In this review, I want to help you find the best business intelligence tools and other reporting software.
In order to help you pick what reporting software you need, I’ll share the business intelligence applications to include on your analytical tools shortlist and explain what web based reporting tools are. I’ll go over what to look for in a comprehensive business intelligence dashboard and answer some basic FAQs about business intelligence solutions.
You may rely on business intelligence reporting tools for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to gaining insight into consumer behavior, turning data into actionable information, efficiency improvements, increase sales through better marketing intelligence, and a number of other business-growth-oriented motivations. You’ll find software to undertake data discovery, make interactive reports, and drill down into your marketing analytics—there’s a tool for everything under the sun.
It comes down to this question: what do you need to ensure that your team succeeds in every aspect of their day-to-day workflow? Chances are, the right data reporting software can help you hone in on your company’s strengths and weaknesses and make a plan to improve. Let’s look at some of the top software out there.
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Business Intelligence Tools Comparison Criteria
- User Interface (UI): How well-designed is it? Does it offer clear displays and intuitive navigation?
- Usability: Is this easy to learn and master? Are there tutorials and training? Especially for enterprise reporting tools, the should offer various types of tech and user support to help onboard various members of your org.
- Features & Functionality: How many of the key management reporting tools features and functions does it provide, and how powerful are they? Specifically, I looked for:
- Customizable Dashboards: the best BI solutions offer a single screen display with multiple visualizations, along with the ability to interconnect the visualizations (so any filters or selections will affect all the visualizations) or maintain each one as independent. It should reflect changes in real-time and allow you to create customized displays of key data.
- Drill Down and Data Filters: includes features such as drop-down menus, search filters and slicers, as well as the ability to drill down into the details and back up to data summaries.
- Web-based Interface For Clients: it’s simplest if reporting solutions that are client-facing offer web-based client interfaces, as it’s more efficient and easier to administer than desktop-based client interfaces.
- Scheduled and Automated Reports: the tool should help you easily monitor progress. This includes the ability to schedule automatic updates to be sent out to teams, send out automatic reports to clients, and set up automatic notifications to be made aware of key dates or thresholds.
- High Quality Diagramming: basic tools include bar, line, pie, area and radar chart types, and more advanced diagrams include heat maps, scatter plots, bubble charts, histograms, and geospatial maps. The best reporting tools let you mix and match to create diagrams that use a combination of these visualizations.
- Integrations: Integrations offerings can be divided into three broad categories. 1) How well an app integrates into your software for seamlessly embedded BI visualizations? 2) And, does the software integrate with any third-party apps; does it offer plug-ins, connectors, and/or extension for your other workflow software? 3) What and how many different data sources can it connect to and pull from?
- Value for $: How appropriate is the price for its features, capabilities, and use case? Is pricing clear, transparent and flexible?
Best Business Intelligence Tools Overviews
1. Power BI – Best business intelligence tool for Microsoft users
This is a business analytics solution that lets you connect, model, and then explore data in order to create reports using built-in or from-scratch visuals. Power BI features interactive data visualizations, robust semantic models, an application lifecycle management (ALM) toolkit, an open connectivity framework, and more.
As far as out value for cost evaluation criteria goes, Power BI stands out. Why? Paginated and interactive reports can be made available for personnel inside or outside your organization without having to purchase additional licenses. Power BI Desktop is also free to use.
A few notes: Jumping into Power BI with limited Excel experience/skill will result in a steep learning curve for the user. Also, note that a Pro Account dashboards can only be shared with and viewed by other Pro Account holders within your organization.
As you can imagine, this Microsoft owned software integrates well with other Microsoft products like Excel, as well as Salesforce CRM, SQL Server Database, Oracle Database, IBM databases, Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Facebook analytics, and others.
Power BI starts at $9.99/user/month and has a free 60-day trial.
2. Looker – Best database business intelligence tool
Create easy-to-read reports and visual oriented dashboards that display data-rich insights for defining business metrics, locating value, and discovering interconnectivity between tables. Resources and features include custom applications, embedded visualizations, data science workflows, the ability to host on Public Clouds (like AWS and GCP), and more.
They offer a free interactive training course and many other tutorial-like resources, which is why I was able to score them so highly in the usability section of the evaluation criteria. Beneath the “Getting Started” tab, you’ll notice that they have plenty of self-help resources for viewing data, building tools, and developing models.
The downfall of this software is that writing the queries is not incredibly user friendly. On top of that, data analytics tasks take a significant amount of time to render and run queries. The larger your data pool, the more sluggish it gets.
They connect with databases from Redshift, Snowflake, BigQuery, as well as 50+ supported SQL dialects like Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Snowflake, MySQL, Oracle, Amazon Athena, Amazon Aurora, and more.
Looker starts at $3,000/month for 10 users ($50/additional user) and has a free demo.
3. Logi Analytics – Best out-of-the-box embedded analytics tool for software teams
Logi Analytics is an analytics solution that embeds machine learning and artificial intelligence inside your application to provide robust data dashboards and self-service reporting right in your app. Intelligent workflows then let users take action or trigger a process without leaving the application.
Additional documentation, examples, tutorials, and online forum activity would go a long way to making Logi Analytics more user friendly, particularly when deep diving into the more complex functions. Furthermore, another con may be that this software is not suitable for non-SQL users.
Logi works with SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, DB2, Progress OpenEdge; Big data such as Amazon Redshift, HP Vertica, MongoDB, 1010Data, Hadoop (Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR), Snowflake, Google BigQuery, Infobright; Web services and cloud applications like SFDC, Hubspot, Marketo; and different file types, including Excel, CSV, and XML. They also offer an assortment of plugins to meet additional user requirements.
Logi Analytics offers custom quotes and has a free demo.
4. Izenda – Best business intelligence software for embedding in web-based applications
Self-service reporting embedded right in your software with access to charts, graphs, and various visualizations, configurable dashboards and reports, responsive design, integrated security measures, and admin UI that lets you manage data connectivity, user permissions, and multi-tenancy.
If our evaluation criteria for usability (help availability and training) is a core focus of yours, then Izenda will most likely impress you and your team. They offer plenty of online resources (white papers, case studies, videos, blogs) and their customer service team is responsive and helpful. Izenza is beneficial if you need a unique solution driven by representatives who are willing to listen to your business’s needs.
A major con is that the software runs a bit slowly compared to some others on the market. Also, the screen can get a little overcrowded with all of the functions and features available. Any advanced reporting tasks will require a strong background in SQL.
Izenda integrates with any cloud, hybrid, or on-premise workflow solution. It supports the export of reports to PDF, XLS, Word, CSV, JSON and XML.
Izenda offers custom pricing and has a free demo and a free trial.
5. Exago – Best business intelligence reporting tool for beginners and non-technical folks
Award-winning ease of use as well as advanced functionality means that Exago is great for both non-technical users and experts alike. You can determine what set of features each user has access to, offering solutions like a library of standard customizable reports, a drag-and-drop ExpressView designer, and a spreadsheet-organized Advanced Report builder. Build, format and export reports at any technical skill level.
Exago perfectly balances our evaluation criteria needs for value for cost and stand-out usability. It is relatively inexpensive, very flexible, easy to deploy, and intuitive to learn and use for the end user.
They integrate with your software in what they call “stealth mode”, offering an open API, fully configurable CSS, single sign-on authorization, and programmatic extension points.
While great for small or static teams, Exago’s software can’t scale with you so it won’t do well for companies that expect to expand over time. Another con is that it is somewhat lacking features like a broader variety of data manipulation functions, multi selection in a parameter, and the ability to use mssql over mySQL.
Exago offers custom pricing and has a free 30-day trial.
6. Metric Insights – Best enterprise BI portal builder
Founded in 2010, Metric Insights lets you engage users by bringing all your BI tools and data together into one easily searchable portal. It automatically identifies anomalies in your data, provides insights on your data in any application and on any device, and offers plenty of integrations and plug-ins in order to connect to the data that matters most to you.
Metric Insights definitely exceeds our evaluation criteria expectations for integration capabilities, as they integrate with a huge variety of popular databases in order to collect and sort actionable data from a variety of sources. If you need to connect to something infrequently services, Basecamp or iTunes for example, then Metric Insights is the obvious go-to.
Some places they lose marks includes pricing, as they are reportedly quite expensive compared to other competitors. They also have close to no online community to speak of for a company that has been around for a fairly long time, so if you are hoping to problem-solve and collaborate on forums with other users, you’re out of luck.
Metric Insights work with Tableau Server and Tableau Online as well as QlikView and Qlik Sense solutions. They offer plug-ins to pull data from popular platforms like 1010data, Adaptive Insights, Adobe Analytics, Basecamp, Becon, Business Objects, Facebook, Google Analytics, Google BigQuery, Google Sheets, Hubspot, iTunes, Power BI, Jira, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.
Metric Insights offers custom pricing and has a free demo and free trial.
7. InetSoft – Best data intelligence tool for scalable architecture and advanced modeling
Whether you need finance reporting, human resource analytics, marketing tools, sales dashboards, supply chain dashboards, project management dashboards, or enterprise asset management, InetSoft offers machine-learning solutions to meet those needs. Features include visualization dashboards and published reports, machine learning paired with human developed analysis, and scalable architecture.
InetSoft was dinged a bit in the usability department, as the tutorial library could be built out to include much more material for the common user. Furthermore, there are reports that customer service takes some time to respond, though this was not something I experienced first-hand.
Nevertheless, a technical team can integrate InetSoft components into your application at many different levels. You can integrate into an existing environment in a variety of ways, like using CSS Interface Customization, Dashboard Integration, IFrame Integration, JSP Tag Library for J2EE Environment, SOAP Web Services, building a custom report tree or list, and more.
Other than the minor usability complaints, the only major con to note would be the learning curve associated with any robust platform. Particularly, it was time-consuming to do a replacement of root level blocks on the worksheet and then when trying to alter data source for the worksheet blocks.
InetSoft offers custom pricing and has a free 5-day trial.
8. Sisense – Best business intelligence API for building analytics into your products and tools
A hybrid-cloud platform built to leverage all of your data together and make it available to you through interactive dashboards, self-service analytics, and/or white-labeled BI apps. They offer support, analytics, and reporting for business areas such as customer service measurables, digital marketing, finances, human resources, retail and eCommerce, IT analytics, and more.
As far as our usability and UI evaluation criteria expectations, I found that Sisense is easy to use, easy to instal and setup, and sports an intuitive interface and streamlined UX. The customer service team is responsive and adaptive so this would be a decent choice for companies with lower levels of technology experience who might need some extra assistance.
A few cons include that the marketing connector could be more robust. Also, some functions are so simplified that they get in the way, for example not having to write a query seems like a time saving mechanism until your needs don’t match their pre-existing data and you have to jump through hoops to find a creative solution to get what you need.
Use ODBC to connect directly to Sisense’s powerful back-end from any third party application you like, from Excel to popular data visualization and reporting tools. They also offer a marketplace for extensions and plug-ins that they or their partners provide for use. Some are available free and others are only available with a premium account.
Sisense offers custom pricing and has a free demo as well as a free trial.
9. Zoho Analytics – Best business intelligence tool for small companies
Zoho Analytics is a great business intelligence tool for small businesses, given their large feature set, simple interface, and affordable pricing for a small number of users.
This tool lets you pull data from a wide range of sources and build out intuitive and functional reports in order to analyze the visualized data. AI assistant “Zia” will answer questions typed into a query box using the data collected, combined with machine learning and natural language processing technologies.
Zoho Analytics takes the prize for my favorite in features and functionality. While most of the software reviewed here can sport a robust BI system, Zoho goes above and beyond with features like their AI assistant, their focus on ease of collaboration, tons of third party integration options, and Android and iOS mobile apps.
A few minor cons for Zoho include that the SQL tutorials could be built out a little bit better. Additionally, the reporting pivot view/summaries would benefit from having an “OR” or “CONTAINS” command in order to better pull out the data that you need.
They have integrations with Zoho Analytics, SAlesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Hubspot CRM, Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Bing Ads, Zoho Surveys, Survey Monkey, Facebook, TWitter, YouTube,QuickBooks, Xero, Shopify, Zendesk, and more.
Zoho Analytics starts from $22/month for 2 users and has a free 15-day trial.
10. Tableau – Best enterprise business intelligence tool
Tableau is a robust, scalable analytics platform with desktop, cloud or on-site options. It boats an interactive, visual analysis style and allows you to securely consume your data via browser, desktop, mobile, or embedded into any application. They offer over 900 learning resources, including over 100 training videos.
They excel in a specific area of the features and functions evaluations criteria section: flexibility. Tableau is easily scalable; offered by server, desktop and/or cloud; available on all device types, be it PC or smartphone; and they have free analytics resources for students, educators and smaller not-for-profits. Whatever your niche, you are sure to find something that fits.
Tableau can join with data collection systems like ServiceNow, Splunk, and Google Analytics. Other integrations, or “Technology Partners as they call them, include 0xdata, AIMMS, Aircloak, AllSight, Amazon Web Services, Astera, Axiomatics, Birst, Datawatch,
Element Analytics, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Microsoft, and many, many more.
The pricing is a bit steep to begin with and costs go up at the end of the year long contract. Multi-year contracts are not available, so they got dinged in our value for cost section because of the high and shifting price schema, which can come across as predatory.
Tableau starts at $70/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
The Best Business Intelligence Tools Comparison Chart
Other Business Reporting Software & Applications
In my research, I found a few tools that didn’t quite make the list but that deserve a shout-out nevertheless. The following reporting tools list are my honorable mentions for this round:
- AnswerRocket – A searchable database of statistics and reports that is designed to answer questions of the everyday user.
- Improvado – 150+ integrations – like Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, YouTube and LinkedIn – to plot all marketing initiatives on one dashboard.
- AgencyAnalytics – SEO, PPC, social, email, review and call tracking dashboards all-in-one system.
- Klipfolio – Intuitive data visualization software for companies of all sizes.
- Supermetrics – Marketing metrics with a focus on reporting automation tools for PPC, SEO, social and web analytics.
- Tray – An iPaaS solution with API integration, CSV automation and an easy drag-and-drop workflow.
- Funnel – Easy to understand and manipulate marketing and advertising data.
- Adaptive Insights – Modernized planning, modeling, budgeting, and forecasting tools.
- ClicData – A business intelligence platform complete with a data warehouse, processing and management, dashboard designer and automation.
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What’s Your Top Business Intelligence Tool?
Gone are the days when business intelligence systems were dominated by IBM and Siebel (now Oracle), as was the case in the late 20th century. Now, you have a whole host of data reporting tools available to you on a whim. Whether you need to sort, retrieve, visualize, or report data, there is something out there that best meets your needs.
I hope this reporting tools comparison helped you figure out what kind of software might work best for your business. It’s a work in progress and I’ll be updating it regularly.
Report generation software can amplify your marketing efforts by providing you with the data you need to make key decisions going forwards. Make sure you have the tools you need to back up these efforts so that you can continually grow your business operations based on real-world data that is relevant to you and your customers.
Did I forget your favorite reporting application software in this list? Feel free to share it with our community in the comments below.