, and knowledge management. The main essence of business intelligence is to enhance the timeliness and accuracy of business information. This improves decision making in organizations.

Business intelligence tools refer to the applications, programs, and software used to achieve the objective of business intelligence. These tools provide services such as data warehousing, reporting, data visualization, and dashboard development.

Companies are also using business intelligence tools to predict future performance. Other functions provided by BI technologies include data mining, benchmarking, business performance management, and prescriptive analytics.

How business intelligence works

The following diagram shows a simple business intelligence architecture. This diagram can be used to explain how a business intelligence system works.

BI Architecture

Image Source: Blog Spot

Various sources of data are used to develop a business intelligence system. Some of these sources include customer relationship management systems, marketing analytics, and data from call centers. This data is cleaned, transformed, and aggregated before it is sent to a data warehouse. The data warehouse plays the role of storing data.

In a BI system, data can be integrated with other data sources using various tools. Some of the tools used include business analytics, data mining, and ETL engines. Business analytics is also used for analyzing the collected data. Business intelligence tools are used to provide enhanced insights.

These insights help organizations make fast and impactful decisions. Business intelligence results can be presented using Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) and visualization tools. OLAP is a technique that enables users to analyze, view, or extract data from various points of view. BI results can also be presented on dashboards and scorecards.

Why business intelligence tools are important

BI tools are important because of the following reasons:

  • Operational efficiency: BI tools enable organizations to gain insights from the analyzed data. Organizations use these insights to streamline processes, which improves operational efficiency in the business.
  • Increased revenue: BI tools provide meaningful business information relating to customer needs, market trends, and end-users. This information can be used to develop impactful strategies that drive revenue in the organization.
  • Customer analysis: Business intelligence tools integrate customer’s data with various sources. This enables organizations to analyze various aspects relating to their customers. These include customer trends, buying behavior, and their preferences.
  • Tracking performance: These tools provide insights relating to the state of the organization. They can be integrated with accounting software to track performance and identify problems within the organization.
  • Improved decision making: These tools enable organizations to improve their decision-making process. The processed data helps management make fast and reliable decisions that can improve the organization’s performance.
  • Market trend analysis: BI tools are important in gaining insights on various aspects of the market such as trends, demand, and suitability of services.

10 Powerful business intelligence tools

1. Sisense

Working with Sisense requires little expertise with IT. This is because it is simple and user friendly. Data collection in this tool is systematic. It provides an end-to-end platform for business intelligence.

Key Features
  • It has a drag-and-drop feature that enables businesses to share and analyze valuable insights.
  • The dashboard of this tool is robust.
  • Working with this tool does not require assistance from IT experts.
  • It allows data analysts to collect data from diverse sources such as Salesforce, Adwords, and Google Analytics.
  • It has a single-stack architecture that can perform various functions such as collecting, analyzing, and organizing data. A single-stack architecture is one that consists of all functionalities and features in one stack or system.

Sisense

Image Source: Finances Online

2. SAP business intelligence

SAP BI offers real-time analytics that improves decision making in organizations. It is ideal for gauging investigators, information researchers, text experts, forecasting analysts, and information engineers.

Key features
  • It supports auto charting, which requires less coding and support from the IT team.
  • It consists of dynamic visuals that enhance data visualization. These are integrated with dashboards and intuitive reports.
  • It allows integration with other systems and applications (e.g Microsoft Office).
  • It has centralized metadata.
  • It consists of a single integrated platform that offers various functionalities.

SAP

Image Source: Altex Soft

3. Microsoft Power BI

This is a web-based platform that provides business intelligence to Microsoft users. It specializes in enterprise analytics.

Key features
  • It offers users various service options: Power BI Report Server, Power BI mobile, Power BI, Premium, and Power BI Pro.
  • It is compatible with mobile as well as web applications.
  • It can be connected with various sources of data.
  • It enhances the storage of data in a cloud platform.
  • It allows users to access real-time visualizations using various devices.

Power BI

Image Source: Tech Hive

4. MicroStrategy

This BI tool leverages data that allow businesses to get informed and timely answers. It can enable organizations to optimize revenue, forecast opportunities, monitor trends, and increase productivity.

Key features
  • It can run on desktop computers as well as mobile applications.
  • It allows access to a cloud platform.
  • It has a hyper-intelligence tool that collects data from diverse sources to provide contextual insights.
  • It allows the integration of chatbots and voice technology.
  • It consists of robust investigation tools.

MicroStrategy

Image Source: Mopinion

5. Zoho analytics

This tool is mostly ideal for small and medium businesses. This is mainly due to its affordable pricing and user-friendly interface.

Key features
  • Users do not need a huge skill-set to use this tool
  • It consists of simplified tools for creating intuitive reports.
  • It supports the sharing of functional reports and dashboards.
  • It allows users to utilize data gathered from diverse sources.
  • It offers a cloud-based platform.

Zoho Analytics

Image Source: G2Crowd

6. Clear analytics

This is an excel-based BI tool that enables users to manage spreadsheets. It is very ideal for excel users that want to use business intelligence.

Key features
  • It is linked to a centralized storage system.
  • It can gather data from various data sources.
  • In this tool, users can use a dynamic query builder to gain access to data.
  • It has drag-and-drop capabilities.
  • It enables users to share insights into other applications and devices (eg. Mobile devices).
  • It consists of audit trails that enhance the tracing of data.

Clear Analytics

Image Source: Software Advice

7. Domo

This is another business intelligence tool that supports self-administration. It allows users to utilize tools such as ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load), data warehouse, and data lakes. ETL is a tool that extracts data from various sources, and transforms it into various forms before it is loaded into a data warehouse.

Key features
  • It can visualize data in maps, charts, and graphs.
  • It is connected to a cloud via in-built connectors.
  • It allows users to drag and drop.
  • It can run on the web as well as mobile applications.
  • It integrates information sources using Domo Integration Studio.
  • It offers intuitive functions for prediction, information exchange, and moderation.

Domo BI

Image Source: G2Crowd

8. IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics is a tool that uses artificial intelligence to create intuitive reports and dashboards. It can be used in various industries such as healthcare, retail, and e-commerce.

Key features
  • It has a search feature that enables users to locate content in the software.
  • It consists of analytics tools that provide interactive visualizations. These visualizations are integrated with geospatial data to provide enhanced insights.
  • It is linked to a cloud, which allows users to access tools there or on-premise.
  • Users do not need professional expertise to use this tool.
  • It allows users to import data from various sources.

IBM Cognos Analytics

Image Source: Value Coders

9. Yellowfin BI

This tool offers functionalities such as mobile BI, mapping, collaborative BI, data discovery, storyboards, and dashboards.

Key features
  • It has intuitive filtering that uses radio buttons, sliders, and checkboxes.
  • Users can access the dashboard through mobile phones or web pages.
  • In this tool, users can share insights through simple scripts.
  • Its dashboards are AI-driven.
  • It provides BI solutions such as external apps for analytics, enterprise analytics, and embedded analytics.

Yellowfin BI

Image Source: Weebly

10. QlikView

This is a BI tool that enhances the safety and accuracy of data. This tool supports data aggregation and compression.

Key features
  • Users can analyze data and gain enhanced insights using its self-service feature.
  • It provides data visualization and presentation systematically.
  • It enables users from various sectors to get customized solutions. Some of the sectors include insurance, banking, and retail.
  • It has an associative engine feature that enables users to discover data.
  • In this tool, users can interact with analytics, dynamic apps, and dashboards.

QlikView

Image Source: Xax

Important factors to consider when choosing a BI tool

  • Features: Data analysts should look for BI tools that suit their needs. The features provided by these tools should meet the objectives of the business. Some of the important features to look at include customizable dashboards, data filters, data discovery, and automated reports.
  • User Interface: If you are a data analyst, you would possibly want to use a BI tool that is user-friendly. The user interface should have a good design. It should also have clear displays that can enhance navigation within the tool.
  • Ease of use: How easy is it to use the BI tool? Good BI tools should offer tutorials and technical support to new users.
  • Price: Employing business intelligence should be done cost-effectively. Businesses should choose a BI tool offering a price that is within its reach.
  • Integration: Many companies want to gather data from diverse applications. Companies should choose BI tools that are integrated with a wide variety of applications.

Brief summary of top BI tools

The following table shows a brief summary of the business intelligence tools discussed above.

BI Tool Deployment Open Source Pricing Website
Sisense on premise, cloud No free trial, custom pricing Sisense
SAP Business Intelligence cloud No free trial, quote-based pricing SAP BI
Microsoft Power BI on premise, cloud Partly (Power BI Desktop) Power BI Desktop is free while Power BI Pro starts from $9.99/month/user Microsoft Power BI
MicroStrategy cloud No from $600 per user, it also consists of a custome quote MicroStrategy
Zoho Analytics cloud No free trial (15 days), from $22 per month (2 users) Zoho Analytics
Clear Analytics on premise No 30 days trial, from $8 per month (depending on no. of users) Clear Anlalytics
Domo cloud No free trial, pricing is based on usage Domo
IBM Cognos Analytics on premise, cloud No free trial (30 days), from $15 per month (per authorized user) IBM Cognos Analytics
Yellowfin BI on premise, cloud No free demo on request, quote-based pricing Yellowfin
QlikView on premise, cloud No free trial, from $30 per month QlikView

Conclusion

Business intelligence tools enable businesses to visualize and analyze data for effective strategic planning. These tools can enable firms to grow their businesses through improved decision making, increased revenue, improved productivity, and enhanced trend analysis.

An organization can choose a business intelligence tool based on important aspects such as features, usability, user interface, price, and integration capabilities. Choosing a suitable BI tool can be a source of competitive advantage to an organization.

Resources


Peer Review Contributions by: Saiharsha Balasubramaniam


About the author

Onesmus Mbaabu

Onesmus Mbaabu is a Ph.D. candidate pursuing a doctoral degree in Management Science and Engineering at the School of Management and Economics, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), Sichuan Province, China. His interests include economics, data science, emerging technologies, and information systems. His hobbies are playing basketball and listening to music.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.