Business intelligence (BI) software tools enable companies to analyze events, trends and market changes to gain competitive advantage.
These BI tools collect, manage and interpret mountains of structured and unstructured data. They construct models that deliver answers and insights through reports, charts, graphics and other data representation methods. BI software is the foundation of digital transformation.
BI systems incorporate or use various data sources, including spreadsheets, querying software, reporting tools, online analytical processing (OLAP), data mining, data warehouses, and data marts. They usually encompass data extraction, data cleansing, data governance and dashboards or other mechanisms that allow users to view reports and visualizations.
The objective is to support business processes across an organization. These can range from past events, such as how a product or service performed, to predicting future events and scenarios. They can span various departments, including finance, human resources and operations.
Top BI Tools Buyers Guide
- What Other Tools Work With BI Software?
- How do you Choose a BI Software Tool?
- Top BI Software Tools
- Microsoft Power BI
- Oracle Analytics Cloud
- Qlik Sense
- SAS Enterprise Guide
- Sisense Fusion Analytics
- Tableau Desktop
- SAP Analytics Cloud
- Business Intelligence Tools: Additional Market Leaders
- Business Intelligence Software Tools: Vendor Comparison Chart
Increasingly, business intelligence platforms intersect with machine learning (ML) and other artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as natural language querying. They support advanced data mining techniques.
Not surprisingly, business intelligence—which dates back to the 1970s—continues to advance. Today’s systems span clouds and tap on-premises data sources, and work alongside data mining tools. They also rely on APIs to extend analytics capabilities across business partners and supply chains. Some BI tools are also designed to pull data from edge computing deployments, and many platforms also include open-source tools and components that make them more flexible and adaptable.
As you focus on selecting your BI software tools, it helps to focus on five crucial steps:
- Analyze your existing data sources. Obviously, any new solution must ingest your organization’s existing data. Either it will do this directly or you will have map data structures and perform conversions manually. Without knowing what data currently exists and where it resides, it is next-to-impossible to determine what BI platform to use and what’s involved with the transition.
- Identify your objectives. If you’re looking to take your business intelligence and data analytics to the next level, it’s critical to identify the features you need in order to find a good match. For instance, do you want to expand the use of BI to different groups or departments? What types of reporting and data visualizations do you require?
- Determine whether other sources of data can improve business results. A primary reason to adopt a more advanced BI platform is to add features and capabilities. Are you looking to tie together cloud repositories or various enterprise systems? Are you hoping to build out a framework with edge computing companies to expand data collection across a supply chain? These are fundamental questions to ask before selecting a vendor.
- Survey the vendor landscape. Of course, vendors and software solutions approach BI in fundamentally different ways. Is the vendor geared toward on-prem, or are they cloud only? As a result, a critical element in selecting a solution is matching requirements with vendor features, its support framework and its roadmap. It’s important to determine which vendor can unlock the greatest value from your data, support business transformation and continue to add value in the future.
- Understand what changes are required. Any large initiative, including BI, requires changes to both IT infrastructure and business processes. Consequently, it’s essential to match your organization’s needs, desires and requirements with the right BI solution—and ensure that it delivers the ability, flexibility and scalability you need to navigate today’s fast changing business environment.
Here are 10 of the top business intelligence software tool providers:
Key Insight: Domo focuses is on tying together data from a variety of sources and building insights through rich reporting and visualizations. The solution delivers sophisticated tools for handling data integration—including through visual ETL—as well as dashboards and mobile BI platforms that use intelligent apps to display analytic insights.
- Connects to a wide array of data sources and systems and offers powerful data importing and ingestion tools.
- Delivers real-time monitoring and results through robust alerts and notifications.
- Offers a rich and powerful feature set that can be used by data scientists as well as non-technical line-of-business users.
- Powerful dashboard capabilities.
- Additional apps and other tools and add-ons can increase the price tag significantly.
- Some users find the platform confusing and overwhelming due to a large array of options and choices.
- Lacks some embedded advanced analytics capabilities.
Key Insight: Power BI is a sophisticated but affordable platform for organizations of all sizes. It supports self-service analytics for line of business users and data scientists, incorporating AI and ML. Microsoft includes strong collaboration features along with rich reporting and data visualizations. Power BI delivers powerful automation and includes tools to align setup and operation with enterprise scorecards.
- Powerful data ingestion and connection capabilities combine on-premises and cloud data seamlessly.
- Offers a wide array of pre-built dashboards that connect to various applications, products and services.
- Delivers rich interactive capabilities, including real-time reports and visualizations.
- Provides strong data governance features.
- The learning curve for advanced analysis can be complex and difficult.
- Graphics and visualizations aren’t as robust as competing BI solutions.
- May be difficult to use with non-Microsoft products and technologies.
- Doesn’t support IOS and other Apple devices.
Key Insight: The vendor’s focus is “intelligence everywhere.” MicroStrategy offers tools to build powerful and attractive dashboards that pull data from more than 200 data sources. The solution works on both PCs and Macs. It can deliver services based on roles, devices and numerous other factors. MicroStrategy supports automation and embeds analytics functions directly into applications and websites.
- Includes powerful features, including a “hyperintelligence” function with strong automation capabilities.
- Provides a strong feature set and extremely flexible BI framework.
- Offers powerful data governance features along with strong security.
- Generates highly rated visualizations.
- Many users find the platform difficult to set up and use, particularly when handling extremely large data sets.
- The solution can be pricey.
- Lags other platforms with collaboration and social BI features.
Key Insight: The cloud native business intelligence platform is designed to handle the full spectrum of analytics requirements, from data ingestion and modeling to data preparation, enrichment, visualization and collaboration. It includes embedded ML and AI, including natural language search functionality. Open-source data connectivity with built-in connectors simplify data aggregation tasks.
- Provides more than 50 out-of-the-box connectors, including Java Database Connectivity.
- Delivers a scalable single source of truth data framework for line of business users as well as data scientists.
- Offers strong ML capabilities through a Python-based framework.
- Provides strong support for mobile devices and includes a powerful data governance and security framework.
- Users complain that the framework can break, particularly on upgrades. Error tracing can be difficult.
- The interface could be modernized and improved.
- User ratings for technical support and end-user training rank below competitors.
Key Insight: The vendor delivers robust BI through a cloud analytics platform. Qlik Sense dashboards connect to hundreds of data sources and support complex and varied use cases. This includes self-service visualizations, interactive dashboards, natural language search, and powerful mobility functions. AI and machine learning support augmented and predictive analytics.
- Comes with built-in connectors for hundreds of data sources and services, including all major cloud platforms.
- Strong support for both structured and unstructured data.
- Highly rated for ease-of-use, including analytics dashboards and interactive visual exploration features.
- Provides rich and varied reporting and visualizations.
- Lags behind competitors for collaboration and social BI features.
- Users rate governance and metadata management below other BI tools.
- The software can present a steep learning curve. Training may be required to use the platform effectively.
Key Insight: SAS Enterprise Guide is a Windows .NET client application that offers a self-service framework for collecting, managing, manipulating and formatting data into reports and visualizations. It relies on a point-and-click, menu-and-wizard-driven framework that includes the ability to write code and use custom macros. Thus, developers and other coders can use existing programs to create stored processes, and then run them on demand or port them to external apps, such as Microsoft Excel.
- Delivers a highly customizable BI framework through a well-developed coding platform and macros.
- Strong IT-managed role-based security along with powerful data governance features.
- Handles huge data sets while delivering fast performance.
- Strong support for Microsoft Office, including Excel.
- Overall complexity can present challenges for non-technical users and those with limited coding knowledge.
- Expensive and sometimes confusing price structure.
- No support for Python or R tools.
Key Insight: The platform delivers a highly scalable and flexible self-service framework for conducting enterprise grade BI. The vendor’s focus is on infusing “intelligence everywhere” through extended data discovery in the cloud and on-premises, dashboards and integration APIs. Sisense offers strong AI and ML support, and powerful data visualization capabilities.
- Offers data connectors for almost every major service and data source.
- Delivers a code-free experience for non-technical users, though the platform also supports Python, R, and SQL.
- Provides a wide array of templates that automate BI and embed actions into applications and processes.
- Can present a steep learning curve.
- Users complain that errors and problems can be difficult to trace.
- Some complaints about bugs and stability issues.
- Mobile device support not as strong as others in the BI space.
Key Insight: Tableau has emerged as a leader in BI and analytics with a framework that supports rich visualizations and storytelling. It offers appealing and highly customizable dashboards, and it can accommodate huge data sets. Tableau Desktop connects to hundreds of data sources, both on-premises and in the cloud. It includes drag-and-drop functionality along with support for AI and ML.
- Delivers outstanding visuals.
- Strong data integration and automation features.
- Includes powerful data management and presentation features.
- Supports most types of devices and operating systems, including all major mobile platforms.
- Offers 24/7 support.
- Steep learning curve for setting up data frameworks.
- Expensive, with complex and inflexible pricing model.
- ETL capabilities are not as advanced as other analytics and business intelligence platforms.
Read our in-depth comparison between Tableau and Domo next.
Key Insight: SAP combines BI, augmented and predictive analytics, and planning capabilities into a unified cloud environment. The solution serves as the analytics layer for SAP’s Business Technology Platform. It’s designed for both line-of-business users and data scientists. It incorporates machine-generated insights and analytics that are designed to link and create operational and financial plans—and deliver deeper insights.
- Highly rated by users for performance and reliability.
- Excellent user interface and high quality visualizations.
- Powerful automation features and strong data integration from numerous sources.
- Strong global language and currency support.
- Initial setup and data ingestion process can be challenging.
- Does not support on-premises applications and data for desktops and mobile devices.
Key Insight: The self-service BI and data visualization platform incorporates a visually appealing interface along with strong AI features to deliver advanced data search capabilities. This includes natural language search, AI-driven recommendations and direct manipulation of data. The platform is designed for line of business users and data scientists. It includes more than 60 native connectors and extensive support for APIs.
- Extremely flexible and highly customizable.
- Supports extremely large data sets.
- Offers excellent data visualization tools and options.
- Highly rates customer and technical support.
- Lags behind competitors in mobile exploration and authoring.
- Collaboration and social BI tools are not as advanced as others in the BI space.
- Presents a steep learning curve.
The analytics provider focuses on pre-built industry and role-specific content and metrics to power BI throughout the enterprise.
The CRM data platform addresses marketing through customer insights. It features an appealing interface and robust business analytics software.
IBM Cognos Analytics
IBM delivers rich BI insights through reporting and data visualizations. The platform taps Watson AI and machine learning for predictive analytics and other features.
The free, open-source data analytics solution supports data integration, modeling and visualization capabilities.
The platform generates a wide variety of data insights through AI, including predictive analytics.
Delivers AI-driven analytics through powerful data ingestion along with dashboards and visuals.
The platform supports ETL and reverse-ETL functionality within highly scalable BI and business analytics software. It delivers strong compliance and security features.
The self-service BI tool delivers robust uses powerful connectors and intuitive dashboards to deliver reports and visualizations.
Powerful data ingestion and excellent dashboards
May require add-ons
Microsoft Power BI
Excellent interactivity and top-notch visualizations
Not ideal for use with non-Microsoft applications and products
Powerful automation; highly flexible
Expensive, interface can be challenging
Oracle Analytics Cloud
Suitable for non-technical users; strong AI and data governance
Interface isn’t as modern as some users would like
Powerful and versatile platform with excellent connectivity to data
Lacks in collaboration and social BI; steep learning curve
SAS Enterprise Guide
Highly customizable; excellent governance and security features
Complex and can be expensive
Sisense Fusion Analytics
Outstanding data connectivity; offers numerous templates that automate BI
Steep learning curve
Outstanding UI and UX; excellent visualizations
Expensive; could use more ETL features
SAP Analytics Cloud
Excellent performance and reliability. High quality UI and rich visualizations
Setup can be challenging; expensive