Business dashboards can help your organization gain valuable insights, improve processes and save money. But knowing which one is best for your business can be a bit confusing. In fact, business leaders often ask members of the 5000fish team, “What’s the best dashboard software?” The answer isn’t cut and dry.
To help clear the air about the “best” dashboard software, we’ve put together this quick read that outlines what features a small to midsize organization might look for in dashboard software, and identifies a handful of vendors that meet those qualifications.
But first, let’s define what we mean by small to medium-sized business (SMB). For the purpose of this article we aren’t defining SMBs strictly by revenue or employee count. That’s because many large organizations (with strong revenue and thousands of employees) work in business units and teams that can be considered “small to medium” in size. Generally speaking, when we refer to SMBs, we’re talking about a group of users that ranges from about 5 to 150 people.
Features SMBs Should Look for in Dashboard Software
After years of experience, we’ve found the SMBs that enjoy the most success with their BI strategy has a well-defined use case and choose a solution that not only offers strong dashboard capabilities but also the attributes listed below.
Business User-Friendly- SMBs that want their business users to get the most value from BI software should look for an agile solution, rather than a traditional (legacy) solution. Sometimes referred to as “business user-driven” BI, agile solutions don’t require extensive IT knowledge like traditional BI tools do- instead, agile solutions are designed so non-technical users can leverage them to run reports, build dashboards and access real-time data to quickly make fact-based business decisions.
Employees are on the move now more than ever. They shouldn’t have to stay strapped to their desktop to access data, reports and dashboards. For small to medium-sized organizations considering dashboard software, we believe mobile BI is a must-have that can give business a competitive edge.
Easy Integration with Microsoft Office-
Microsoft Office is used extensively by SMBs, so it’s important that the dashboard software a company chooses allows the user to take business intelligence data and export it into Excel, PDF, or another Microsoft format. This makes it easy to share information internally, as well as externally, with customers, partners, vendors, and stakeholders.
Small to midsized companies are typically working with limited IT resources. They don’t want to have to install and maintain BI software on employees’ desktops. A 100 percent web-based solution minimizes maintenance and makes the software available to your entire team.
Affordable- The cost of the dashboard software you choose can’t exceed the benefit of using it, so it’s critical to know your budget and your use-case before you select a BI solution. Also, when determining if software is affordable, you need to take into consideration the software’s upfront cost as well as its lifetime cost.
As you review our list of the top four companies SMBs should consider when selecting dashboard software, keep in mind that we’re giving you a high-level overview of what each company has to offer. We encourage you to do your due diligence and learn as much as you can about the companies and products we’ve listed below. Also, it’s important to understand that while there are some companies out there that meet a few, or even most of the criteria we’ve outlined above, we’re only featuring BI vendors that meet all of the criteria essential to SMBs. Note: We are not covering Cloud only solutions- we cover Cloud only solutions in this article.
Microsoft Power BI Microsoft has made a lot of progress in the BI space, and at 5000fish we consider Microsoft’s Power BI one of the industry’s best kept secrets. Here’s why: Excel is the de facto standard for many SMBs and Power BI meshes with Excel to give it an array of interactive database and database query capabilities. It’s also affordable. Power BI Pro starts at $9.99 per user/month, which allows you to create, view and share dashboards and reports, plus import data and reports from Excel files, and more. There’s also a free version of Power BI, but as you’d expect, its features are limited.
When compared to the other solutions we’re spotlighting, Microsoft Power BI is the most affordable, and if you already use Excel or other Microsoft products it’s a good choice- but it also requires a bit more technical expertise than the other solutions and that can increase the overall cost of Power BI. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant notes that of the “megavendors” of BI, Microsoft has made the greatest advancement toward delivering a product that combines business user capabilities with an enterprise level platform1.
SiSense Like Microsoft Power BI, SiSense is an agile business intelligence product that allows users to connect data from multiple sources (on-premise, in the cloud, etc.). It’s also designed for the business user, and to that end it offers features such as drag and drop report building, scheduling and notifications, solid security and mobile interfaces.
SiSense doesn’t publish its pricing, but from the feedback we’ve received from prospective customers, its price point is around $21,000 for 5 users which means it may be priced too high for the smaller segment of SMBs. SiSense just closed a $50 million round of VC funding in Jan 2016 and earned a spot on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytic Platforms (Feb 2016) so we suspect their pricing and minimum deal sizes will be going up, not lower.
Yellowfin Similar to the other BI vendors on our list, Yellowfin offers the business user a wealth of dashboard capabilities, but its differentiator is its strong mapping capabilities. Yellowfin’s “Location Intelligence” allows users to merge their special data with their traditional BI data to put dynamic maps onto reports or dashboards. In addition to mapping, the 12-year-old company also receives kudos for its innovative approach to collaborative BI. According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, Yellowfin’s customers tend to be SMBs, and 64 percent of Yellowfin’s surveyed customers say it’s their BI standard. Yellowfin doesn’t make its pricing public, but from what we know it’s pricier than Power BI and may be comparable to SiSense. We’ve also heard that its cost may have recently increased.
Yurbi We don’t always include Yurbi in “best of” categories, but when it comes to dashboards, Yurbi belongs in the discussion. That’s because Yurbi is an agile, web-based solution that requires no developer expertise. It can mash together data from in-house sources like Excel as well as data from the web. Best yet, Yurbi offers robust mobile functionality, and other than Microsoft Power BI, it’s the most affordable software on our list. User licenses start at just $499 per year and that includes all of Yurbi’s powerful features, as well as our concierge level Customer Success model to product support.
Runners-up: Two more companies for SMBs to consider
QlikView and Tableau are well respected BI solutions that offer several key BI features, and are worth considering. However, they don’t meet all of the criteria we outlined above.
Both BI solutions have a price point that starts to reach the boundary of what most SMBs can afford. Tableau will be the more affordable option of the 2 for smaller organizations, starting at $10,000 for a 10-user server edition. Additionally, both solutions are desktop solutions, and if you want to put them on the web or have a mobile interface you have to purchase server components- which further increase cost and complexity. Tableau does offer a cloud solution which is priced attractively to the small business market.
Bottom Line: Best Dashboard Software for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
Above all, be sure to keep your use case and budget at the forefront of your mind when comparing dashboard software solutions. And don’t overlook your customer support needs. Are you okay with being a little fish in a big pond, or do you want to be a big fish in a little pond and receive concierge level support without exorbitant fees?