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Similarities and differences between two of the most popular BI solutions on the market

Feb 12, 2018

The term Business Intelligence (BI) refers to a collection of technologies and services that allow extraction, unification and processing of data from various sources (usually transaction systems), and their transformation into graphs and reports that help business take adequate and timely decisions. These solutions are build on top of the business management systems and are considered their natural extensions.

However, choosing the most appropriate BI tool is a key stage in the development of each successful project. But have in mind, this is usually a difficult task, preceded by a number of questions:

  • Which is the best BI software?
  • What makes it such and is it useful for my company?
  • What functionalities do I search for and what should I consider before making the choice?

To make an informed decision, each customer should first research the main players on the market, their offers and the main trends in the field.

There are three BI technology companies standing out of the crowd for the past few years – Microsoft, Tableau and Qlik. To meet the rapidly evolving market needs, they continually work on improving their products and add new functionalities.

The paragraphs below will introduce you to Microsoft Power BI and Qlik Sense. Each one has its own strengths and meets the specific needs of business users. Both products are created in response to the main trends of the BI market – mobility, cloud computing and self service. Their common functionalities are:

  • Integration and processing of data from multiple sources, and extracting useful information to help users make decisions and reach insights
  • Delivery as a cloud services or on-premise Both have high security and data protection certificates
  • Mobility – both offer standard functionality on tablets and phones. BI analytics can be viewed through web clients or apps that allow extra functionality – for example, creation of annotations and alerts
  • Self-service – both Power BI and Qlik Sense have intuitive interfaces allowing easy creation of new analyzes and reports from the business users
  • Sharing information between user groups or the entire organization

In addition to the common functionalities that are almost identical to the market leaders, each of the solutions has additional features that distinguish it from competitors and make it preferred by different user groups.

For Power BI these are:

  • Q & A

Questions & Answers is a feature that allows application users to set intuitive natural language questions (by entering the query in a text form) and to get the information they want through a variety of graphics. Q & A is different from search engines and responds to queries that are based on the organization’s in-app data. The functionality processes the data available and selects the graphics to visualize it. Of course, this can be changed and the user can point the exact format he is willing to visualize the data.

  • Quick Insights

This functionality allows you to quickly generate interesting graphs based on the loaded data. To make this possible, Microsoft uses a set of analytical algorithms that allow the discovery of common trends, patterns, correlations, seasonality, extreme values, and more. Each of the graphs created with Quick Insights can be easily added to daily dashboards.

  • The lowest cost of licensing when talking about cloud services

Power BI Pro offers the lowest cost of licensing when the organization has no limitation on using software-as-a-service. The subscription at the time of writing the article is under € 10 per user per month. For further information on licensing and options, please contact our team.

Being a consultant and a Power BI user, I would share a drawback (compared to Qlik’s technology) – there‘s no object to summarize and visualize all the selections made in the application. This can sometimes confuse the end user with the criteria imposed. But Microsoft adds new functionality to the product every single week, which makes me believe they will fill this gap soon.

The distinctive features of Qlik Sense that I need to share are:

  • Associative filtering of data

The key advantage of all Qlik products is associative engine. It allows app users to analyze the information without restrictions and pre-set steps. Everyone can use their intuition and, by selecting the data, to reach insights that graphics would hardly give them by themselves. When filtering a value from a slicer, the other values ​​in the application are colored in colors that give additional visual information – selected values, possible selection, alternative, exclusions.

  • Smart Search

This is a Qlik Sense global search tool that allows users to start analyzing data by keywords or phrases and to get visual information about each section, calculation, or schedule that contains the keyword. With this functionality users can easily find insights on every set of data they have.

  • Lower license fee when talking about on premise solution

Depending on business type and legal regulations, some companies are restricted to process data through the cloud. This requires BI to be exploited on own infrastructure, and Qlik Sense offers more flexible licensing compared to Power BI. For more information, do not hesitate to contact our team.

qlik sense dashboardUsers who are used to QlikView functionality (the first BI solution that Qlik develops) will find that part of it is still missing in Qlik Sense, such as cyclic groups, conditional hide of application objects and pages. In addition, compared to Power BI, Qlik’s tools still do not offer automatic generation of analytics based on machine-based algorithms (Quick Insights). But with the expansion of Qlik Sense and its network of users, we expect these gaps to be filled or replaced by new functionality in the near future.

In a nutshell, the fast pace of the BI market requires players to constantly change and enrich their products, though the functionalities currently offered provide customers with a wide range of analytic tools and the ability to control their business on the basis of adequate information on time.

So, how do you control the information flow in your organization?

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About the author
Yanitsa Krumova
Yanitsa has been working as a BI developer and consultant for more than 5 years. Before making a career shift to Microsoft and Qlik technologies for data extraction, aggregation, processing and visualization, she worked as an ERP consultant. In her free time, Yani loves to read books, practice yoga and is a keen culinary.

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