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May 9, 2022
Data Intelligence

[Competitor Analysis] What to Do When Your Data Visualization or BI Tool Isn’t Cutting It

Uncovering the best data viz, business intelligence, and analytics software options in 2022

Slack, Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoom…Where would we be without our SaaS software? We clearly can’t go back to a world without off-the-shelf tools that help organize and streamline our organization and processes.  

In fact, SaaS applications make up 70% of total company software use (BetterCloud).

But are off-the-shelf data visualization and analytics tools proving to be the best platforms for our organizations

It’s common for organizations to fall out of love with their chosen BI software as time goes on. Whether it’s due to respective limitations like a lack of drill-downs, shallow segments of data, insufficient mapping functionality, or slow rendering, you may not be fully satisfied with the business intelligence software choice you made.

Worse yet, because of your growing needs and the SaaS product limitations, your SaaS analytics software might just be a cog in the wheel of your organization. 

Such inefficiencies cause a significant problem that you cannot afford: a tool that has degraded.

Your questions then become:

  • How do I get more out of my current business intelligence or data viz tool? 
  • Do I need to change my BI tool? 
  • Can I build on top of what I have?
  • Is a custom solution the best next step?

Not all analytics products are created equal, and it might be time to make a switch to another third-party solution, or it might be time to audit your system to begin layering custom solutions on top of your BI tooling for stronger business insights. 

Let’s compare some of the data analytics solutions out there in order to help you avoid having buyer’s remorse on your first or second out-of-the-box product purchase. We also want to help you find the best analytics platform for your organization (should you build or buy?), know how to best leverage your BI tool, and better understand the power of custom solutions.

To present a fair comparison of some of the most well-known business intelligence, data visualization and analytics software tools, here’s a list of platform capabilities and restrictions to support your research. 

  • Looker
  • Tableau
  • Microsoft Power BI
  • ThoughtSpot
  • Qlik
  • SAP
  • Custom-built / hybrid business intelligence applications

But first, let’s remember why off-the-shelf BI tools are a beneficial place to start:

  1. The learning curves of SaaS products are small because people are more familiar with office-type products.
  2. The visual component options of SaaS are compelling. (Shameless plug: Visuals are important, but understanding the psychology behind them is even better.) 
  3. If your IT team is unable to build a dashboard (due to budget or time constraints), you can purchase the dashboard you need.
  4. They export to Excel 

However, problems with SaaS solutions can pop-up as companies grow and expand. If you’re reading this article, there is a good chance that you already know that SaaS products, as helpful as they are in the beginning, can also become a source of blockers within your organization:

  1. They are dependent on the performance and quality of the data they attempt to report on. Garbage In -> Garbage Out
  2. They don't improve your data quality or speed. 
  3. They can't optimize the underlying queries at the source.
  4. Their performance degrades as the data complexity (relationships, depth, sources) increases.
  5. Their cost structures to get around these require on-premise installations (high costs).
  6. They cost licensing fees over time.
  7. The products attempt to solve the data complexities and increase performance, but then you end up with two tools to manage and pay for and the problems become more difficult to pin-point.
  8. There is inconsistency in standards enforcement which can lead to “Frankenstein” dashboards.

It’s Time To Compare Business Intelligence and Analytics Software

We’ve pulled together some of the top BI and data viz tools we encounter most often and the capabilities and restrictions that we know about each of them:

Table infographic comparing the pros, cons, and best features of Looker, Tableau, PowerBI ThoughtSpot, Qlik, and SAP
Want to zoom in or save this table for later? Click to download and save.

But Every SaaS Platform Has Its Tipping Point  

The truth is that these platforms are not a one-size-fits-all solution for every analytic need. 

Enterprise leaders often grow out of their tool as their unique business needs scale. Once an enterprise has outgrown the “plug-and-pay” solutions, it’s time to consider a custom or hybrid (built on top of, or connecting the tools you already have) analytic software solution. 

Custom data analytics software might be the most efficient option because complex issues require a thoughtful solution

  • Custom software can create special features unique to your organization, your process, and your team's way of working. 
  • Custom software is best for those who intend to scale quickly because of the flexible customization options. 
  • A custom solution helps to solve complex data relationships because there are no boundaries. 
  • A custom solution provides controlled standards. To state the obvious, all of these reasons can lead to pique performance and fewer limits to growth and scalability. 

Take a look at why a hybrid solution was a great choice for a Global Hospitality Company who built custom data layers on top of existing SaaS product to better serve their employees and customers.

Hybrid Solution in the Wild: A RevUnit Case Study

The Problem:

The original franchise management software of a hospitality company was an improvised SaaS management tool that was being used for a purpose it was never designed for, leading to problems such as: 

  • A cloud platform that lacked customized embedded analytics for franchisees’ success
  • Users who struggled to find the data that they needed in a sensible way
  • Poorly presented data 
  • Misleading visualizations that impacted important decision-making opportunities at hotels.

The Hesitation:

Decision-makers were hesitant to turn to custom development due to the philosophy that the firm should leverage existing components of SaaS or cloud services as a solution rather than the path of custom software ownership. The company continued to use SaaS solutions to attempt to fit into their specific business needs until the need to innovate their data practices became urgent.

The Vision:

As a partner, RevUnit helped to redefine the company's future strategy and vision for the new data management product:

  • There was an audit of both the company’s data and processes to begin to map and trust the data they had. The first lane would create a straightforward data-management focused minimum viable product (MVP) version (what we knew was possible). 
  • The integrations were aligned on top of their SaaS tool with the objectives and key results to ensure franchisees had the right data at the time. The second lane would strive to create the ideal product and what it should be based on the vision and mission of the company, all while working under no restrictions.

The Work:

We built the underlying data models into the new layer of the BI tool as well as a designed user experience within the tool for data analysts.

The Result:

A rich data platform for franchisees now connects to an interactive platform within the management software tool. This platform will provide a consistent set of metrics and KPIs for internal and external franchise management to benchmark against each other. 

With these custom solutions, we will be able to continue building more advanced analytics with more ML/AI-driven insights, helping the client to continue to innovate and operate at high speeds.

Next Steps

You don’t have to stay stuck with software that can’t keep up with your growing needs. Whether it’s time to move to a different SaaS product or begin a conversation about building a custom or hybrid software solution, start by setting up a free consultation call with a RevUnit data expert

We’ve built semi-custom and fully custom solutions for large enterprises, and we have experience helping clients migrate to new software as well as the design for a custom build.

So, whether changing SaaS platforms, improving your data strategy to get the most out of your SaaS platform, or even deciding your team is ready for custom or hybrid solutions, knowing your options is the best place to begin!

Don’t have the power to make a custom solution-buying decision? Check out the “Making the Case for Custom Analytics Software” article for support in your innovation and upgrade conversations with your c-suite.

Additional Resources

Removing Barriers to Profitability for a Global Hospitality Chain

A hybrid-solution that created a rich data platform for franchisees in the second-largest hospitality company in the world. Read the full case study.  

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RevUnit is a technology studio that helps supply chain clients identify and implement data solutions that actually prove ROI. We help organizations across industries like transportation, freight, logistics, retail, and manufacturing achieve business results through innovative data solutions — powered by AI/ML and the cloud. We’ve done it for clients like ArcBest, J.B. Hunt, and Walmart.

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