A Business Intelligence (BI) tool is essential for any company that prioritizes data-based decision making. For that reason, my Storytelling with Data professor asked us to write a post evaluating the similarities and differences of analytics and BI platforms, which are tools that support the full analytic work ﬂow, from data preparation and ingestion to visual exploration and visualization. The idea is that if you use one of these platforms you will not need someone from the IT team helping you predefine data models or storing data in traditional data warehouses.
The web is flooded with pages that compare different softwares for BI and data visualization. The number of pages with ads, discount coupons, and link referrals made me doubt the objectivity of many of those sites. In the end, some of them survive from selling advertising.
So, I decided to go to a more reputable source: the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms. The report classifies the main players into four quadrants (challengers, leaders, niche players, and visionaries) while evaluating their capabilities in 2018, and future development plans. In the quadrant of the leaders are Microsoft, Tableau, Qlik and ThoughtSpot (a company founded by former Google executives.)
Let’s start with the leaders: Microsoft Power BI and Tableau. Tableau was launched in 2003 and, being the first tool in this category, defined the industry in many ways. Power BI is a newer participant. Launched in 2014, it has since expanded its functions and improved its usability.
After doing visualization and analysis of data with both tools, I can say that although the learning curve of Microsoft Power BI can be a little more pronounced, both are easy and fun tools to use. The only disadvantage when using Power BI is that, since my laptop is a Mac, I need to use Parallels Desktop to create a seamless Power BI Desktop.
Another important difference is the price. If you have many users, Tableau can be expensive. Power BI is more affordable.
Among the main players is also ThoughtSpot, which broke into the Magic Quadrant in 2017, in a modest position in the “niche players” quadrant. In 2018, ThoughtSpot moved to the visionary quadrant, thanks to its new search engine oriented to numerical analysis.
In 2019, ThoughtSpot entered the leader quadrant and differentiated from the other tools by facilitating the use of artificial intelligence and by allowing analytical conversations with the search engine on his own data using natural language.
The fourth member of the leader quadrant is Qlik, a data discovery platform that offers self-service BI. Qlik occupies this prominent place because it is a robust product. Qlikview’s data storage and ETL capabilities are considered better than those of Power BI.
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant shares some predictions for the industry in 2020:
- The number of data and analytics experts in business units will grow at three times the rate of experts in IT departments.
- 50% of analytical queries will either be generated via search, natural language processing or voice, or will be automatically generated.
- Organizations that offer users access to a curated catalog of data will derive twice as much business value from analytics investments as those that do not.
- By 2021, natural language processing and conversational analytics will boost analytics and business intelligence adoption from 35% of employees to more than 50%, including new classes of users, particularly front-office workers.
These predictions make me think that if we don’t have quality data, these BI tools don’t help much. That is why I believe that organizations that want to acquire one of these softwares must first define what challenges the organization wants to address and carry out a lot of data exploration to find all the sources of data in the company. In the end, analytics is not really a technology problem.