When we were young we imagined ourselves in an office full of computers operated by people in fancy suits, surrounded by tons of documents that need to be sorted out. But there is never anyone free to do it. As we grow older we realise that running a company is nowhere near as easy as we once thought it would be. The success we all desired seems to be extremely hard to achieve, especially nowadays when the technology which runs the world evolves with every second, forcing us constantly to adapt and to change our processes. That is why people often come up with unexpected solutions.
One of those solutions happens to be one of the most talked about technology topics, these days - Business Intelligence (BI). - the tools and systems responsible for analysing the data that has such an impact on our company and the way it functions. To some of you it may sound mysterious and because of this we decided to give you examples of three BI suites that are, in our opinion, essential. Before we do so, let us explain to you why you might want to use them.
Collecting data, transforming it into information and knowing how to use it may bring your company great benefits. BI software was first designed in order to give a business answers and help it make faster and more accurate decisions. It is not surprising that a company needs to know its potential customer profiles, its competitors and the market itself, but searching the Internet and all the documents you have been gathering throughout the years in order to do so can be quite daunting. It would take you an eternity, but with the right software – it might take only a few minutes. Another way you can benefit from using BI tools is by saving money, because once you get to know the statistics, you will know exactly what you do, and do not, need as a company.
The first of these three, free, BI tools that can be incorporated into bespoke solutions is called BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools). This platform is part of the open source Eclipse project and consists of several components, all of which can be applied to any Java and Java EE environments. With two of its most popular tools, BIRT Report Designer and BIRT Runtime, you are able easily to create and run reports ranging from the simplistic to the very complex. We find the process of extracting and processing data very easy to use, however BIRT seems to be lacking one essential addition which is a report server. If you are in need of user or report management and other notifications, you should probably start looking for a different suite as BIRT does not provide these functionalities.
Report server capabilities may be important to you and your company and that is why we present you with another Business Intelligence suite from our list, Pentaho. Created by Pentaho Corporation, this system helps you to centralise and enrich data easily and quickly. Just like BIRT, Pentaho consists of several components, with Pentaho Reporting being the most popular. What surprised us is its simple yet functional user interface. Even if you are at the very beginning of your business journey, understanding how Pentaho works is trouble free. Whilst being a perfect solution for small businesses, Pentaho may have difficulties creating very complex reports, therefore if you run a big company, you will probably need to look for a different open source solution.
Which brings us to the last of our three choices. We believe that SpagoBi may be the best free software available on the market. Being founded and supported by Engineering Group, it offers both a large range of analytical functions and a set of advanced data visualisation features. What differentiates SpagoBI is the fact that this system goes beyond the traditional notion of Business Intelligence, providing broad and advanced capabilities that attracted such companies as Fiat and Gamebay. It may look complicated at first, but it is worth persevering.
There is a large spectrum of both free and paid Business Intelligence suites offering both simple and advanced features. No matter which one we choose, we find it essential as a means to run our business smoothly and effectively. Make sure you decide to make use of your data as soon as possible.
Damian Kokot is one of our back-end developers. Being an experienced Microsoft .NET and iOS developer, he always seeks new opportunities to deliver software products that empower people with business intelligence and business analytics. A philosophy and culture lover after hours.