It is no longer just large companies that can benefit from modern business intelligence. In the cloud, there are simple yet powerful solutions that are specially designed for startups and SMEs. With Cyfe, Geckoboard, Datapine, Bime and Klipfolio, we have carefully examined five sophisticated alternatives for beginners and profiles.
BI solutions for every industry
Business software is becoming simpler and more intuitive, the area of business intelligence is no exception. But on the contrary. Anyone who still believes that BI solutions are complex and expensive systems, from which only large companies with massive amounts of data, great know-how, and powerful server infrastructure can benefit, is wrong. With the triumphant advance of cloud computing, BI systems have become easier, more powerful, and cheaper in recent years. Even small businesses can now enter the world of professional data analysis for less than 50 euros a month and without special IT hardware or software installations.
Data analysis for everyone
Reliable business intelligence data play a critical role in every company. They serve as a solid basis to identify potential risks and opportunities at an early stage, to assess the success of initiatives, to identify the need for optimization, and to initiate appropriate measures in good time. The size of the company does not matter. But while smaller companies traditionally used Excel or simple office programs to gain important insights into their business from their data, large companies opted for special in-house solutions. The provision of data analyzes was the responsibility of the IT department, since only they had the technical know-how to carry out complex database queries and present the results in an efficient format.
Cyfe, Geckoboard, Datapine, Bime and Klipfolio
The range of products is now quite wide. Established enterprise providers such as Tableau Software, Pentaho, or Qlik as well as young startups provide online services that work according to the self-service principle and optimally cover all processes related to integration, processing, visualization, evaluation and sharing of business data. These include, for example, Cyfe from the USA, Geckoboard from Great Britain, Datapine from Berlin, Bime from France, and Klipfolio from Canada. With the exception of Klipfolio, which was founded in 2001, all companies started between 2009 and 2012.
They are all offered in the cloud as SaaS and are designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible. In terms of interface design and usability, they can easily withstand the comparison with consumer apps. Another thing in common: They are not only aimed at IT experts and developers but also directly at managers or department heads who do not necessarily have prior technical knowledge. With the help of intuitive tools for data integration, manipulation, and analysis, you will be able to independently efficiently analyze large amounts of data from various sources and visualize the results in professional dashboards.
As for the costs: The wage prices range between around 20 euros per month (Cyfe) and around 600 euros per month (Bime). Klipfolio, Datapine, and Bime offer a free trial period of 14 days, gecko board of one month. In a functionally responsible version, Cyfe can be tested indefinitely. At first, glance, when it comes to rights, there isn’t that much force between public tools. All offer the option of importing static files, managing external data sources, creating individual dashboards with various charts and diagrams, and easily sharing them with colleagues. However, as we will see shortly, in practice, despite the many similarities, not every solution belongs to every management scenario.
When choosing the right BI solution, the first question is what kind of data you want to analyze, where it is, and how it should be integrated into the system. From simple files in standard formats such as CSV, Excel or XML, to database systems such as MySQL or PostgreSQL, to online services, business apps, and even complex big data applications: The tested products offer support for a wide variety of data sources and integrations. Everyone has to check here in individual cases whether their data sources are offered by the respective manufacturers.
Static files are easy to get started with, as many users already have their data in Excel. However, it becomes more interesting when data can be visualized in real-time in the BI system. For this, you can connect database systems or online services. Static files are supported by all tested applications, database systems by all except Geckoboard. The solution from England, like Cyfe, focuses on the simple integration of online services such as Salesforce, Google Analytics, or Zendesk, to name just a few examples. Klipfolio can even be integrated with over 100 different services. The main advantage of integrating an online service is that data is automatically picked up at regular intervals and presented in a suitable visualization.
Real-time data from databases, online services and APIs
When it comes to integrating online services, Datapine only supports Facebook Ads and Google Analytics. Rather, the manufacturer focuses on comprehensive database integration. The system supports MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft SQL and enables cross-database analysis. This means that CMS, e-commerce, or CRM systems, which are usually based on such a relational database system, can easily be used as a data source. And best of all, no SQL knowledge is required to create database queries.
The high-end product Bime – meanwhile taken over by the listed help desk provider Zendesk – not only offers comprehensive support for static files, database systems and many online services, but also for big data applications such as Amazon Redshift or SAP Hana. The product also scores with advanced tools that can be used to interactively manipulate data. Another feature that is suitable for professionals and that apart from Datapine has all the tools up its sleeve is an open push API. Developers can use this to automatically import data from their own system into the BI service.
Once the data to be evaluated has been imported into the system or integrated via online services or APIs, it must be visualized with the right tools. This is where BI software shows its real strength. With advanced data manipulation tools, Klipfolio, Datapine, and Bime provide more flexibility when creating visualizations. With the help of an interactive editor, the user can manipulate his data at will, select individual values, apply different filters, and visualize them in different charts and diagrams.
By contrast, Cyfe and Geckoboard have no tools for interactive data queries. This means that you have to provide your data in a format specified by the provider before importing, as this is the only way to correctly visualize it. To make matters worse, the correct formatting depends on the selected visualization type. For example, if you want to create a bar chart in Geckoboard or Cyfe, you have to format your CSV files or database or API requests differently than when creating a pie chart.
Create KPI dashboards in the browser
When it comes to data visualization, users are spoiled for choice with all tested tools. From standard bar, line, pie or area diagrams, to simple texts and numbers, to tables, lists and maps, the manufacturers provide the right visualization for every type of data. Klipfolio and Bime each offer the largest selection with over 25 forms of visualization.
Individual charts and diagrams often called “widgets”, can be brought together in dashboards. And that is exactly one of the key functions of modern BI solutions. No matter whether social media monitoring, marketing analytics, or comprehensive for the sales or customer support team: The user can assemble his KPI dashboard according to his own needs according to the modular principle. The motto here is: the more interactive, the better.
Charts, which can be changed depending on the information requested, represent processes in the company more effectively. In addition, new insights can often be drawn from an interactive visualization that static graphics cannot deliver. This is why analytical interaction tools, such as those offered by Datapine, Klipfolio, and Bime, become another important selection criterion.
The easy accessibility of the dashboards also plays a role in modern BI solutions. All of the tools in this comparison enable the user to share dashboards with his colleagues, partners, and other stakeholders of the company in various ways. On the one hand, dashboards can be exported as PDF or image files and sent by email (automatically at regular intervals if required) – a feature that only Geckoboard has to do without.
On the other hand, interactive dashboards can easily be shared with other users via a (public or password-protected) link. The dashboard admin maintains full control over which users can access his dashboard. Thanks to mobile support and full-screen mode, the shared dashboards of all providers cut a good figure both on the desktop PC and on smartphones, tablets or television sets. Another practical sharing method that is only offered by Klipfolio and Datapine is to be able to integrate the dashboard into any website as an HTML snippet. This is particularly useful if you use wikis, intranets, social enterprise platforms or similar company portals.
Business Intelligence for Startups and SMBs
The range of cloud-based business intelligence solutions for startups and SMEs is still rather poor compared to other SaaS segments such as CRM or collaboration. But as we saw in this post, there should be something for everyone in today’s cloud BI market. If you like it plain and simple, Cyfe or Geckoboard is the right choice for you. Both services enable simple and quick integration of numerous online services and score with intuitive operation and a chic UI design. However, companies that choose one of these solutions do not need interactive data discovery tools.
If you need more flexibility, Datapine is a professional alternative that is specially optimized for working with database systems and scores with advanced reporting functions. Klipfolio seems to offer the best price-performance ratio. Companies can get a tried-and-tested solution with an extensive feature set that leaves little to be desired, starting at around EUR 22 a month. In terms of functionality, only Bime can compete with it. The high-end product is primarily aimed at data-driven companies that place high demands on a BI system and want maximum flexibility in data visualization and analysis.