How many touch points do you have with your customers? One, three, four, ten?
Companies analyze their data in their websites, their email campaigns, their support, and sales team. These data usually reside in different places. Event data could be in Mixpanel, email marketing in Mailchimp, your support in Zendesk or accounting in Xero, etc.
But companies today are looking for insights. That’s why they invest in data warehouses and the relevant engineering work even before they grow big. Although insights might come only from one source, imagine the possibilities of having all your data in one place, that can be queried directly by a data analyst or your BI tools and custom dashboards.
Where do I start?
Unlocking the value of your analytics means that you need to find a straight forward way to get your data from a multiple of software-as-a-service applications into one place so you can run your analysis. In other words:
- A way to extract your data.
- Transform / Prepare your data
- Integrate and load these data into a cloud-based SQL data warehouse.
Imagine your data from Mixpanel, Intercom, Mailchimp, Zendesk and more connected in minutes with a service like Blendo into your data warehouses such as Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, PostgreSQL or MS SQL for advanced analysis that will cover the complete customer journey and experience.
And now that you have all your data in your data warehouse, What?
Some tools will help you explore and visualize this data. They belong in the Business Intelligence category but they vary from Analytics to Reporting tools and Dashboards. So in the list bellow, you will find tools of these two types.
What may I ask?
In some of these tools, you may start getting insights with simple or no queries at all. Especially if your weapon of choice is a dashboard and you need to answer difficult questions then you have to write some queries. Imagine you have Intercom as your only data source, can you answer “how many new conversations were created in the last: 7, 28 & 90 days?” or “the median first response time for a period of 7, 28 & 90 days“. That’s why we have built some queries to get you started.
But like I already said, there are many tools out there. And just like the apps in the App Store, there are a few that stand out from the rest.
So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to crowdsource, curate, and brainstorm all of the best, dashboards and BI tools in the web.
Enough with me talking. Grab a chair it’s going to be a big list.
Cyfe is cloud-based dashboard app that helps you monitor all your business data in one place in real time. It allows you to efficiently monitor and control your business by bringing together several different monitoring dashboards in one centralized platform.
Cyfe has a freemium pricing plan.
Key Takeaway: Cyfe offers a cloud-based, real-time dashboard service at a freemium plan.
Geckoboard is a cloud-based tool for aggregating and visualizing data in real time. It is very similar to Cyfe, (or Cyfe is similar to Geckoboard).
You may pull together data from a large number of services and bring them together to build your custom dashboards. They have some nice dashboard examples here. Geckoboard offers an API for developing Geckoboard’s custom widgets and push data. They have a free trial and a paid subscription model.
Key Takeaway: Geckoboard offers a cloud-based, real-time dashboard service with an extensive selection of ready-made integrations making it possible for non-technical users to get started. An excellent way to display your daily/weekly/monthly KPIs.
Leftronic offer almost the same features like Cyfe and Geckoboard such as real-time dashboards, integrations, custom dashboards, dashboard sharing and more. Leftronic provides an API that allows you to push custom data points into widgets.
Leftronic has a beautiful and smooth UI and provides ready-made widgets and also includes quite a few advanced features.
Key Takeaway: Leftronic offers a cloud-based, real-time dashboard service with a large selection of ready-made integrations making it possible for non-technical users to get started.
+ If you are the open source person you may check Dashing, a Sinatra based dashboard framework created by Shopify. Note that it is no longer maintained! So if you are brave enough or you want to experiment get it from here.
Check these examples with some of their dashboards.
Key Takeaway: Plotly offers a great API, flexible and simple to use features and rich dashboards used by big and small companies.
Business Intelligence tools
BIME is an analytics platform for businesses that helps you build beautiful dashboards to have all your data together. Zendesk acquired BIME Analytics in 2015.
As a data analyst (or non-analyst) you can bring your data into one place and build your charts and analyses without the need to know SQL. It is a lightweight edition compared with other solutions.
See here a showcase with their visualizations.
Key Takeaway: BIME offers a cloud-based, simple & lightweight solution for data analysts and non-analysts.
Chartio is a SaaS, self-service business intelligence (BI) tool. It supports a lot of different data sources, and they focus on connecting to on-premise databases as well as cloud-based databases. Chartio provides a comfortable, light-weight tool for basic data pulls, so either you use SQL or their drag-and-drop Interactive Mode.
Chartio has a drug & drop interface which allows you to create great visualizations, charts, and dashboards that are easy to build and customize and can become pretty sophisticated too.
Key Takeaway: Chartio is a cloud-based self-service business intelligence (BI) tool with excellent SQL abilities to work on your data. If you are SQL proficient then this is a great tool.
Klipfolio has advanced features and a relatively steep learning curve because of all of these. However, you can create a broad range of real-time dashboards that monitor and analyze almost any KPI and metric that you may need. Klipfolio is designed for developers and is easy to add data right from production systems.
Key Takeaway: Klipfolio is ideal for more advanced use cases. A lot of flexibility. More developer oriented.
Looker is a cloud platform that makes it easy for data analysts or non-technical users to access and explore their data. It is a lightweight “data exploration” tool for SQL databases (and more) that allows you to “look” into your data without writing any code or SQL. Non-technical people can model their data source (LookML) and turn that into an API. So instead of focusing to pretty viz, Looker tries to help your data structures and relationships from the SQL command line.
Looker is BYOD (bring your database) solution and works great with SQL databases like Amazon Redshift or Vertica etc. So, you have to have some SQL data warehouse that has your single source of truth.
API: Looker API
Key Takeaway: Looker offers a self-service solution to understand your data with rich SQL abilities.
Microsoft Power BI is a self-service business intelligence tool for analyzing business data and sharing insights via rich visualizations. They offer a desktop and a cloud version. If you want to do more advanced stuff and deeper data exploration, then you will prefer the desktop version. The cloud-based Power BI Service provides an easy way to create dashboards.
Seems that is investing time and resources on Power BI, so it is interesting to see where it will go…
API: Power BI REST API
Key Takeaway: Microsoft Power BI offers a self-service business intelligence tool with a desktop and a cloud version that is still improving significantly.
Mode is a data analysis platform that combines a powerful, web-based SQL editor with charting and sharing tools. Mode was built for SQL proficient users. It is ideal for querying and exploring data sets.
If you are a data analyst that is looking for a tool to write SQL, visualize the results, and share ideas you may try Mode.
API: Mode API
Key Takeaway: Mode offers an attractive SQL environment along with visualization and collaboration tools. It is becoming increasingly popular as it helps you get from SQL to charts quickly. Must check if you are SQL oriented.
Periscope is designed for more technical-savvy people, that are SQL oriented. If you have complicated queries and you want to get beautiful charts, then this is a tool to consider.
So if you have technical data analysts and data-driven teams then Periscope, its customization, and performance will be a good bet.
API: Embed API
Key Takeaway: Periscope offers an engaging SQL environment for SQL-savvy users.
Qlikview is suitable for data-savvy people. If you want to play with data, this is one of the favorites for many people. It is a great visualization tool for guided analysis. Qlikview is built with a developer in mind. It provides its own ETL engine and the ability to write code and develop great reports and analytical dashboards.
There is Qlik Sense too which is self-service Data Discovery directed mainly to managers and execs to build themselves what they need.
Key Takeaway: QlikView is a great product for Guided Analytics and more data-savvy users.
SiSense offers user-friendly interactive dashboards, with a large number of integrations to get data from and can handle large data sets very efficiently. SiSense has a great set of features to enable users to prepare, analyze and visualize complex data.
It’s fast and easy to setup which you can get some simple widgets and dashboards up and running in a few minutes after installation.
API: Sisense REST API
Key Takeaway: SiSense can handle huge databases and datasets quite easily, easy to design and customize.
When I hear about Tableau, my mind goes to beautiful dashboards. Tableau is a desktop data visualization tool for Mid and Large Businesses with some web publishing functionality. It has a large collection of data integration connectors and visualizations. It is one of the most mature players, powerful but it has a high learning curve.
If you are using public data, you may download a free version of Tableau with Tableau Public (does not connect with enterprise-grade databases). They also offer Tableau Reader, a free desktop app to open, view and interact with dashboards built in Tableau Desktop.
Key Takeaway: Everyone wants to become like Tableau 🙂 Awesome visualizations, and a free version for the Public Data users.
Wagon [Update: Discontinued]
Wagon is a modern SQL editor built for analysts and engineers. They offer a desktop tool if you want to direct connection with your database. It is building a great community around it and they offer collaborative SQL tools for data analytics.
Key Takeaway: Wagon is a great SQL editor with features still added and a community building along with it.
Note: For the tools bellow you may not need to buy a license to use them, but many charge for training or support services or they provide a “commercial” version of the software.
Metabase is a simple, lightweight, tool that non-technical savvy users can run their queries. Their UI is pretty abstract, but you can run your own SQL in advanced mode. It is free and open source.
Key Takeaway: If you are looking for a simple but powerful enough tool that is focused on reporting then you can check Metabase.
Re:dash is a web-based open source client that can connect to services like Redshift, Postgres and more, share queries, create dashboards etc. You may use a hosted solution or install it on a server or locally. It allows non-data analyst users to run queries quickly. Great for dashboards and collaboration and sharing of queries. Try this before you commit to something like Periscope, Looker or Mode.
Key Takeaway: Check re:dash if you are looking for a simple but rich in features (and open source), and you are still considering to commit to tools like Periscope or Mode.
BIRT is an open source technology platform used to create data visualizations and reports that can be embedded into rich client and web applications. It is a top-level software project within the Eclipse Foundation with an active developer community.
BIRT offers a great set of BI tools, but it requires highly skilled developer expertise to run it and maintain it. It is often viewed as the standard in open source business intelligence (with over 12 million downloads and over 2.5M developers).
Key Takeaway: BIRT is primarily focused on reporting, not analytics. It is very popular among the developer community. It requires highly skilled developers to utilize it.
Caravel was recently made available as open source. Caravel is Airbnb’s data exploration platform. Caravel was originally designed on top of Druid.io, but quickly broadened its scope to support other databases through the use of SQLAlchemy, a Python ORM that is compatible with most standard databases.
Caravel allows data exploration through rich visualizations while performing fast and intuitive “slicing and dicing” against just about any dataset.
Key Takeaway: Caravel is similar to most of the recent dashboarding tools, but its dashboards involve creating ‘slices’ of data, based on custom templates, and then combining them.
Data Lasso is not a dashboard service. It is a visualization tool that allows exploration of an arbitrary set of data in 3D. It is built to be agnostic to the structure and formatting of data. There is no setup. You don’t need to prepare your data, .csv, .tsv or .json will do.
If you want to get a quick sense of your data, explore it and understand, it is lightweight and straightforward enough to get started with it,
Key Takeaway: Data Lasso is not a dashboard service. Use it as an exploration visualization tool of an arbitrary set of data in 3D.
Jaspersoft was acquired by TIBCO and supported by a big developer community. It provides reporting including web-based reports and dashboards, data integration tools and data visualization.
As an open source project, it requires highly skilled developer expertise to use it and can’t be used by an average business user.
Key Takeaway: Jaspersoft has a broad range of tools and dashboards to use. It is an open source tool that requires high skill to utilize it.
Pentaho BI is an open source Business Intelligence suite with dashboards, reporting, data mining, workflow, and data integration capabilities. They provide great dashboards and easy to use. They offer a free community edition and an Enterprise Edition.
The Pentaho BI Suite Community Edition is an open source business intelligence package that includes ETL, analysis, metadata, and reporting capabilities. For support (other than the community) and enhanced features that are designed to accommodate production environments, then Enterprise Edition is the most appropriate.
Key Takeaway: Pentaho BI has a community edition for free use. It has nice integration abilities and dashboards.
How to make it work for your business
These are many tools for anyone to choose. Some are more favorite than others. Which to use depends on your actual business use case. To effectively make them work, you need to feed them with your data. These data reside in many places and a multiple of cloud services. Blendo is going to help you with that! It will get you up in minutes, connect your data sources and sync all your data into your favorite data warehouse. Then you are ready to go with your analysis. Being data-driven is only one step away.