Straight Talk: Review of Sisense; The Pros and Cons

Straight Talk BI Reviews

{{Update September 2018}}

At 5000fish, our Customer Success team takes great pride in being thoroughly educated about our product. We feel that’s the only way we can help you determine if Yurbi is the right business intelligence solution for your needs. But that’s just the start. If you’ve read some of our Straight Talk reviews, you know that being able to speak knowledgeably about the pros and cons of other business intelligence (BI) products is also an important component of our Customer Success approach to business.

That’s one reason why we’ve put together this quick, easy read about the strengths and weaknesses of one of the up and coming business intelligence software solutions on the market today: Sisense.  Sisense is a business analytics software tool that jumped onto the BI scene in 2010 with $4 million in Series A funding. Sisense recently received a Series E round of funding in September 2018, for a total investment raise of $174 million. Sisense has been growing rapidly, positioning itself as a major player in the BI space but is burning through a lot of cash to need to continually raise so much money.  Sisense has been named to the Visionary quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics Platforms for the past 2 years.

The Pros of Sisense

Sisense is a powerful BI tool that has garnered the praises of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Here’s why:

  • Sisense offers both an on-premise and cloud-based option. At Yurbi, we know how important it is to have an on-premise option available for customers, which is why we offer users an on-premise solution (that is 100% web-based in case they want to host in a private cloud). We like that Sisense offers both options as well. In either option at Sisense, most of the interaction with its software is via the web interface with the exception of Sisense’s Elasticube™ administration, which requires a Windows operating system to function.
  • Sisense works well with large datasets. Sisense is well known for its ability to work with large data sets by using a columnar database approach, versus rows, which makes it easier for the Sisense system to pull big queries. This approach is similar to the old model of OLAP cubes.  Sisense also efficiently utilizes not only system memory but also the CPU to provide speed when working with bigger data sets.  So if you’re analyzing big data sets,  Sisense does a great job without requiring very expensive hardware.
  • Sisense’s Elasticube™ allows users to take data snapshots. When users copy their data into the online Elasticube™, users can take snapshots of their data to comply with their lifecycle analysis requirements.  When discussing requirements with customers we often hear a need for this and one of the side advantages of Sisense’s model is they can support these types of use cases well.
  • Sisense’s dashboards are designed well. Sisense provides users with easy-to-understand dashboards that are well designed with good widgets, varied chart types, and informative KPI and metrics views.  We put a lot of attention to the style of our dashboards and clearly, Sisense does as well.

Click here to download “5 Mistakes Executives Make When Buying BI”

The Cons of Sisense

Though Sisense is highly praised and is a fairly decent BI tool, there are a few features we’re not too crazy about. Here are the things we’ve noticed during interactions with customers evaluating Sisense:

  • The Elasticube™ isn’t that user-friendly. Though Sisense’s Elasticube™ allows the software to quickly pull large data sets, it’s difficult to create for the average user and requires a lot of technical expertise. In many cases, users must write SQL code, even though Sisense promotes its “codeless reporting.” However, to get to this codeless reporting you must have a very technical person to write the SQL to build their Elasticube™ and there are some limitations such as join types and such that create difficult workarounds.  We have had former Sisense users complain to us that they experienced a lot of errors getting the Elasticube™ to load, and because the system relies upon the cube, Sisense won’t work if the cube isn’t working.
  • Sisense is a “heavy” application. One of the common things we hear from prospective leads is that Sisense was too “heavy” for them. This is a statement on the power of server and the amount of space and resources taken up by the application, but also the amount of time needed for setup and configuration and user adoption.  Many prefer Yurbi for its simple install with a very easy operations and maintenance requirement.  And also the intuitiveness and simplicity of the Yurbi interface.  Even though Sisense has more features,  Yurbi is easier for their business users to adopt and all that is required.
  • Sisense’s dashboards only interact on the web. The dashboard works great for those with real-time web access,  but to share a flattened, less feature-rich version that can be embedded or printed can cause a roadblock.  Sisense doesn’t offer powerful scheduled reports that can be sent via email so that users can consume reports outside of the online dashboard. Sisense users have complained to us about the lack of ability to share a report or offline dashboard via PDF with users outside of the Sisense system.
  • Sisense has a few pricing and support red flags. Sisense doesn’t publish its pricing on its website anymore, so prospects don’t know how much Sisense’s software costs without contacting them. {Update Feb 2016: A recent evaluator conveyed to us a starting price of 5 users for $21,000.} Generally when companies like Sisense receive a lot of venture capital funding, the company will have to push for more revenue from customers. Increases in venture capital funding also typically dictate declines in customer support because support is an “easy” category in which to save money (or to grow revenue if support is pushed towards a Professional Services team).  We have heard personally from former Sisense customers that Sisense proposed a 400 percent increase in pricing when they came up for renewal. Additionally,  we’ve learned that Sisense’s support is only free up to a certain point – if users want phone support for example or extended hours of support, they must upgrade to a higher support level and pay extra.   {UPDATE OCT 2015:  We’ve had some comments say they had no problem reaching support on phone and didn’t pay extra,  so it could be a sales tactic to drive a higher sale but a policy that’s not enforced in practice.}  

The Bottom Line

If your company wants to do big data analyses from multiple sources in the 50 million rows or higher range, Sisense may be the right software for you. However, be prepared to either allocate internal technical resources or hire technical resources to spend time setting up Sisense’s Elasticube™.  If offline access, report scheduling, or having a solution that doesn’t require additional technical expertise for the company during installation is important to your company, Sisense may not be the best for you.

We hope our review of Sisense was helpful. If you’d like to learn about the pros and cons of other popular BI solutions, we encourage you to explore more straight talk reviews. Have you used Sisense? If so, we’d enjoy hearing your thoughts about Sisense’s pros and cons.

Click here to download “5 Mistakes Executives Make When Buying BI”

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