Which features are included in the top BI tools?

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It’s easy to find reviews for many different (business intelligence) BI tools, but the problem is that they all claim to be the best. A lot of online reviews are actually sponsored posts, which are definitely biased. If the BI tool being discussed has shortcomings or flaws, you might not learn about them until you’re using it for yourself. When comparing business intelligence tools, it’s recommended to examine detailed comparisons that use standardized metrics to rank each one.

What Gartner’s 2022 Magic Quadrant Business Intelligence report tells us

Global research firm Gartner publishes a yearly report that reviews business intelligence and analytics vendors. It’s unbiased, well-researched, and very detailed; this year’s report is 42 pages long, and covers 20 vendors. If you don’t have multiple hours to spend reading the report, you can simply skip to the graph where the various vendors are plotted according to their categorization as “Leaders”, “Challengers”, “Visionaries”, and “Niche Players”. They’re rated on two metrics:

  • Ability to Execute – Measures criteria like pricing, company viability, and customer experience.
  • Completeness of Vision – Measures criteria like innovation, market understanding, and product strategy.

Out of the 20 vendors covered in Gartner’s report, only three of them ended up in the “Leaders” quadrant of the graph, which is the top category. There were also three vendors in the “Challengers” quadrant, and seven each in the “Visionaries” and “Niche Players” quadrants.

Which features do Gartner’s top three BI tools include?

Assuming you want the most comprehensive business intelligence tools, it only makes sense to look at the ones that were given the highest rating by an unbiased third party. Remember, even if your organization doesn’t need all of these features now, some of them could be essential for future growth. Here’s an overview of what you’d get in a top-of-the-line BI tool:

Ease of Use

  • Users shouldn’t have to learn specialized technical skills in order to use a business intelligence tool. By using natural-sounding language and an interface that’s user-friendly, a BI tool can encourage data literacy in stakeholders. This makes it easier for them to quickly understand what they’re analyzing, instead of requiring an intense learning curve.
  • BI tools should employ a unified interface for all parts of the tool, whether stakeholders are generating reports or digging deep into huge sets of data. A single interface brings consistency and efficiency for all users, even if they don’t have advanced technical skills.
  • Embedded analytics brings analytical capabilities, data visualizations, and more to dashboards so that users can integrate these features into their workflows. Since they can view data and perform analyses on the fly, users save time and enjoy increased accessibility.

Data Management

  • Data integration unifies multiple sources of data so that users can see it as a coherent whole. A good BI tool does this without requiring users to write additional code or invest in extra products.
  • It’s important for organizations using BI tools to have more than one option for a data storage solution, such as a flexible cloud strategy. A BI tool with a multi-cloud storage solution means that the organizations using it won’t ever be locked into a solution that they’ve outgrown.
  • An organization’s business intelligence needs will likely expand over time, so it’s key to choose a BI tool that can accommodate that growth. This is why scalability is a vital feature in a BI tool.
  • A BI tool should enable governed self-service to promote innovation while also protecting data quality. By managing restrictions or permissions for all stakeholders, the integrity of data is preserved without lessening efficiency.

Data Analytics

  • Most users access BI tools on their desktops, but that isn’t always possible. A BI tool that has full mobile functionality (including mobile-optimized dashboards) can help stakeholders maintain productivity no matter where they happen to be.
  • Exploring data can be time-consuming, but augmented analytics can save users a lot of time by providing in-depth insights on associations, correlations, trends, and variances. Thanks to this feature, data profiling and quality is improved.
  • Many data sets can’t be adequately represented by a basic pie graph or bar chart; that’s why a good BI tool should include a variety of data visualization options. This way users can view data sets at a glance, which saves time and improves efficiency.
  • Interactive dashboards let users access data in real time. They allow them to view performance overviews, generate custom reports, and more fully engage with complex data sets. This means that users don’t have to go looking for relevant data; it’s already right there in front of them.

What should you ask for in a BI tool?

Picking the option with the right features is crucial, but those aren’t the only characteristics to look for. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Data integration – This is necessary in order to leverage the BI tool’s analysis features. It combines various sources of raw data, then transforms and catalogs them. Without data integration, the quality of your data would suffer.
  • Passive data vs. active data – If your organization needs access to real-time data that’s both accurate and actionable, you’ll want a business intelligence tool that delivers active data. Passive data is historical data; it’s a record of things that have already happened. This can be valuable in its own way, but most organizations also need active data in order to make informed decisions.
  • Total cost of ownership – In addition to the price of the business intelligence tool itself, you’ll also have to think about the potential cost of increased data volume, extra hardware, added administration costs, and set-up costs.

The takeaway

To find the best BI tool for your organization, you have to think about three factors. One, is it objectively one of the top options on the market? Two, does it meet your organization’s current needs? And three, does it have the right capabilities to keep up with future growth? If you can answer “yes” to all three questions, you’ve found a great business intelligence tool that could help drive long-term success in your organization.

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