With data more widely available than ever before in considerable amounts (and far less expensively), businesses find they now can collect and use data to inform their practices in a way that wasn’t practical in the past. Modern businesses are now turning to business analytics tools (also known as "business intelligence") to leverage that data most effectively, and manage the analysing and presentation of their data.
What are Business Analytics Tools?
According to Forbes, executive managers are amongst the primary users of business analytic tools. The use of business analytic tools enables such managers to make data-informed decisions (where many decisions prior had a basis in anecdotal evidence or past business practices). Those in operations are also primary users of such tools. The objectives there are to minimise waste and increase operational efficiencies, which in turn leads to growth in profits. Sales units are the third primary users of business analytic tools, with a focus on expanding the company's competitive advantage by making use of real-time data analytics to serve the customer base in a manner that is timely and informed.
Forbes reports that the most effective business analytic technologies include:
· Dashboards – the most pertinent company information at a glance (e.g., for revenues, expenditures, etc.)
· Visualisation – the most effective, interpretable way to observe patterns and trends in a data set
· Reporting – reports that impart the results in a manner that is easily understood
· End-User Self-Service – where non-IT staff can create the types of reports they need
· Data Warehousing – centralised stores of data from various sources
What Types of Companies Use Business Analytics Tools?
Any modern business can make use of such tools, whether the business is considered small (less than 100 employees) or is a global corporation. Start-up companies can make excellent use of business analytic tools; given the generally limited funds of most start-ups (the average is £4,732). Using business analytic tools at the outset means the company can keep the data organised and reportable while it grows. The tool's capabilities of discerning areas of both success and failure can assist the company in determining the best use of its resources. Large companies are hardly expected to manage without such tools with the size and complexity of data they could potentially amass.
What Makes for a Top Performing Business Analytics Tool?
Several key features make business analytic tools indispensable to the companies that use them. The following are essential features:
· Visualisation tools
· Ad hoc queries
· Ease of use
· Development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) (a quantifiable way to measure success)
It is also crucial for the components listed above to be customisable to and for the company using them. For example, a company that distributes reports globally would need a reporting tool that reports in different languages. KPIs differ quite broadly from industry to industry, and a static set would be worthless to many companies.
Best Business Analytics Tools
Given their importance for businesses, what business analytics software is identified as being among the best? While there is a vast number of robust business analytics software programmes, the following eight have been identified by users and technology raters as being among the best in the business.
1. Sisense. BI users identified Sisense in a Business Intelligence survey as being among the best business analytics tools. Sisense consolidates and filters data, produces analytics and reports, and its drag and drop design makes it easy to use. Sisense was also identified as a top data warehouse tool. Sisense is scalable – it can be adapted for large and small businesses.
2. Chartio. Chartio can connect to various types of data sources, and hosts data dashboards that auto-refresh. Analytics are accomplished by way of visual queries – it has been recognised as among the better business analytic tools for user self-service.
3. Zoho Analytics. Zoho Analytics is recognised as one of the best business analytic tools in 2019. Business analytics users also prefer it. Zoho’s tools are robust, easy to use, and very importantly, highly customisable. Multiple data sources can be used, resulting in faster visualisation and report generation. Zoho Analytics also offers workspaces for teams to collaborate as they create reports or dashboards.
4. Tableau. Tableau is not only among the best analytics tools in 2019 (as identified by ComputerWorldUK), it is also one of the most popular as identified by Capterra, an online site that provides peer reviews for business software. Tableau is highly intuitive, increasing its ease of use. A key feature is the ability for organisations to connect and share data, visualisations, and reports. Multiple views of data can be combined for more insights.
5. Yellowfin. Yellowfin is another business analytics tool preferred by users. It uses machine learning to reduce programming needs. Alerts are created when there are changes in trends and forecasts. It is also noted for data storytelling, which permits for a better contextual understanding of the data, and trust in the results.
6. Dundas. One of the best business analytics tools of 2019, Dundas is also one of the top tools for data visualisation. Dundas is browser-based using drag and drop technology. The visualisations are interactive, and data animations (“best practices data transitions”) are used to see interaction impacts. Dundas offers 45 unique visualisations.
7. Looker. Identified by Finances Online as one of the best business analytics tools for small and big businesses, users can build modules and design visualisations with one line of code. It makes use of its own database querying language, LookML (a more straightforward querying language that works with SQL).
8. MS Power BI. Being able to access Power BI on the cloud or a company’s reporting server makes it one of the favoured tools of 2019. This enables people to work wherever they are, and as stated on Power BI’s website: “connect to your data, wherever it is.” Those who work primarily with and like MS Excel are apt to enjoy working in Power BI.
Learning to Use Business Analytic Tools
There are various approaches to learning the underpinnings of these types of tools; .However, the best approach is to enrol in a programme that teaches fundamentals to make the best use of the software. Fortunately, there are online accredited programmes that do precisely that. Aston University’s online MSc Business Analytics is one such programme. Flexible programmes such as Aston University’s will have an interested individual working successfully with these business analytic tools while growing their overall analytical skill set. With the ability to harness and derive insights using the most powerful tools, your career could only be satisfying and rewarding.