BI Tools

Get the best BI tools for your business. Compare product reviews, pricing below. Read our buyer’s guide for more help.

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CALUMO is a reporting, budgeting and forecasting application for accountants. With CALUMO, organizations can report, budget, forecast and plan their financial, sales, operations, manufacturing, projects, (the list is very…
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$1,000/month
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Web, Windows
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Within one single product BOARD offers all the functionalities needed to build any Business Intelligence Software and Corporate Performance Management application solutions, without the use of any programming. Its…
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Web, Windows, iOS, Android
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PROPHIX is a multi-user financial software application used by thousands of users worldwide for Budgeting, Planning, Financial Consolidation, Management Reporting and Analysis. PROPHIX offers the familiarity of a…
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Mac, Web, Windows, iOS, Android
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Solver is a Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution for mid-market enterprises. The developer is at the forefront of CPM technology with deep ERP integrations. Solver BI360 includes Web and Excel interfaces. BI360…
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Starting Price
$312/month/user
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Android, Web, Windows, iOS
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Cloud or On-Premises
Power BI from Microsoft is a suite of business analytics tools to analyze data and share insights. Power BI dashboards provide a 360-degree view for business users with their most important metrics in one place, updated in…
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Starting Price
$10/month/user
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Web, Windows, iOS, Android
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Cloud or On-Premises
TIBCO Spotfire is an analytics platform that delivers visual, predictive, & streaming analytics. Data Discovery; Predictive Analytics; Big Data Analytics; Location Analytics; and Enterprise Scale Analytics. Industry-neutral…
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$1,300/year/user
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Mac, Web, Windows, iOS
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Cloud or On-Premises
IBM Cognos Analytics software provides personalized analytics driven by artificial intelligence (AI). It enables organizations to become top-performing and analytics-driven entities. From business intelligence to financial…
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$70/month/user
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Linux, iOS, Android, Windows
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Cloud or On-Premises
Group FiO is partnering with Logi Analytics for analyzing the data and building KPI dashboards. If You want analytics, but do you have the expertise to deliver that value? With a decade of experience helping customers with…
Adaptive Insights provides business planning through corporate performance management (CPM), sales planning, and workforce planning. The Adaptive Insights Business Planning Cloud leads the way for people in companies to…
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$ $ $ · ·
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
SAP Analytics Cloud (formerly SAP BusinessObjects Cloud) combines all analytics capabilities—including planning, predictive analytics, and business intelligence (BI)—in a single SaaS solution. Take advantage of a modern…
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$23/month/user
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iOS, Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Tableau is business intelligence software that allows anyone to connect to data in a few clicks, then visualize and create interactive, sharable dashboards with a few more. It’s easy enough that any Excel user can learn it…
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$ $ $ · ·
Starting Price
$70/month/user
Client OS
Web, Windows
Deployment
Cloud or On-Premises
Get a complete, integrated platform for compliance, budgeting, planning and KPI Dashboards. What if all of your source data applications—from ERP and CRM to warehouse management and supply chain—could publish information…
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$ $ $ $ ·
Client OS
iOS, Android, Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Imagine your Income Statement integrating with your Balance Sheet and generating up-to-date Cash Flow Statements as often as you need them. Now add rolling dynamic forecasts with “What if” scenarios that let you see the…
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$ $ $ · ·
Client OS
Windows, Web
Deployment
Cloud or On-Premises
Sisense is a business analytics platform that cleans your data, provides interactive visual analytics, and delivers insights. Sisense provides customized dashboards based on your industry. The solution can grab data from…
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$ $ $ · ·
Starting Price
$4,200/user (perpetual license)
Client OS
Web, Windows
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Cloud or On-Premises
CONTROL integrates all financial management functions, processes, and data. It provides one shared repository of business rules and data and one point of maintenance eliminating disconnects or different versions of the truth…
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Windows
Looker is a business intelligence and big data software that harnesses the power of SQL to create powerful data analytics. Looker helps companies get value from their data and gives a 360 view of their customers. Looker…
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$ $ $ · ·
Starting Price
$300/month/user
Client OS
Windows
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
deFacto Planning was built from the ground up as a unified Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution, using standard Microsoft technology with the ability to connect to any ERP or other data source, regardless of…
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$ $ $ $ ·
Client OS
Web, iOS, Android
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Cloud or On-Premises
Analytics should be more than a mirror of the past. As a strategic practice, it offers the ability to understand what is happening in the moment, and help you predict where your business can go. Making analytics a strategic…
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$ $ · · ·
Starting Price
$150/month/user
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Imagine, the power to pull in massive amounts of data. Thousands of rows, millions of cells. A large ERP system, with connections to multiple data sources, data warehouses, huge transfer speeds used to be the norm. Enter…
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$ · · · ·
Starting Price
$20/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Yellowfin BI is a powerful suite offering analytics that will let you share insights and make better decisions faster. Yellowfin drives to make businesses truly data-driven. Yellowfin BI has automated dashboards, insight…
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted

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BI Tools Buyer’s Guide

The saying goes, “Past performance is the best indicator of future performance”. Investors will tell you to look at a 5-10 year performance of a stock or a mutual fund to determine whether or not you should invest. The same goes for your business. It is important to know where you have been as a company (sales data, expenses, revenues) to help plan for future growth and expansion of the business. Business Intelligence software will certainly help analyze the necessary data in a streamlined fashion.

In this guide you will find information on:

What Are BI Tools?

Business intelligence software (also known as “BI tools”) is designed to gather the data, sort the data, create visuals, help you analyze and report. For most systems, it is easy to extract data and dump into a spreadsheet. However, it is what you do with that data that is important.

For the most part, business intelligence software is geared toward higher levels of management. The idea is to give key decision makers the ability to make decisions based on relevant business data, rather than instinct.

What sets business intelligence software apart from standard reporting is the ability to report on financial and non-financial data alike. Not only do you want to see your profit margin on each widget you built, however, you also want to see the time it takes to produce each widget, parts and materials used to produce the widget, waste or scrap, how many were produced per hour by each employee, etc.

Information gathered will help management make decisions going forward such as: Do we hire more employees? Can we afford to take on a new customer that will double the output? Will a new machine speed up the processes and efficiencies of the manufacturing process?

Features of BI Tools

Successful companies are always planning, analyzing and reporting on practical activities in order to top out your efficiency, lower expenses and gain greater market share. The following features can be a part of any business intelligence software and help your business achieve that:

Online analytical processing (OLAP)

OLAP’s perform a multidimensional analysis of business data. They allow companies to conduct complex calculations, evaluate trends, and work with data modeling.

Big data

Big data is another way of referring to a large data set. Big Data can be analyzed via computers to reveal patterns, trends, and associations.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

A KPI is a business metric which has been deemed particularly useful in reflecting the achievement of an important business outcome.

These are commonly used by organizations to evaluate the success of a particular activity in which it is engaged. These assessments often lead to the identification of potential improvements. It’s the inclusion of the modifier “key” that matters most when it comes to qualifying for KPI status.

The stages in identifying KPI’s include:

  • Having a pre-defined business process. Without a predefined business process, you don’t have measurable data.
  • Having the requirements for the business processes.
  • Having a quantitative/qualitative measurement of the results and comparison with set goals
  • Investigating variances and tweaking processes or resources to achieve goals.

Companies often find using the SMART acronym will help with the key performance indicators.

  1. Specific purpose. Answers the who, what, where, why and which to make the goals specific.
  2. Measurable. Concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal.
  3. Attainable. Is the goal attainable? Do you have the resources to reach the goal?
  4. Relevant. Are the goals relevant to your boss, team, and organization?
  5. Time. Set a time frame for reaching the goals.

Once the goals have been identified and you have solid key performance indicators, a business management system will help track those goals. Graphical reports and sorting/filtering capabilities keep managers updated as to the progress of those goals.

Other Features

Beyond the previously mentioned features found in BI systems, you’ll want to look for the following functionalities to ensure you have an adequate option:

  • Data analysis: Inspect, cleanse, transform, and model data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusions, and supporting decision-making.
  • Predictive analytics: Uses historical data to predict what will happen in the future. Examples in everyday business include identifying customers to upgrade or remove services and focusing marketing campaigns on the right targets
  • Data mining: A practice of examining large databases in order to generate new information.
  • Data discovery: The process of collecting data from databases and consolidating it into a single source that can be instantly evaluated
  • Dashboards: A visualization tool that displays the current status of metrics and KPIs for your business, based on your preferences (what numbers to show, what metrics to display, etc.)
  • Data visualization: Patterns, trends, and correlations that place data into a visual context to help people understand.
  • Financial modeling: The act of building an abstract representation of a financial situation
  • Data integration: The ability to import whatever data deemed necessary to analyze and create into visualizations, reports, or other forms of business intelligence

Top Free and Open Source BI Tools

Which business intelligence software options are free, open source, or cost little to nothing? Most developers understand that BI is a tool every size of business (even the little guys) can apply to their operations. Most free solutions offer a stripped down version of the paid software, or offer the ability to have a free base product with the ability to add features and functionalities as you go (for a cost).

We’ve done the research and are happy to detail (in no specific order) some of the most widely-used free and open source business intelligence tools on the market today:


1. Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft’s flagship BI tool has a bare bones version that is no cost and can be downloaded straight from the Microsoft Store. The free license will enable only some of the features of Power BI, such as a connection with 70+ data sources, the ability to publish to the web, and the ability to export to platforms such as PowerPoint and Excel. This version is great for doing your own analysis, as long as you don’t need to share that analysis with any other end users (which is a feature of the Pro version).

Microsoft Power BI Desktop Free Version Dashboard
Microsoft Power BI Desktop can help you create unique dashboards from your data for free, but you’ll need a paid license if you want to send or share this data to others in your company.

2. Qlik Sense or QlikView

Qlik Sense has both free desktop version (pictured above) and a free cloud version intended for use by individuals. Both the Desktop and the Cloud Basic version have fully interactive apps, sharing capabilities (up to 5 users), and free access to the Qlik DataMarket. QlikView has a Personal Edition that offers unlimited access (not a trial product) for user-driven exploration and analysis.

Qlik Sense Desktop Free Version Dashboard
Both Qlik software solutions offer beginner’s tutorials so you can hit the ground running.

3. Tableau Public

One of the leading BI tools on the market, Tableau, provides their Public version at no cost. This version lets you create interactive charts and graphs, maps, live dashboards, and more. Examples of features include heatmaps, mobile-friendly layouts, transparent sheets, and integration with Google Sheets.


Best BI Tools

Plenty of top BI solutions on the market can meet the needs of your business. Every company will be different, but they can all share the same goal of wanting to analyze data and make better decisions. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to BI tools, and instead you’ll want to compare some of the top BI tools on the market to grow your business.


1. Oracle Business Intelligence 12c

Oracle’s Business Intelligence solution provides visual analytics to let any department in your organization make better decisions. They market themselves as having a modern analytics platform, advanced analytics capabilities, data visualizations, mobile access, and self service capabilities.

Oracle Business Intelligence 12c Home Screen
The home screen of Oracle Business Intelligence shows you the type of features available within the software.

2. SAP Analtyics Cloud

SAP is well known for their ERP solutions such as SAP Business One, however they have also thrown their hat into the ring when it comes to data analytics. Their cloud BI software uses the power of SAP HANA in-memory computing to provide real-time SaaS business intelligence.

SAP Aanlytics Cloud Sales Dashboard BI Tools
The sales performance dashboard of SAP Analytics Cloud shows you summaries and capabilities offered within the program.

3. Adaptive Insights

Adaptive Insights markets itself as a corporate performance management (CPM) tool to provide business planning and analytics on an increased scale. The software is cloud-based and is intended for use by larger enterprises. Adaptive Insights provides standard reporting features as well as data discovery, visualizations, and versions available for your most important departments (Finance, Sales, and Workforce Planning).

Adaptive Insights HR Dashboard
This HR Dashboard in Adaptive Insights shows you how Business Intelligence can create reports for more than just your finance department.

Cost of BI Tools

Some business intelligence software will advertise as low as $10/user/month, but these price plans are typically extremely limited, and are just designed to get users in the doors. When you look at adding on needed functionalities, the price of the software will increase.

Pricing of BI software is highly dependent on the number of users (the report creators and the viewers). Another primary cost factor is the size of data being stored in the program (file size) and how frequently you need this data updated (i.e. data grabbed from it’s sources such as your primary financial system).

While the following graph does not reflect any specific BI software pricing structure, it can be a great guide to look at the relation of user count to the most realistic price:

Users Lowest Monthly Cost Highest Monthly Cost
1-9 $70/user
10-19 $650/total $3,500/total
20-49 $$1,100/total $8,000/total
50-99 $2,500/total $15,000/total
100-249 $4,300/total $32,000/total
250-499 $9,200/total $59,000/total
500-999 $16,300/total $108,000/total
1,000-4,000 $29,000/total $435,000/total
5,000+ $20/user $80/user

BI Tools for Reporting

Business intelligence tools boost efficiency, reduce costs, provide data integration and integrity, provide easy access to decision-making tools, allow for quicker recognition of critical information, give managers the information needed to be more information, and provide the ability to predict events in the future based on historical analysis.

Real-Time Business Intelligence

Real-time BI tools let dashboards compared historic data with the most current data available. Predictive analytics are built on top of having real-time insight into your numbers, and will pull data from whatever source necessary (inventory, customers, services, and more).

Common uses of real-time BI are:

  • Manufacturers monitoring production lines to check product condition
  • Sales staff checking inventory levels to ensure they can fulfill an order or if a purchase order needs to be created
  • Accounting staff preparing next years budget before year-end, grabbing today’s data along with any forecasts to finish out the year (and successfully create next-years forecast).

Financial Indicators

Financial indicators allow management to see where they stand for the day, month, quarter, and year. Through a business intelligence software, management will also have the ability to review the financial data for the year but also look at and compare the current year to previous years. In addition to looking at past data, business intelligence tools also create projections based on the past performance showing potential outcomes.

  • Quantitative indicators are a measurable characteristic, resulted by counting, adding, or averaging numbers. Operational systems that manage inventory, supply chain, purchasing, orders, accounting, financial systems, all gather quantitative data by means of KPIs.
  • Qualitative indicators are not as easily measured. Qualitative indicators are a descriptive characteristic, an opinion, a property or a trait. The most common ones gauge customer or employee satisfaction through surveys. While the survey data itself is quantitative, the measures are based on a subjective interpretation of a customer’s or employee’s opinions.

Non-Traditional Types of Business Intelligence

Analytics platforms can provide you with data or trends on whatever platform you desire. And while business intelligence is commonly associated with financial insights (such as for budgeting purposes), the core functionality of any BI tool is the ability to collect raw data. In terms of marketing insights and social media, this can mean customer demographics, behaviors, and search habits. For businesses on the go, it could mean needing access on mobile devices.

Social Media BI

Developing profiles of the buyers your company is targeting used to consist of surveys, focus groups, and other forms of interaction that required a lot of time and user engagement. Social media is another tool providing real-time marketing insights that is available naturally (without a software tool) if you have the means to comb through the results.

Social media BI isn’t going to necessarily make sales for you, but it will help you nurture existing relationships with your base (whether it’s consumers or other businesses you have a relationship with).

Most importantly, social media will help you find clusters of people with similar interests and sort them based on their age, income, gender, and more. This can be vital information for marketers who want to connect to the people most interested in their products.

Self-Service BI

Business intelligence modules were initially designed for large companies. The focus was to take all the raw data locked up in financial and operations systems and turn it into useful business information. While this software has been readily available for years for large companies, BI modules targeted toward small to mid-sized businesses are new to the market. These self-service options are able to be utilized by the business themselves rather than needing an IT team to make sense of the data.

Self-Service is all about providing a business with the analytical tools they desire with ease of use at a lower cost. These options will be less technical than their high-end counterparts, and thus easier for someone with little to no IT or technical skills to handle. This will come at the expense of functionality, however, smaller businesses seem to enjoy the autonomy and independence it provides.

Mobile BI

BI is about having the right data at the right time. That could mean wanting that data when you are out of the office. The rise of smartphone technology has allowed BI software developers to create apps or extensions of their program and let key decision makers get the insights they desire in real-time.

Common Comparisons of BI Terms

There’s a lot of jargon thrown out there when it comes to Business Intelligence. What does one term mean in relation to another? Don’t some of these terms mean the same thing?

  • Business Intelligence vs Data Analytics: Think of business intelligence as the decision making phase, while data analytics is the process of asking questions. You first need to have analytics before you end up with business intelligence. Once this step has been taken care of, BI tools help make sense of what the analytics have told you.
  • Big Data vs Business Intelligence: You can think of business intelligence as a knife and big data as a loaf of bread. Big data is as the name implies; data, and is a substance that won’t be of much value without anything being put into action. BI is just that–action! BI becomes the process that takes your big data and arrives at conclusions or valuable business insights.
  • Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) vs Corporate Performance Management (CPM): Both evolving from BPM (business performance management) in the early 2000s, EPM vs CPM may seem like a useless debate, but the differences exist. CPM is a corporate-wide solution that focuses strongly on finance, while EPM focuses on performance across all areas of an enterprise. EPM is a field of business performance management which considers the visibility of operations in a closed-loop model across all facets of the enterprise. In the world of software, it helps the end-user (company) tie together their plans, strategies, and execution. This includes budgeting, consolidating, reporting, and analyzing. CPM solutions manage a corporations performance based on KPI’s such as revenue and ROI.

What Does Your Business Need?

Business intelligence software is used in virtually every industry. Some examples include:

  • Consulting firms need to track project information. They need to see productivity by employee along with statistical data about each project.
  • Retailers need to track profitability by SKU, set goals of how many units to sell per hour to be profitable on a given day.
  • Financial institutions set goals for their personal bankers as to how many accounts each banker opens during a month. Beyond the number of accounts, what type of accounts and the amount of new money brought into the financial institution.

BI Tools used to be a privilege of big companies, as implementing analytics software required building data centers and hiring IT specialists. With the emergence of the cloud and more cost-effective methods become more available, BI has begun to rise in businesses of all sizes as businesses begin to make faster decisions with real-time analytics.

Nearly every accounting software available has reporting tools. Some solutions offer budgeting functionality integrated into their accounting software, and there are also stand-alone solutions.

Often times the financial reporting and budgeting modules are not integrated and often times gathering reports from these modules requires time-intensive data mining to obtain the necessary information. They also may not include data visualization options that allow for better insight.

Depending on the size of your business, you’ll need to focus and prioritize on different aspects.

New Buyers and Small Businesses

These type of buyers will focus on financial reporting that goes beyond what their existing general ledger reports can give them. Most small companies will struggle with implementing any big-name BI tool due to a lack of resources.

Small companies will benefit the most from a software they can implement in the short-term. A software that allows for self-service BI with ad-hoc querying will let you grab the data when it’s most convenient.

This can be a SaaS-based tool that will integrate with their existing software (such as their accounting software). This type of solution may not be the best fit for a growing company but will be the most cost-effective method until a future time allows for the re-evaluation of company software methods.

Existing Users Desiring Upgrades to Functions Beyond Basic Reporting

These buyers will move from simple reporting tools to complex analytical ones. Buyers generally look for a BI upgrade is their current solution provides insufficient reports, processes are running slow, or the reports and analysis are no longer viable due to an increase in the volume of data. The business may have also experienced a shift in the direction for revenue, which requires a change in their analytical approaches.

Large Companies

The level of customization involved is often what sets enterprise-level BI software apart from small to mid-size offerings. Often enterprise level BI systems will require the data warehouse to be custom designed to handle the quantity of data they desire. They may also require IT staff to be available to handle the amount of hardware or in-house system integrations they need, possible with an ERP system. The best approach may be going with a handful of different BI platforms and consolidating them together to meet every department’s needs, as standardizing enterprise BI has a number of challenges.

Pain Points

When searching for business intelligence software, companies focus on key areas where their current solution falls short. What are users of BI tools saying when they search for new options?

Industry Confusion

At times, much of the insight a business may be looking to gain from BI tools may be industry specific. The software option, or perhaps the vendor that implements it, may be unable to help a company achieve their full potential with the software.

Selecting the Right Visualizations

Half of the battle in reporting data is how you are presenting it to the individuals in your company. Your main goal should be to engage the viewer, communicate data, and elicit appropriate responses from the target audience. This can be accomplished with different types of visuals. Choosing incorrectly could be the nail in the coffin that disengages your audience, and doesn’t allow you to spread the desired message.

Visual BI must provide the following core common capabilities:

  • Aggregation of large data sets into a comprehensible whole,
  • An appropriate emphasis of top KPIs,
  • Clear display of data trends over time,
  • Support for logical data segmentation to convey the role of parts to the whole,
  • Comparisons of actual results to expected or desired standards, and
  • Support for combinations of data, text, and images which simplify the consumption of complex information.

Lack of Mobile Solutions Available

Businesses desire the ability to add storage capacity. Others look to have a wide user adoption at their company, which can be difficult for certain employees who are frequently on the go and don’t have access to a desktop computer during the day. Mobile devices are becoming more commonly found among workers in the field, and access to key reports no matter where an employee is can help.

What trends are taking over the world of business intelligence? Whether you’re trying to get a simple forecast for your company budget, or looking for improved metrics on the profitability of your sales staff, these are some of the hottest topics.

Large Companies Want Business Intelligence

In a recent review of over 3,000 software projects from 2017, businesses with 50+ employees are more than 70% more likely to need software that handles budgeting/business intelligence (BI) and fixed assets.

BI Tools have additional feature importance for large companies

Strong Inventory BI Features

BI tools have expanded immensely to break down more than your financials. In the world of inventory, it can help answer questions such as “Which brands are the most popular? What colors or sizes tend to move the most? What products to people buy in tandem and should be recommended for upselling?” From there, you can improve your product-handling to faster address pending RMA’s, transfers, back orders, and more.

Big Data Is on the Rise

Wikibon projects the Big Data market will surpass $84B by 2026. This was after the Big Data market reached $27.36B in 2014, up from $19.6B in 2013.

70% of BI Users Are Casual or Standard Users

This means a large chunk of BI users have a limited skillset. Power users consist of 25% of all users. These type of users are skilled to analyze data and create reports and dashboards from scratch.