This article is written by Matt Dent, BI Developer at Data3.
I would love to know how many times in my data analytics career I have been asked – What is the best tool? What’s better – Tableau or Power BI? What tool is best for a beginner? What tool should I learn to use? What tool do you think we should implement into our team? Now it would easy to give a simple and generic answer, but these are huge questions that could make a large impact on someone or a whole teams role.
So, we took it upon ourselves at Data3 to do a thorough in-depth comparison. We read 100s of reviews and articles and went hands-on with a decent number of BI tools to help answer the questions we get asked the most. We won’t be giving you a straight answer, but this will hopefully help you to find the tool that suits your needs and wants the most. Some of you will want to simply connect with a few CSVs and pull out some insight for a low a price as you can, whereas some will need a full-scale tool that will overhaul your business and create a high-end white labelled product.
This article will break the tools up into sections before giving a total score and a data3 score at the end. We narrowed down the tools available out there to a final shortlist of 18, here they are and links to their websites, in no particular order:
|Power BI Pro||https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/|
|Google Data Studio||https://marketingplatform.google.com/intl/en_uk/about/data-studio/|
For most individuals and to some extent, businesses; price will be a huge factor in determining whether a tool is simply feasible to use in terms of affordability. So, let’s start with that.
|Power BI Pro||£7.50 for a pro licence per month per user. Premium licences available for demanding solutions with embedding and dedicated cloud capacities using Azure|
|Tableau||Every deployment needs at least one Tableau Creater license which is $70/month. Users that create dashboards need an Explorer license which is $35/month and viewer of dashboards need a Viewer license which is $12/month|
Professional: $160/month (unlimited users)
Enterprise: $190/month (additional features such as unlimited data storage size)
|Zoho Report||Basic – £18, 2 Users 0.5 Million Rows. Standard – £36, 5 Users 1 Million Rows. Premium £90, 15 Users 5 Million Rows. Enterprise £355, 50 Users 50 Million Rows.|
|Qlik||Business – $30. Analyzer – $40. Professional – $70|
|Looker||Minimum 10 users. Pro and premium licences. Annual fees. Pro small business licence. $34K for 10 users per annum|
|Mode||Contact for more info – Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Yellowfin||5 different levels. For the analytics it’s $50 per user per month|
|Thoughtspot||Contact for more info – Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Sisense||Contact for more info – Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Microstrategy||Not from their website: Web Package – $600/named user or $300K/ CPU core. Mobile Package – $600/named user or $ 300K/ CPU core. Architect Package – $5,000/ named user. Server Package – $1,200/named user or $ 600K/CPU core|
|Google Data Studio||Free|
|Spotfire||Different spotfire editions and then packages under editions. TIBCO cloud spotfire is SAAS. Analyst licence $125 per month. Business author $65 per month, consumer $25 per month|
|Databox||Free version available. Plus: $99/month. This allows 10 users and 10 databoards.|
Business: $248/month. This allows 20 users and 50 databoards.
|Klipfolio||For agencies they have agency starter which is 10 dashboards for up to 10 clients. This is $/month/. They also have agency lite, pro and premier. None of these has pricing online.|
The Premier is 70 dashboards for up to 70 clients. (For businesses the most popular license is “Grow” which provides 15 dashboards for unlimited users at $99/month. Their enterprise plans start at $499/month
|Cyfe||Provide all in one white label dashboards for agencies. They say this starts at $15 per client (with minimum client commitment required). Other plans: free: 2 dashboards and 1 user. solo: $29/month 5 dashboards and 1 user. Pro: $49/month 10 dashboards and 5 users. Premier $89/month 20+ dashboards and unlimited users ($4 for each dashboard after 20)|
|PanIntelligence||Looks like it starts at $103 per user per month|
|Metabase||Depends on the licence. Open source is free. Enterprise with includes RLS, white-labeling, audit tools, single sign on starts at $10K a year|
This is a lot of different pricing alternatives! How can you really compare with all those options? We have done the hard work for you here and applied a minimum functional licence to serve 95% of the functionality you’d most likely ever need from a BI tool. Prices are in US$.
|Tool||Functional licence price|
|Power BI Pro||9.50|
|Mode||0.00 single user with some limited functionality. Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Thoughtspot||Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Sisense||Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Microstrategy||Bespoke packages can be created and priced accordingly, not a budget option though|
|Google Data Studio||0.00|
Top 10 tools ranked by price ($):
|Tool||Functional licence price|
|Google Data Studio||0.00|
|Power BI Pro||9.50|
We’ve banded the pricing of the 18 tools into three categories, you can think of these in a sort of low, medium, and high price band, so if you need a cheap tool, or you’re new to your data journey, you may only want to consider toll in the cheapest category:
The pricing section above may have already ruled out a whole bunch of tools for you. So, what’s next? For some aspects of BI, we can put a number on it and can rank the tools accordingly. For other aspects, it is more appropriate to speak to you and have a good description. We’ll start with the numeric variables, with some good top 10s.
Top 10 tools for visibility – The ability and performance they have, to create beautiful visuals and enticing analysis. This section takes into account how beautiful you an make a visual, dashboard or report – sheer aesthetics and design, as well as how flexible the tooling interface is.
|Tool||Visibility Score /5|
|Power BI Pro||4|
|Google Data Studio||3|
A huge component in choosing a BI tool, is how easy it is going to be to learn, whether that be personally or to train up a team. If it is difficult to learn, there will be a bigger learning curve and time taken to train, and this means more expensive longer term. We haven’t made a table for this one, we shortlisted our tools down to the last 18 on the criteria that anyone could pick them up with the training currently on offer or the online community available to help you on your way. For sheer simplicity of use Google Data Studio and Databox come up trumps with a score of 5, every single other tool we gave a 4.
Almost running in parallel with how easy a tool is to learn is how much help there is available out there. How much help is there from the software provider? How big is the online community and how easy would it be to troubleshoot a problem? Looker storms to the top with this one, you get what you pay for here with handheld support along the way. Our top 10:
|Tool||Help Score /5|
|Power BI Pro||4|
How restricted are you by the standard interactions, visual choice, and data manipulation within the tool itself? Top 10 tools:
|Tool||Customisation Score /5|
|Power BI Pro||3|
If your BI tool can’t connect to a huge range of data sources, I would question its usefulness. However, most of these tools do an excellent job with super easy connection mechanisms to a huge range of sources. You’ll notice all our top 10 have a score of 5, Klipfolio, Zoho & Mode all just missed out with a score of 4. Here is our top 10:
|Tool||Integrations and connectivity Score /5|
|Power BI Pro||5|
A more and more common way for an end user to interact with their BI reports is through mobile capabilities. A lot of our tools really struggle in this section, whether that be incredibly time consuming for the BI developer or analysts, or really limited functionality for the end user. As this is a newer part of the BI life cycle, we have been slightly generous with our scores. Here’s our top 10:
|Tool||Mobile Interaction Score /5|
A round up of other aspects to BI we took into account:
- The ability to direct query or have a live data connection. All tools can do this, some easier than others. Spotfire and Yellowfin require additional configuration. Zoho can but only from certain sources and Google Data Studio requires some additional HTML code.
- Scheduling of data refreshes. It goes without saying that a BI tool should do this, it should automate your reporting process easily with no manual intervention. From our finding all these tools have this capability although there were some grey areas in our research around: Databox, Cyfe and Mode.
- Embedding and White labelling. Do you need to make a product through a BI tool? But you don’t want their branding everywhere, and you want to embed it within your website? This is usually where things get very expensive in the BI world, a justifiably so. A few stand out from the crowd; Panintelligence places their product at the top of the leader boards on this front, with its main purpose being recognised. Other Notable mentions are PowerBI and its premium licence and SiSense. Looker also has an excellent solution for this.
- Data actions and alerting. A lot of modern BI tools have the ability to setup automated alerting. A product performing better than expected? or a channel working awfully? The decision makers need to know, and they need to know as soon as possible. Automated alerting delivers this functionality, whether it through emails, slack messages, or through the tool’s mobile platform. A lot of tools struggle in this realm, so here’s our ranking. We gave a score of 3, to tools that do this well, a 2 to those that do but it is limited, and a 1 that do not have this functionality. We have slightly taken the emphasis off this category with scores of three instead of five. as it is a newer feature to the BI world. We have to say that we think SiSense is leading the charge on this one with the most advanced and high-end alerting functionality. a top 10:
|Tool||Altering and data actions /3|
|Power BI Pro||2|
So, what are the final scores?
If we added up all these categories, what tool comes out trumps over all categories:
Tableau takes top spot, with Sisense coming in seconds. Looker and Thoughtspot take a joint third/fourth place. But this doesn’t mean they are the tool for you. You must make sure you are choosing the right tool for you and the purpose you are using BI in the first place. Take Google Data Studio as an example: it scores a lowly 18 points across these categories but it is a fantastic tool – super easy to use and is completely free, it was also the tool that made the table above.
As we know, price can be a big determinant on your BI decision. Below are the tools ranked by total score but coloured by the price bands we grouped into earlier (1 being cheapest, 3 most expensive). This allows us to see that PowerBI is the highest rank tool in price band one across all categories.
How would I choose a BI tool?
I would use our categories to help inform your decision. I would understand what your business or personal requirements are. If you need altering maybe Sisense is the tool for you. If you need excellent mobile functionality, then maybe Domo is the tool for you, even though it might not have come top of the leader board across all the categories.
I have ranked these tools out of 10 on personal preference, I’d recommend you do the same, see what stacks up as the most useful and powerful for you and your needs. Price will also be a big factor. However, it is worth bearing in mind that a cheaper tool might not be easier to use, so you are spending more time and money on training to learn a more complicated system.
We’ve thought about grouping together the categories we’ve tested against to help make decisions easier depending on the type of person, or the type of business you are a part of. So instead of just giving a total score, we’ve grouped up categories into two sections:
- Ease & Learning: This score is the sum of Visibility, Learning & Help– if these three categories are a priority then tools that score highly along this axis will be important to you.
- Connections & Performance: This is the sum of Customisation, Connections, Mobile functionality and Alterting – if these four categories are a priority then look for tools that score highly along this axis.
This grid is coloured by the same price score as before. So if you need a cheap tool look for the lightest blue. If you were to filter on the cheapest, and knew you were mainly interested in ease and function, you would really be deciding between Power BI Pro and the free offering from Google Data Studio; they’re separate by just one point on this axis.
Along this journey we have read a whole host of reviews, some useful resources:
3. Top 12 Business Intelligence Software by FinancesOnline
Another useful resource is Gartner’s magic quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms. This is how our shortlist tools rank from 1-4 on the magic quadrant (if applicable – only 10 of our shortlist appear on their magic quadrant): A score of 1 represents Leaders, 2 Challengers, 3 Visionaries, 4 Niche Players:
|Power BI Pro||1|