Data visualization tools: The features users love and hate

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Data visualization used to be a nice-to-have skill for specialists, but today data visualization is a key part of business decision-making for every manager, the Harvard Business Review notes. "New software tools mean this type of visualization is easier than ever before: They're making data analysts of us all," the journal says.

Members of the IT Central Station community say that the most important factors to consider when choosing a data visualization product include dashboard customization, data analysis capabilities, and ease of use. Five of the top data visualization solutions on the market are Tableau, Sisense, Dundas BI, Qlik Sense, and SAP Lumira, according to online reviews by enterprise users in the IT Central Station community.

But what do enterprise users really think about some of these tools? Here, users give a shout-out for some of their favorite features, but also give the vendors a little tough love.

Editor's note: These reviews of select data visualization tools come from the IT Central Station community. They are the opinions of the users and are based on their own experiences.


Valuable features

"The most valuable feature in Tableau Desktop developer version is the drag-and -drop feature for dimensions and measures. Parameters and action filters are also great."
-- Akarsh A., manager of business intelligence at a tech services company
"The most important and valuable feature is the ability to merge any kind of data with your data set, even cloud-based data. It gives the business user the power to analyze something new with his own data sources."
-- Oscar B., business intelligence specialist at a financial services firm

Room for improvement

"Tableau lacks machine learning algorithms that you can implement using R, SPSS Modeler, and Python. It has clustering and time-series forecasting abilities, which are helpful, but adding machine learning capabilities (like decision trees, CHAID analysis and K-means) would make this product perfect!"
-- Yali P., data analysis team leader at an internet service company
"I have difficulty working with many filters on the dashboards, and I'd like to see more options in the Histories section. QlikView makes better use of the dashboard filters."
-- Luiz Henrique F., planning specialist at a communications service provider
"A facility to add custom code to the dashboard would be helpful, and there is no formatting option for individual filters."
-- Sampath P., vice president of strategy, global delivery and operations at a tech services company

You can read more Tableau reviews on IT Central Station.


Valuable features

"We found the ease-of-use to be our primary factor for choosing Sisense. We have a client that changes their mind often and their business is moving very quickly. We needed to bring them a tool that could be learned and then deployed easily, without a lot of technical expertise."
-- J. Matt, section editor of print software at a printing company
"Time to deployment was one of our most critical factors in choosing a BI vendor, and I am not sure you can get to deployment faster than Sisense. On day one, I was able to download it, connect two disparate data sources with multiple tables, and build meaningful dashboards."
-- Richard E., product owner of business intelligence at a software R&D company
"It's really user-friendly and fast. I can use the product during customer meetings, not only to show dashboards, but to create and process data analytics in real time. It's perfect for consultant workshops where you can't work with static dashboards. Also, because it has an HTML5 interface, it now looks very good when compared to BI solutions that haven't evolved since Windows XP."
-- Romain N., project manager at a manufacturing company

Room for improvement

"The application lacks a control of the exporting function. It gives you the ability to export both the dashboards and the widgets in two formats each, but the format of all the exports are not completely under the control of the administrators. Most of it is select a few options and hope it comes out looking professional. A reporting engine that allows the administrators to format a template used in the exporting options would go a long way."
-- Eric Z., vice president of IT at a manufacturing company
"Better tracking of the targets for our representatives, quick overview of the market by product categories, supplier, customers, states, etc. We'd also like ultra-fast drill-down capabilities that allow us to find answers to ad-hoc business questions in a few seconds during business meetings."
-- Olivier C., business analyst at a marketing services firm
"Although the plug-in support mitigates this, Sisense could use additional out-of-the-box visualizations. The maps feature could also be improved."
-- Jared K., vice president of technology at a tech vendor

You can read more Sisense reviews on IT Central Station.

Dundas BI

Valuable features

"Version control and the ability to roll backward and forward on a dashboard. Ability to drag and drop an Excel file onto the page and have it create a data source from which to visualize."
-- Tom L., senior programmer/analyst at a tech services company
"The simplicity involved in generating dashboards has dramatically increased the number of dashboards we can get into the hands of users each month. Using easy drag-and-drop functionality, fast data discovery and powerful dashboard tools is allowing us to quickly give the staff, managers and decision makers the information they need to make informed decisions."
-- Tom M., energy efficiency analyst at an energy company
"Dundas BI is an end-to-end solution. It has ETL, reporting and dashboarding capabilities on one platform. It can manage all ETL procedures on its own. It not only reduces the budget of the project, but it also is easy to collect data from different sources."
-- Zafer M., managing partner at public broadcaster

Room for improvement

"The addition of funnel charts to the visualization options would be great. We have not been able to default a data grid to be collapsed by groups. This would be a big help for some dashboards requiring lots of details on the screen."
-- Andy C., manager of business intelligence and data architecture at a tech services company
"On some of the user interfaces, such as the 'join' interface, it is not possible to cancel out of the screen without making any changes."
-- Tom M., energy efficiency analyst at an energy company

You can read more Dundas BI reviews on IT Central Station.

Qlik Sense

Valuable features

"Its ease of use. No code is necessary to build a nice panel that works for desktops and mobile devices. You can also add customized graphics made by the Github community (!"
-- Kleyn G., IT analyst at a government agency
"The possibility of generating in-memory insights using self-service data connections with any database. Also, creating beautiful dashboards and analysis to use in business presentations, gaining value with trusted and solid information generated by the ETL in-memory tool."
-- Arthur K., BI specialist at an educational organizational

Room for improvement

"As of today, QlikView and Qlik Sense are only capable of storing the data results to a proprietary file. No other tool, outside of Qlik, is able to read these files."
-- Nick R., senior programmer analyst at an energy/utilities company
"I miss some of the functions found in their previous product, QlikView, such as dynamic (written by a function) expression or sheet name labels, to create multi-language applications."
-- BIExpert870, BI expert at a tech services company

You can read more Qlik Sense reviews on IT Central Station.

SAP Lumira

Valuable features

"We like the idea of being able to tell a story about our data and do some ad hoc data mining. We could show the sales across territories and actually see which ones were performing better than other ones. It was kind of an eye-opener."
-- Steve B., business intelligence analyst at a recreational services company
"The dynamic creation of dashboards is the key feature. It provides quick visualizations for reports. As it's hard to explain our reports, sometimes management misses the point, so the visualization is a lot better than a table that we typically show. It's the visualization that helps them understand what we report on."
-- SrDirector260, senior director at a tech services company
"What impresses me most are the charts and graphs, maps, and integration with ESRI. What's more, you can integrate with other third-party APIs and design your own charts."
-- SeniorVP472, senior vice president and head of multicultural insights at a consulting firm

Room for improvement

"I would look at the geospatial part: it's a little cumbersome, and it's not as accurate."
-- Steve B., business intelligence analyst at a recreational services company
"A lot of bugs keep coming up when we connect to HANA or create our custom color palette. Also, after coding JavaScript, sometimes the elements get hidden behind the graph and then there is no way to know how to make modifications."
-- Utkarsha K., SAP innovation analyst at a consumer goods company
"The Edge version of SAP Lumira still needs to be more user-friendly. It's still in the initial stages, so we can expect more features in future releases."
-- BizOpsAnalyst442, business operations analyst at a tech company

You can read more SAP Lumira reviews on IT Central Station.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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