Suggestions for BI tools

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Suggestions for BI tools

Post  gnilrets on Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:48 pm

My company is currently unhappy with our BI tool and we're investigating the idea of switching. Which BI tool do you prefer?

Some needs and wants:

1) Reports served as a web page.
2) Drag-and-drop drillable.
3) Reports must be exportable to a printable Excel document.
4) Drill-across support
5) Portal must be customizable to integrate with the look and feel of our corporate web site.
6) Row-level security permissions.
7) Parameterized reports
No code writing required to build reports

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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  ngalemmo on Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:10 am

A lot of the major tools have all that functionality to some degree or another. They are all good, so the final choice is very subjective. Look around and evaluate what's out there. See what fits your situation best.

The only thing I disagree on is being able to publish to a spreadsheet. This basically invites people to extract the numbers and mess with them. With all the money an organization spends on compliance, they give anybody the opportunity to 'correct' a financial report. Fortunately, allmost all people are professional and honest. So, it is certainly a convienience, but the organization needs to weight the potential liability.
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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  gnilrets on Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:42 pm

That's an interesting point about the spreadsheets. The reason why this has become such a requirement for us is that many of our customers (especially brokers outside of our company) need to collate our reports with reports they get from other companies.

Also, (and I'm very new to BI), I haven't seen any BI tools that can drill-across without resorting to writing custom SQL code.

From what I can tell from the Cognos, SAP, and Tableu web sites, none of them offer drill-down report creation from a web app. Am I missing something?

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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  ngalemmo on Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:39 pm

gnilrets wrote:Also, (and I'm very new to BI), I haven't seen any BI tools that can drill-across without resorting to writing custom SQL code.

From what I can tell from the Cognos, SAP, and Tableu web sites, none of them offer drill-down report creation from a web app. Am I missing something?

Well, that's why I qualified it with "to some degree or another". No one does everything really well. As you mentioned, some require you to use their client version for some features. The web versions of these products are usually subsets that do not support more complex features of their product.

Any choice will involve compromise and you must have the business involved (usually key end-users) in evaluating and selecting a product. For example, SAP Business Objects has really strong metadata functionality, allowing you to hide most any SQL from end-users, but they are weak in report formatting (although I understand they are slowly improving the integration of Crystal Reports with their Universe (metadata repository)). Cognos is really strong in report formatting and defining very complex reports, but their metadata layer is not as robust. Microstrategy does a better job of dealing with large data sets by pushing most of the work on the source database. One tool, I forget which, handles drill down and drill across by linking to a predefined report/query and passing parameters.

So you need to prioritize your requrements and be willing to accept alternate methods to achive some requirements. Put together a short list, get the vendors in, and let the users decide.
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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  VHF on Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:55 pm

gnilrets wrote:I haven't seen any BI tools that can drill-across without resorting to writing custom SQL code.

From what I can tell from the Cognos, SAP, and Tableu web sites, none of them offer drill-down report creation from a web app.
I'm not quite sure what you are envisioning as far as drill-down report creation is concerned, but I think SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence (WebI) might meet all of your 8 requirements. One of several tools in the Business Objects (BObj) suite, WebI is an ad-hoc reporting tool that sits somewhere in the middle between Crystal Reports (tradtional report development) and Voyager (slice-and-dice drill-down analytics.) It uses a Java client to provide full functionality in a web-based environment. I've been pretty impressed by WebI's balance of power and ease-of-use. Let's see how it handles your requirements:

1) Reports served as a web page. --Yes, through the InfoView/BI LaunchPad portal.
2) Drag-and-drop drillable. --Yes, drag-and-drop query development; interactive drill-down can be enabled if hierarchies are defined.
3) Reports must be exportable to a printable Excel document. --Yes, can export to Excel.
4) Drill-across support --Yes, universe uses "contexts" to support drill-across multiple fact tables (ex: compare budget-to-actual, etc.)
5) Portal must be customizable to integrate with the look and feel of our corporate web site. --InfoView/BI LaunchPad can be branded.
6) Row-level security permissions. --Yes, although might require creating views if using a relational data source.
7) Parameterized reports --Yes.
No code writing required to build reports --Yes, WebI generates all the SQL or MDX behind the scenes (including drill-across.)

WebI is completely meta-data driven using the "universe" semantic layer. The universe doesn't store any data--but provides the model that WebI uses to allow the user to build drag-and-drop queries and let WebI generate the underlying code. Both relational and OLAP data sources are supported. Univese design is a specific skill but is pretty easy to learn--it is basicly echoing your dimensional model and determing what attributes and measures to make avilable to the end users. Other BObj tools (such as Voyager for analytics) can utilize the same universe.

Row level security typically depends on row-level security being set up in the underlying database, although it might be possible to implement a row-level security solution within the universe.

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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  Mike Honey on Sun Nov 27, 2011 9:33 pm

Hi gnilrets,

I've been having a fair bit of success in recent years with the Microsoft BI stack, i.e. Reporting Services and Excel (with Excel Web Services in SharePoint). I came from a Cognos background BTW.

The Microsoft tools might lack the last 10% of functionality compared to the Tier 1 vendors, but they have several advantages including cost, scalability, resource availability and doco/info (Microsoft and numerous forums and blogs going into every detail).

Reporting Services is a serviceable "managed reporting" tool which scales well and has great rendering these days.

But their "killer app" IMO is Excel with Excel Web Server. Report authors can mash up data from data tables, OLAP cubes, and PowerPivot (in memory cubes) in a familiar environment. It has easy publishing and presentation integration to SharePoint via the Excel Web Server.

Back in my Cognos days, I too used to rail against the dangers of Excel. But Excel 2010 PivotTables on an OLAP cube (e.g. SSAS) is a great solution - enterprise-scale verified & controlled data, presented in every Analyst's favourite tool. SSAS cubes can accomodate facts of varying granularity with a mix of dimensions (via Many-to-Many relationships), so the Excel PivotTable becomes a very powerful "drill-across" tool.

Good luck!
Mike


Last edited by Mike Honey on Sun Nov 27, 2011 9:37 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : punctuation)
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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  gnilrets on Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:20 pm

Thanks for the info.

Any thoughts on some of the non-"Tier 1" vendors like Actuate, Pentaho, or Jaspersoft?

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BI tools

Post  sonia2010 on Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:31 am

Hello,
Business intelligence tools are a type of application software designed to retrieve, analyze and report data. The tools generally read data that have been previously stored, often, though not necessarily, in a data warehouse or data mart. Except for spreadsheets, these tools are sold as standalone tools, suites of tools, components of ERP systems, or as components of software targeted to a specific industry. The tools are sometimes packaged into data warehouse appliances.

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Re: Suggestions for BI tools

Post  Jeff Smith on Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:56 pm

Cognos 10 is pretty impressive. Hard to explain exactly what it does, but it's impressive. I've used Cognos for a long time and Version 10 knocked my socks off. You can really see the benefit of being acquired by IBM. Cognos 10 works real well with SPSS as well.

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BI Tool Recommendation

Post  kbreedlove50 on Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:12 pm

As a consultant, I've been following developments in the BI tool space for a long time, and the answer really depends on your needs, your data and your users.
* What type of BI do you need, now and in the future? Standard, fixed reports, or dynamic, multidimensional analysis?
* How much data for analysis do you have, now and in the future? What's the growth rate?
* What are the capabilities of the typical end user?

A good place to go to get information about BI tools is The Data Warehousing Institute (http://tdwi.org).

My preferred tool is MicroStrategy for several reasons:
* Its ROLAP architecture makes its scalability unlimited (unlike most of the other vendors whose architecture is MOLAP (cube-based)
* MicroStrategy's focus has been to develop capabilities that can be taught to the frontline user to allow them to eventually become their own developers. Is it complex? Yes, but then so are the advanced features of Excel
* One of the lowest TCOs in the industry
* Has been in the BI business for over 20 years, and BI is all it does
* Open system (supports virtually all common RDBMSs) with a common metadata repository meaning that an entry in a dashboard can be drilled into all the way down to atomic detail (assuming that you've stored that detail)
* Provides true web browser-based design and deployment, including to mobile devices, with consistent look and feel across all major browsers
* As an added benefit, MicroStrategy offers a full, time- and user-limited license to try it out. this sounds great, but it can be daunting to try to learn it as you go. But, they also offer a variety of free, hands-on courses to introduce you to it.

I hope this helps.

Regards,

Keith

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