Business intelligence software gets results, but only if people use it.
About 70% of the time, business intelligence software fails to help a company because the employees don’t use it. It’s frustrating, but understandable: if you’re not tech savvy, having to learn a new software program is something to dread.
How to get over this hump? Find easy-to-use software. To that end, I’ve used Gartner’s Critical Capabilities for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms (big paywall, but worth it) to find the top 5 business intelligence software for usability. Gartner determined usability based on the following criteria:
- Ease of administration and implementation
- Ease of content authoring
- Ease of consumption for end users
Any one of these software programs can make implementation easier. Better yet, the usability will encourage customers to use the program more frequently, which translates to more insight, and revenue, for you.
ClearStory Data is at the top, as it received the highest rating in the “Ease of Use” category. The rest of the options tied, so I’ve listed them alphabetically.
ClearStory Data is a cloud-based, modern BI platform. They made it onto Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence for the first time in 2016. They also got the highest rating for ease of use among all the vendors to make the MQ, a four out of five (the other entries on this list all got a 3.5) They’ve got an impressive range of customers, from Del Monte to Coca-Cola to Merck.
One of the coolest ways ClearStory makes BI easy is through its use of machine learning. ClearStory Data’s software uses machine learning algorithms to “automatically infer semantics of dimensions and attributes in data.” The company calls it smart inference.
How does smart inference help you? It makes it easier for you to compare and analyze your data from across data sets. If you want to be able to blend data sets with disparate levels of aggregation (say, if a retail store wants to blend customer age and location to figure out who buys where), ClearStory is a good option.
I spoke with Randy Thodas of ClearStory about the program’s usability. ClearStory’s smart inference “automates data prep and blending at scale, whether the data is internal, external, cloud, or even streaming.” Another usability factor is ClearStory’s speed. Once you’re using the program, Thodas notes, it “grabs data and presents dashboards as you watch.” Insights are created as you watch them. Ease of use is also part of ClearStory’s m.o.: “one of the beauties of it is that we’re always built for the business user,” rather than someone with a data science degree, Thodas notes.
Alteryx Designer rates a 4.6/5 in the “ease of use” category in Capterra reviews. In a review, Robin Kennedy of The Information Lab said his company “used to spend a lot of time in Excel and SQL queries trying to get the data right for reporting,” but, thanks to Alteryx, those time-consuming tasks “can all be done without coding and in a visual way that anyone can understand.” Analysts don’t have to learn to code in SQL, they can manipulate data and arrive at insights with visuals, instead.
Alteryx uses a simple, drag-and-drop interface. If you don’t know how to code, but do know how to drop, say, hilarious dog pics into your overstuffed “funny pics” file, you’ll be able to get the hang of Alteryx.
This makes tasks like predictive analytics much easier. If you don’t know R, you can still get a sense of what might happen in the coming months. However, if you can code (in R or otherwise), Alteryx is open source, so you have the option of changing the code, too.
BeyondCore may have been bought by Salesforce for “at least $110 million” last year, but the company promises to deliver the same high-quality product and maintain its identity. In the words of one industry expert, “there is little indication that BeyondCore will completely dissolve into Salesforce.” Thus, BeyondCore’s excellent usability, along with the other parts of their BI vision, will remain.
BeyondCore didn’t just rank highly for overall ease of use. They also got the best ranking on the 2016 Magic Quadrant for “ease of use for administration and implementation.” Among all vendors on the Magic Quadrant, Beyondcore also took the least time to develop complex content.
Another way BeyondCore makes business intelligence easy is its integration with Microsoft. With the 2015 release of BeyondCore Analyst for Office, the company made it possible for users to take advantage of data analysis while in Microsoft Office. The fact that you can open the app in Excel is just one part of its ease of use. The other is the way Analyst automates business intelligence. Analyst One automatically analyzes your data, creates, graphs, drills down, and even figures out which questions to ask. If your staff needs analytics, but isn’t that good with data, BeyondCore might be a way to get your staff to a competent level.
Gartner said Domo was easy to use, and cited their “intuitive user experience when combining a large number of data sources into business-friendly dashboards.”
Individual customers echo this praise. Check the Domo reviews at Capterra, and the word “easy,” in its many versions, appears more than once:
- “The ease of incorporating data sources into the platform is ridiculously simple (well, ok, not *ridiculously* simple, but simple enough that I think if you have any interest in data or numbers you could absolutely rock the platform).”
- “easy to read reports”
- “collaboration is easy.”
- “Easy enough on mobile that our executive team can use it” (a backhand like Roger Federer’s…)
- “very easy to integrate other applications to DOMO,” thanks to DOMO’s many API’s
- “our data is easily transformed to fit exactly what we need”
Based on those reviews, here’s Domo’s unofficial national anthem:
The most striking fact about how easy Watson Analytics is: according to Gartner, it takes an average of six days to create “even the most complex content.”
Watson’s average? 2.2 days.
Watson also uses natural language query, which means you can ask the program questions (queries) in your language, rather than a computer programming language, like SQL.
Here’s what a question looks like in SQL:
Here’s what a question looks like with natural language query:
“What is the profit for customers in zip code 12683?”
If the former is easy for you, congratulations! You probably got a higher score on the math part of your SATs (spoiler alert: so did everyone). If you’re on the business side of things, however, the ease of the latter probably attracts you, especially given the time you shave off in typing a question the same way you would in google. Or Bing. I don’t judge, and sometimes I think Google needs to be taken down a notch.
More Easy to Use Business Intelligence Tools
If you’ve got a BI program that’s simple to use, let me know in the comments below! Better yet, if you’ve got a BI program that dominates usability, head over to Capterra’s business intelligence software directory and write a review. It’ll help the vendor out, as well as other buyers.
Looking for Business Intelligence software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Business Intelligence software solutions.