Best business intelligence software 2018

The need to extract meaningful insights from data has never been more necessary. Here, we look at the best BI software.

In recent years an increasing number of IT teams have hired business intelligence (BI) analysts in a bid to harness data points and gain useful insights.

It is the BI analyst’s job to inform not only the CIO but other department heads on their findings from the extracted data.

Even though the phrase goes “a poor workman blames his tools”, in this case having the right BI software is vital, otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark.

There are a number of good BI tools out there to make analysing all this data more manageable. Here are our top picks.

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Tableau

No list would be complete without Tableau. This self-service analytics platform provides second to none data visualisation and can integrate with a huge range of data sources including Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse and Excel.

As of April 2018, Tableau simplified its pricing structure, now housing three customisable packages, all of which are available on-premises, in the public cloud or as-a-service.

Put simply, these three plans consist of Tableau Creator, Tableau Explorer and

Tableau Creator combines all of Tableau’s BI and data analytics functions including Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep, and licenses for Tableau Server or Tableau Online.

Tableau Explorer collates your data sources to create new dashboards based and collaborate with team members, as well as set up data-driven alerts.

Finally, if you want to give access and data viewability to someone, not in a technical role, you can use Tableau Viewer to let them view and filter dashboards, receive alerts and receive and manage subscriptions.

Splunk 

Using machine data, Splunk has created a 'guided analytics platform' capable of providing enterprise-grade business intelligence and data analytics. 

Splunk's Business Analytics platform offers real-time insights that can run alongside any existing BI tools you have. 

It also houses end-to-end visibility for business processes, data on product performances, customer experience insights and marketing campaigns analytics.

There is a free version of this product although it only accounts for one user and up to 500 MB of data per day. 

For enterprises, there is Splunk Enterprise which includes an unlimited number of users and of data. Find out prices here.

Alteryx

The process of extracting business intelligence from analytics tools can get data-intensive pretty quickly so investing in a tool like Alteryx will mean you can grab quick snapshots of your data and gather insights quickly. 

Marketed as a 'repeatable workflow for self-service data analytics', the Alteryx's platform, offers a product called Designer which blends analytics from a range of difference sources in order to simplify workflows as well as provide a wealth of BI insights.

Alteryx provides great predictive analytics so that every organisation's analysts can access analytics without needing to programme anything. 

In short, users will receive over 30 drag-and-drop predictive tools. These tools are all based on the R programming language.

You'll be able to create reports easily and export these to Microsoft Excel, ESRI, XML, PDF, Tableau, and Qlik.

It also offers a cloud-based product called Analytics Gallery which is centred around deploying analytics applications.

Qlik

Data analytics giant Qlik is grounded in data visualisation, BI and analytics, providing one of the most extensive scalable BI platforms around.

Qlik Sense comes in three tiers: its free plan Qlik Sense Cloud Basic, Qlik Sense Cloud Business and Qlik Sense Enterprise, which comes with flexible pricing options upon request.

Its dashboard is accessible and able to produce concise data reports, ready for interpretations, as well as meaningful insights.

The company also sells QlikView, its original analytics offering and Qlik Analytics Platform which provides embedded data analytics.

Einstein Analytics

More often than not data insights are hard to extract, that’s why businesses hire analysts and in some circumstances whole teams to do just that.

Einstein Analytics - from Salesforce - can quickly locate hidden insights and present the data in an extremely usable dashboard (which is pre-built), displaying data from both internal and external sources.

This product can be bought in two ways: Sales Analytics for Sales Cloud and Service Analytics for Service Cloud.

Pricing is pretty reasonable (see here). However, if you have specific needs, you’ll be able to receive pricing for customisable Einstein Analytics Platform.

IBM Watson Analytics

IBM Watson harnesses its machine learning technology to provide IBM Watson analytics, meaning you will be able to pull data insight effectively using its smart data discovery services.

With IBM Watson, you’ll receive first-class data visualisations and guided analytics that are available across devices.

Plus, it offers solid business intelligence tools including data discovery and automated predictive analytics.

Rather than having a tiered pricing plan, you can pay monthly per user for IBM Watson analytics or opt for the Plus version which includes extra users and even more storage.

SAP Analytics Cloud

Another big hitter, SAP’s analytics offering features an end-to-end BI platform with responsive and adaptable dashboards.

This platform also uses machine learning to gather insights, like IBM Watson.

Other intuitive features include its real-time analytics and ability to work in both the cloud and on-premise, meaning that it can house historic data or live data from a range of external sources, as well as SAP’s.

Pricing is pretty simple, able to be customised to your business with a flexible licencing structure.

SAP also supports a reporting tool called SAP BusinessObjects which is an enterprise-grade reporting tool, able to provide ad-hoc reporting and analysis for the web and desktop as well as across mobile devices.

TIBCO

US-based analytics firm TIBCO offers two popular BI tools, both offering different but important BI functionality.

Purchased in 2007, Spotfire provides intuitive and user-friendly data visualisation, as well as a solid self-service data analytics platform.

Another acquisition in 2014 saw TIBCO extend its BI portfolio with Jaspersoft, a scalable and easily deployed reporting tool.

Free trials are on offer for both products. Contact TIBCO to find out the pricing plans for the full versions.

Cognos Analytics

Another IBM product, this next-generation BI software can automate reporting and dashboards making data visualisation and data intelligence easier to gather.

This is offered as self-service analytics, so employees and whole departments can upload and carry out their own analysis on data sets. This would mean analysis could take place without relating it to company-wide operations.

This analytics and BI software will be on the top end of most businesses, with enterprises being the target user here. Find out pricing here.

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft launched its own BI tool called Power BI as a self-service product. The idea: to provide on-the-go analytics from hundreds of data sources.

If you run a Microsoft office then this BI tool would be an easy integration and offer a UX that you’re used to, avoiding any learning curve issues.

The tool itself is set up in a simple way, you can create and extract BI data reports and share them across your network. You can also work on-premise or in the cloud.

It can also provide SQL Server Analysis Services on-premise and Azure Analysis Services in the cloud, as well as in-app interactive reports.

Domo

Domo aims to take away any hassle associated with extracting business intelligence from data sets. To do this it houses its Magic ETL tool which can connect all of your data and cleanse it to gain insights faster.

You can plug almost any data source into the platform out-of-the-box, and prepare data for analysis quickly. This is ideal for those without SQL knowledge.

You can get a free trial for 30 days with Domo and after that choose from its three separate licensing packages. Contact the sales team for specific pricing details.