There is no shortage of business intelligence tools available to modern businesses today. But they’re not always easy on the pocket. Great functionality, stylish UI and ease of use always comes with a price tag. If you can afford it, great – if not, it’s time to start thinking about open source and free business intelligence tools.
Free business intelligence tools can power your business
Take a look at 5 of the best free or open source business intelligence tools. They’re all as effective and powerful as anything you’d pay a premium for. You simply need to know what you’re doing with them.
BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) is an open-source project that offers industry-standard reporting and BI capabilities. It’s available as both a desktop and web application. As a top-level project within the umbrella of the Eclipse Foundation, it’s got a good pedigree that means you can be confident in its potency.
BIRT is especially useful for businesses which have a working environment built around Java and Java EE, as its reporting and charting engines can integrate seamlessly with Java. From creating a range of reports to different types of charts and graphs, BIRT can also be used for advanced analytical tasks. You can learn about the impressive reporting capabilities that BIRT offers on its official features page.
Pros: The BIRT platform is one of the most popularly used open source business intelligence tools across the world, with more than 12 million downloads and 2.5 million users across more than 150 countries. With a large community of users, getting started with this tool, or getting solutions to problems that you might come across should be easy.
Cons: Some programming experience, preferably in Java, is required to make the best use of this tool. The complex functions and features may not be easy to grasp for absolute beginners.
Jaspersoft, formerly known as Panscopic, is one of the leading open source suites of tools for a variety of reporting and business intelligence tasks. It was acquired by TIBCO in 2014 in a deal worth approximately $185 million, and has grown in popularity ever since.
Jaspersoft began with the promise of “saving the world from the oppression of complex, heavyweight business intelligence”, and the Community edition offers the following set of tools for easier reporting and analytics:
- JasperReports Server: This tool is used for designing standalone or embeddable reports which can be used across third party applications
- JasperReports Library: You can design pixel-perfect reports from different kinds of datasets
- Jaspersoft ETL: This is a popular warehousing tool powered by Talend for extracting useful insights from a variety of data sources
- Jaspersoft Studio: Eclipse-based report designer for JasperReports and JasperReports Server
Pros: Jaspersoft, like BIRT, has a large community of developers looking to actively solve any problem they might come across. More often than not, your queries are bound to be answered satisfactorily.
Cons: Absolute beginners might struggle with the variety of offerings and their applications. The suite of Jaspersoft tools is more suited for someone with an intermediate programming experience.
KNIME is a free, open-source data analytics and business intelligence company that offers a robust platform for reporting and data integration. Used commonly by data scientists and analysts, KNIME offers features for data mining, machine learning and data visualization in order to build effective end-to-end data pipelines. There are 2 major product offerings from KNIME:
Considered to be one of the most established players in the Analytics and business intelligence market, KNIME has customers in over 60 countries worldwide. You can often find KNIME featured as a ‘Leader’ in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. It finds applications in a variety of enterprise use-cases, including pharma, CRM, finance, and more.
Pros: If you want to leverage the power of predictive analytics and machine learning, KNIME offers you just the perfect environment to build industry-standard, accurate models. You can create a wide variety of visualizations including complex plots and charts, and perform complex ETL tasks with relative ease.
Cons: KNIME is not suited for beginners. It’s built instead for established professionals such as data scientists and analysts who want to conduct analyses quickly and efficiently.
Tableau Public’s promise is simple – “Visualize and share your data in minutes – for free”. Tableau is one of the most popular business intelligence tools out there, rivalling the likes of Qlik, Spotfire, Power BI among others. Along with its enterprise edition which offers premium analytics, reporting and dashboarding features, Tableau also offers a freely available Public version for effective visual analytics.
Last year, Tableau released an announcement that the interactive stories and reports published on the Tableau Public platform had received more than 1 billion views worldwide. Leading news organizations around the world, including BBC and CNBC, use Tableau Public for data visualization.
Pros: Tableau Public is a very popular tool with a very large community of users. If you find yourself struggling to understand or execute any feature on this platform, there are ample number of solutions available on the community forums and also on forums such as Stack Overflow. The quality of visualizations is industry-standard, and you can publish them anywhere on the web without any hassle.
Cons:It’s quite difficult to think of any drawback of using Tableau Public, to be honest. Having limited features as compared to the enterprise edition of Tableau is obviously a shortcoming, though.
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Editor’s tip: If you want to get started with Tableau Public and create interesting data stories using it, Creating Data Stories with Tableau Public is one book you do not want to miss out on![/box]
Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a paid, enterprise-ready offering by Microsoft to empower businesses to find intuitive data insights across a variety of data formats. Microsoft also offers a stripped-down version of Power BI with limited Business Intelligence capabilities called as Power BI Desktop.
In this free version, users are offered up to 1 GB of data to work on, and the ability to create different kinds of visualizations on CSV data as well as Excel spreadsheets. The reports and visualizations built using Power BI Desktop can be viewed on mobile devices as well as on browsers, and can be updated on the go.
Pros: Free, very easy to use. Power BI Desktop allows you to create intuitive visualizations and reports. For beginners looking to learn the basics of Business Intelligence and data visualization, this is a great tool to use. You can also work with any kind of data and connect it to the Power BI Desktop effortlessly.
Cons: You don’t get the full suite of features on Power BI Desktop which make Power BI such an elegant and wonderful Business Intelligence tool. Also, new reports and dashboards cannot be created via the mobile platform.
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Editor’s Tip: If you want to get started with Microsoft Power BI, or want handy tips on using Power BI effectively, our Microsoft Power BI Cookbook will prove to be of great use! [/box]
There are a few other free and open source tools which are quite effective and find a honorary mention in this article. We were absolutely spoilt for choices, and choosing the top 5 tools list among all these options was a lot of hard work! Some other tools which deserve a honorary mention are – Dataiku Free Edition, Pentaho Community Edition, QlikView Personal Edition, Rapidminer, among others. You may want to check them out as well.
What do you think about this list? Are there any other free/open source business intelligence tools which should’ve made it into list?