Business intelligence isn't just for the big boys anymore. Check out our short list of star SMB options, from easy-to-deploy SaaS choices to affordable versions of the biggest BI suites.
12 Brawny Business Intelligence Options For SMBs Business intelligence started out as a technology geared to large organizations with big budgets and plenty of IT support. The good news for small and midsize businesses is that BI has gone mainstream and that trend has led to plenty of low-cost, easy-to-deploy, and easy-to-manage BI options. There are desktop-analysis tools that enable power users to distribute reports, dashboards, and data visualizations across your organization. There are quick-to-deploy software-as-a-service-based systems that can growth with your organization. And then there are the scaled-down suites from the biggest BI vendors that give you the essentials of BI at a lower cost.
Working smarter--not harder--is what business intelligence is all about. So what business, government agency, or non-profit organization wouldn't want to take advantage of BI? The challenge for SMBs is acquiring BI software on slim technology budgets, then deploying and maintaining systems with limited IT support. A number of vendors have responded with BI options geared to smaller and growing companies. Tibco Spotfire and Tableau Software, for example, offer no-cost and low-cost tools that let users develop and share easy-to-understand data visualizations. BIRST, MyDials, and PivotLink are among a handful of on-demand BI systems that can subscribe to online. LogiXML, Microsoft, and QlikTech have hit a sweet spot in serving midsize firms. Finally, IBM Cognos, Oracle, SAP BusinessObjects, and SAS offer scaled-down versions of their enterprise-focused BI suites. Read on to find out more about of each of these options.
Desktop Options: Tableau Turns Data Into Visual Insight Tableau Software's low-cost desktop data visualization tools tap spreadsheets, databases and other sources and turn data into easy-to-understand charts, graphs, spark lines, tree maps, bubble charts and other visualizations. Data-savvy business people can use the $999 Desktop Personal Edition or $1,999 Desktop Professional Edition to develop and share analyses and dashboards that others can view using a free Tableau Reader client. A server-based product supports broad distribution and up-to-the-minute access to the latest data. Try it out at TableauPublic.com, a free site that lets you create data visualizations and post them on them on blogs, websites, or intranets or share via email.
Desktop Options: Tibco Spotfire Spans Visualization and Deep Analytics Tibco Silver Spotfire is a hosted BI and data visualization offering, but it all starts with desktop analysis software. You can download and use the company's desktop authoring client (shown here) for one year at no charge. When you're ready to share visualizations with others, you publish them to Tibco's hosted collaboration environment. Fee-based hosting services are available starting at $79 per user, per month once the trial period is over. Spotfire also offers deep statistical and analytical options that take advantage of S+ and R programming languages.
BI SaaS Style: BIRST Puts Query And Reporting In The Cloud With BI software as a service, you can forget about complicated, expensive, and time-consuming software deployments. You subscribe, go through setup in a matter of days or weeks, depending on the complexity of your needs, and you're ready to go. Simply upload data to marts and warehouses maintained by the service provider and use their query, analysis, dashboard, and reporting tools. As seen here, services from SaaS BI vendor BIRST include many of the data-integration, analysis, and reporting services that you'd find in a conventional on-premises BI suite.
BI SaaS Style: Drill Down on MyDials Dashboards The myDials BI subscription service provides a foundation of dashboard interfaces that can be linked with myriad on-premises data sources and set to user-customizable views and drill-through analyses. Customers can also set up goals, thresholds, and exception alerts to spot exception conditions such as revenue shortfalls. Optional sales analysis and online marketing modules offer batteries of prebuilt key metrics and comparative visualizations of interest to sales and marketing professionals.
BI SaaS Style: PivotLink Apps Target Industries And Roles PivotLink started as SeaTab Software back in 1998, and it has been offering analytics as a service ever since. The company has among the broadest functionality among SaaS-based BI vendors, and steady upgrades have brought dashboard and data visualization upgrades as well as industry-specific solutions for retail, manufacturing, e-commerce, and supply chain. There are also role-specific analyses for sales, marketing, IT, and human resources professionals.
SMB Specialists: LogiXML Simplifies With Wizards and Self-Service These aren't dumbed -down BI products with features and functions removed to keep costs down. LogiXML caters primarily to SMBs with a web-based products for data integration, ad hoc reporting, OLAP analysis, dashboards, and managed reporting. Browser-based client seats are unlimited and free of charge. Wizard-driven deployment and setup features minimize the need for coding and IT support. Logi ETL provides the essentials of data integration. Logi Ad Hoc lets business analysts create and share dashboards, reports, and analyses self-service style. Logi Info is a development studio for building BI apps that can be embedded within other apps or deployed directly to internal users or customers. Logi Mobile delivers instant access to dashboards and reports from any mobile-web-friendly device.
SMB Specialists: Microsoft Delivers BI As A Fringe Benefit Microsoft's answer for BI appeals to enterprises large and small, but midsize firms, in particular, like the fact that if you license Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint (Enterprise), and Microsoft Office, you own all the components of Microsoft BI. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 provides built-in Reporting Services, Analysis Services, Integration Services, and the PowerPivot in-memory-analysis plug-in for Excel. SharePoint Enterprise Edition gives you PerformancePoint Services for dashboards, scorecards, and analytics. And Microsoft Office gives you Excel, which is a ubiquitous data-consumption tool, exploited by Microsoft as well as most other BI vendors. You'll need IT's support to make the most of integration, reporting, and analysis services, but SharePoint and Excel are familiar, easy to use, and versatile in serving many needs.
SMB Specialists: QlikTech Speeds Analysis With In-Memory Technology QlikTech is one of the fastest-growing companies in business intelligence, and it has found a sweet spot among organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees. The company's QlikView product is also selected by departments and line-of-business units of larger companies seeking a way around IT bottlenecks and corporate-standard products. The key advantage of the vendor's in-memory technology is that it delivers fast analysis without the need for IT to develop OLAP cubes, dashboards, or formatted reports. QlikView's simple, visual interface lets business users can quickly filter and drill down on the data. QlikTech has also been a leader in mobile BI, supporting devices including iPhone, iPad, and other devices with HTML5 browsers.
Slimmed-Down BI: IBM Cognos Express Supports In-Memory Analysis IBM Cognos Express combines software from the Cognos suite and Applix TM1, IBM's in-memory analysis engine. Starting with as few as five named users, the portfolio includes reporting, data visualization, analysis, and planning modules targeted at companies with 100 to 1,000 employees. Reporter addresses core query and reporting needs with drag-and-drop report authoring. Advisor eases analysis through easy-to-understand data visualizations. Planner supports budgeting and forecasting--think finance and business analysts. Xcelerator supports "what-if" in-memory analysis with support for Microsoft Excel. The software can be downloaded from the web and IBM says it can be configured and administered by as few as one or two people. Data access and integration technologies are built into the software and dashboards, and analyses can be handled on a self-service basis by untrained users.
Simplified Suites: Oracle BI SE One Starts At $6,000 Oracle Business Intelligence Standard Edition One (SE One) is Oracle's basic BI suite designed for deployments from 5 to 50 users--so roughly companies with 50 to 500 employees if you expect modest (10%) BI adoption. The edition includes Oracle Interactive Dashboards, Oracle BI Publisher for highly formatted reporting, Oracle Answers for ad hoc reporting and analysis, Oracle Warehouse Builder for ETL, and Oracle Database (SE One edition) in a single package said to be easy to install. When your business grows you step up to Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. SE One starts at $1,200 per named user with a minimum of five named users.
Simplified Suites: SAP BusinessObjects Edge SAP BusinessObjects Edge packages are aimed at companies with 100 to 1,000 employees and $100 million to $1 billion in revenue. The Standard package, which starts at five concurrent users, includes reporting, query, and analysis capabilities. Upgrades add support for data integration (extract, transform, load, and drill-down analysis) and data management (the integration elements plus data parsing, cleansing, and address synchronization). Also available are "Rapid Marts" preconfigured for self-service analysis of SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Siebel apps data. Edge Planning and Consolidation and Edge Strategy Management apps support budgeting, planning and forecasting, scorecards, and strategic goal setting, respectively.
Simplified Suites: SAS Packages Analytics For Midsize Firms "Analytics specialist SAS has four BI and analytics options priced and configured for midsize companies. SAS Office Analytics for Midsize Business gives business users self-service access to SAS Analytics from within Microsoft Office clients. SAS Analytics Pro for Midsize Business (pictured here) supports advanced data analysis, graphics and reporting, letting business users access, manipulate, manage, store, analyze, visualize, and report on data without IT support. SAS Desktop Data Mining for Midsize Business is an easy-to-deploy, client-based data mining workbench with template capabilities for repeatable analyses. SAS Data Integration for Midsize Business provides the basics of data management and movement so users can tap into correct and complete data with efficient, automated data-integration routines."
8 Other BI Options for SMBs The 12 options described in this gallery are among the leading BI options for SMBs, but the list continues. Actuate, Jaspersoft, and Pentaho offer open-source BI software with low-cost commercial support. Other SaaS-based BI vendors include GoodData, Indicee, Oco (recently acquired by Deloitte), and SAP BusinessObjects OnDemand. Finally, independents Advizor and MicroStrategy are also options. Advizor offers a visual data-discovery and analysis tool. MicroStrategy offers up to 100 free licenses of its basic reporting software, though support and other modules you're likely to need are not free.
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