Entering an era of BI and BI Tools
Clive Humby, a British entrepreneur and mathematician rightly said, “Data is the new oil”. At present, with abundant data at our fingertips, it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to utilize the most relevant information to solve our problems. Business intelligence is all bringing data to life and leveraging the same in an actionable way.
Business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing can offer processes, tools, systems, and the right governance to assist businesses to manage their data in an effective manner. As per a report published by Markets and Markets, the global business intelligence market size is expected to surpass the $ 33.3 billion mark by the end of 2025 growing at a CAGR of around 7.6 %. 
Some of the top factors that are expected to drive this growth include increasing focus on digitalization, growing demand for dashboards for data visualization, advancements in cloud technologies, and swelling investments in data analytics.
BI tools and software solutions have gained considerable traction over the past few years and the trend is most likely to continue in the next few years. In this blog, we will touch upon some of the best BI tools available and why you should consider investing in one.
Before we go deeper into understanding the various BI tools, we will cover a few important points mentioned below.
The following topics are covered in the blog:
- Business intelligence explained
- What are the best BI tools available in 2021?
- What are the factors you should consider while choosing a BI tool?
Business Intelligence explained
Business intelligence is your answer to creating an ecosystem for better decision-making. As a business owner, to make strategic decisions, you need to understand how you can use data to your advantage. Business intelligence is the process of sorting, analyzing, and presenting data in a way the leadership and management can make informed decisions.
Let’s take a look at a small example that will explain why business intelligence tools are important.
Let’s say you own a chain of small retail stores across a city. Let us assume that you save your sales and operations data using excel or Google sheets. More often than not, there is a high chance you generate large volumes of data with little insights.
Suppose, you want to use the data that is available to improve your business, what will you do? You are likely to collate the data from all your stores and bring it to a common location and do some analysis. Now, you would want to protect your data visually using pie charts or graphs for easier understanding. When you wish to automate these tasks, you would require some business intelligence tools to do that for you.
Now that you have understood what BI tools and BI reporting tools can offer you, let’s take a look at some of the best BI tools in 2021.
- Dundas BI
- Microsoft Power BI
- Google Data Studio
SiSense’s business intelligence tool has solidified its standing as one of the best tools available in the market. The tool covers all the nuances of business intelligence starting right from the database to the analytics and finally the visualization. The latest version is packed with the latest machine learning capabilities. SiSense can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.
All the major departments within a business can leverage the solutions provided by SiSense’s BI tool. After completing the acquisition of Periscope Data in 2019, the company is currently integrating cutting-edge analytics capabilities that it gained after the deal.
- Target audience: Small to medium-sized enterprises
- Standout feature: Completely web-based
- Pricing: On-demand
2. Dundas BI
Dundas BI is developed by Dundas Data Visualization. The tool is primarily used to create scorecards, dashboards, the company’s historic strengths, and more. It can also be used for ad-hoc and standard reporting. The analysis and visualization take place via a web interface that adjusts to the user’s skills. In simple words, power users and standard users see and use different features.
The latest version comes with a set of some exciting additions. Some new features include:
- New in-memory engine
- Natural language query ability
- Point-and-click trend analysis
- Linux support
Apart from these new developments, it also comes with an application development environment for tailored analytic applications. The tool is designed and developed for 19 industries such as construction, cleantech, and mining to name a few.
- Target audience: HR, finance, marketing, sales, C-suite
- Standout features: HTML 5 interface helps it adapt to any device
- Pricing: Changes based on concurrent users, flexible licensing model
Trevor.io is a well-polished, powerful, and simple tool developed to replace data requests within an organization and equip the team to get answers from the company’s database. The BI tool links multiple SQL databases through a read-only transaction which ensures that your data cannot be manipulated.
With Trevor.io, you can find ad-hoc answers, create amazing reports, and perform lookups by using the no-code query builder which can be used by anyone. If you prefer SQL, the query builder supports that as well. In case you just cannot do without spreadsheets, you can also enter live data into Google Sheets and ensure that it is updated automatically every hour.
- Target audience: Small businesses, startups
- Standout feature: Self-service analytics
- Pricing: 14-day free trial (with +75% discount on all plans for 3 months. $ 270-$330/month (without discount based on the size of the database
4. Power BI
Power BI is developed by Microsoft. With the Power BI Desktop app for Windows, you can visualize and analyze data from cloud or local sources. The reports can be published on the Power BI platform. The tool offers different features such as visual-based discovery, interactive dashboards, data preparation, and augmented analytics.
The free Power BI Desktop is well-suited for isolated users, whereas the Pro version makes it way easier to carry out collaborative analysis at a monthly subscription fee. The Pro version offers a bunch of Microsoft tools such as Teams, SharePoint, and Microsoft 365 to control access to published reports and raw data.
For businesses that do not mind splurging, the Premium-tier provides an option for self-service data preparation with pre-built connectors to use data in Microsoft Dynamics 365, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and more.
- Target audience: Microsoft shops
- Standout features: The mobile application enables touch-screen annotation of reports
- Pricing:Desktop: free, Pro: $9.99 per user, per month, Premium: $4,995 per cloud compute and storage resource
Tableau Software has developed a well-rounded business intelligence tool, Tableau. Users can run the software either on a public cloud, on-premises, or go all in and have Tableau host it for you. Tableau offers customized versions for users from different industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, banking, etc.
One of the most noteworthy features of this business tool is its ability to map and analyze surveys and time-series data. Its latest update is leveraging the advances in artificial intelligence techniques related to natural language processing which allows users to see what they want to see.
- Target audience: Mid-size to large enterprises
- Standout features: Mapping and analysis of time series data and surveys.
- Pricing: Every deployment requires a minimum of one Tableau Creator ($70 per month)
For Tableau Server (on-premise or public cloud), others can be viewers ($12/month, min 100) or be explorers ($35, min 5).
For Tableau Online (hosted by Tableau), others can be viewers ($15/month, min 100) or explorers ($42/month, minimum 5)
6. Google Data Studio
Google Data Studio is a free BI tool that transforms your data into easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, informative, and customized dashboards and reports. It works flawlessly with native Google data sources including YouTube, BigQuery, Google Ads, and more.
Due to the Data Studio’s 300+ partner connections, you can link it to any database such as MySQL or Postgre and even applications such as TikTok and Snapchat.
If you have worked using Google Sheets or Google Docs, you may have a fair idea about how efficient sharing and collaboration are on those platforms. Similarly, Google Studio is also web-based which means that you can collaborate on dashboards and visualizations in real-time. The only drawback we can see is that you can only download and share visualizations in PDF format and the range of charts is not as extensive as other tools.
- Target audience: Businesses of different sizes can use Google’s Data Studio
- Standout feature: Can be linked to apps such as Snapchat and Tiktok
- Pricing: Free
Choosing a business intelligence tool
Now that you have gained enough information regarding the different BI tools in the market, it is now time to choose one. Before we start, it is important to understand that each BI tool brings data to life by creating visually appealing dashboards and charts. The good news is that most tools offer an all-access free trial for a minimum of 10 days.
Here are some factors to keep in mind while choosing a BI tool:
Degree of SQL
If you want a high degree of transparency when it comes to data within your company, a tool with a no-code capability is a perfect fit.
Size of your company
If your firm is well-established and has a decent budget allocated for a BI tool, you should consider opting for Power BI and Tableau. If you are a startup, tools such as Trevor.io should be your go-to choice.
With a range of BI tools available at different price ranges, it is safe to say that there is a BI tool that fits your budget. The key is to balance the cost vs the features and usability you desire.
This is a matter of personal preference. Even though all BI tools generate charts, every chart is different. Some are visually and aesthetically more pleasing than others. Choose a tool that matches your industry’s visual tone.
Choose a tool that offers your preferred form of support. While some BI tools rely on their community, several companies believe their customer support is unmatched.
While these are some of the suggestions we have for you, it is safe to say that the list is not exhaustive. Currently, there are hundreds of BI tools available and selecting the right one largely depends on your requirements. We suggest you play around with some of the tools and figure out for yourself which BI tool fits in perfectly with your business needs.
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Image 1 Source: Image by rawpixel.com
 Markets and Markets (2020) “Business Intelligence Market” [Online] Available from: https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/social-business-intelligence-bi-market-1048.html [Accessed March 2021]