KPIs. Metrics. Reporting.
These buzzwords in Business intelligence & Data analytics industries represent typically how a growing data-driven company runs their business. Are You tracking your KPIs? Are you creating a data-driven culture in your growing company?
In fact, Facebook was tracking only one metric religiously for a very long time in their early days. Noah Kagan followed suit at App Sumo eventually. There is no denying the fact that tracking metrics is crucial for a growing business and to focus all your energy on a certain set of KPIs that help build focus across the entire team.
The Rise of Dashboards
The amount of data that we are generating is going to continue at an exponential speed and one of the most famous sayings in the analytics industry and its reason for the growth is below.
“90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, at 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day!”
This is where Dashboards come in. They help you look at your Top KPIs in a visual manner such that you can derive actionable business insights out of it in a periodic manner.
You can have various views for people across the company – the C-suites can look at summary views that give them a quick view of how overall metrics are performing, the specific teams can look at the deep-dive views to understand what is performing well and what is not with proper reasons for the same.
Most aspects of these business dashboards are dynamic and they show live data with periodic refreshes so that everyone is aware of the current performance always.
Due to all of the above, there has been a great rise in the number of dashboard software & tools for businesses. As with anything, the growing number of choices is good and bad at the same time as it provides flexibility along with confusing most folks. This post helps you get past that confusion with a set of my choices and also with a plan to choose a tool.
If you are already aware and tired of reading about the huge number of options and just want to decide how exactly to choose one, jump to the end of the post for my process of selecting a dashboard tool for your specific business.
Update: If you are looking for Enterprise Dashboard and Business intelligence tools & a proper framework to choose those type of tools – I’ve done a separate detailed post on that now too comparing just Tableau, Looker & Domo
The Best Dashboard Software & Tools for Your business
Here, I will be listing down a set of dashboard softwares that I have used personally in my business for my clients.
Having personally used some of these tools, I’ll be adding two perspectives for some of the best dashboard software below – User & Analyst perspective. The user is anyone who will be consuming the dashboards and analyst would be folks who are actually creating the dashboard behind the scenes (like me!) For the rest, I’ll add a brief description on all the features that I am personally aware of.
If you are just the user of a dashboard, read the user’s perspective only. If you are building or creating a dashboard, you can read the whole thing and focus more on analyst perspective for your better understanding.
- The Ease of use, UI & UX is brilliant along with the sharing & collaboration options. An entire new sub-domain is created for your company’s dashboard where it will be hosted. (Eg: yourcompany.domo.com )
- There can be various pages & views within this for different people within the company. Within each page, there are collections (sections within a dashboard) and cards (visualizations from datasets).
- Each collection can be used to answer a specific business question by multiple cards answering and describing it. These make it quite holistic for the end users to make full use of each department in the business by pages and within each answer multiple business questions concerning them with beautiful visualizations
- It can connect to 500+ connectors as data sources and you can view their pricing to learn more about them. They have a free plan for 100+ connectors and it’s paid to get access to the rest of the connectors and other premium features.
- The mobile app is also great and can also be used at any point in time for the same.
- To use page wide filters, every user must turn it on by selecting it from options
- Card has to be clicked on to view properly and use multiple filters on it.
- Interconnection of cards is not there yet
- Lack of customizations and dynamically growing datasets
- Custom connections (new APIs/integrations you want added) take a lot of time to build and get approved.
- High platform fees > 10K$-25K$ per year is also added. This can be avoided though if you get it from Domo partners on monthly/yearly subscription, get in touch with us to know more
You can view a basic live case study on Domo Dashboard that was built for one of my clients. Many more complex dashboards were built on Domo, whose case studies will be shared.
- In short, great tool to build dashboards. Very intuitive and fast learning curve for any analyst.
- Each visualization is called a card. Multiple cards can form a collection. These collections can make up a single page. Everything should be built and presented in this manner to end users for the most effective use.
Hierarchy order: Pages – Collections – Cards.
- The data sources connections & the reports can be chosen very quickly, the data can be transformed using ETL/Dataflow/SQL Dataflows options which are great options in merging & transforming multiple datasets. Beastmode option within cards is another great option for calculated formulae, data manipulations and much more inside visualizations and datasets
- The UI Dataflow is also very good for non-coders and the SQL folks can very well use the SQL ETL directly to get the work done.
- There is also a Dojo-Domo community where you can get help from existing analysts/users of Domo on most basic queries. The updates to the products and the way it’s growing is also huge.
- The big problem is again the lack of extreme customizations available here directly. Also, in one card (visualization), we can just use one single data source.
- Some customized visualizations, custom connectors can be created with their developer platforms though, but this takes time and good level of work from the creation to implementation to the approval phases
- Creating a new connection where the data source is not integrated in their can take a lot of time. The entire code will have to be written on Developer domo site and then published. The approval time is really on Domo which can take 2-4 weeks or much longer depend on the level of support you have with them.
This is one of our Top tools where we have worked with Enterprises, SMBs, and Agencies. We are happy to help in all your Domo projects, custom connections (new APIs, integrations) and much more with Domo. Click on book now and we can take it from there
This is one of our Top tools where we have worked with Enterprises, SMBs, and Agencies.
- Very customizable dashboards, changes allowed in each aspect of the same. You can decide the size of your visualization (called klips), the background color of your dashboard and much more
- There can be multiple dashboards with sharing and collaboration features built in
- Global filters are allowed, multiple data sources can be used at any point in time. Multiple klips can be interconnected. This is a big point as it can allow you to design your page as you really want with dynamic features.
- It has the support of 500+ connectors again and new connectors can be swiftly added due to their API integrations enabled and customizable data source infrastructure already setup at their end. (REST APIs, XML etc)
- Great product, the learning curve is a bit slow as a good amount of technical knowledge is needed in each customization. Inter-connections offer great flexibility and customizations but these will take a good amount of time for the analyst to implement & test
- Each data source has inbuilt reports and you can connect them directly. Along with this, for each data source, you can create customized queries (using API GET queries & parameters) to pull whatever data you would want.
- For each visualization (klips), you can load multiple data sources and perform your operations to get the data as you need them.
- Any new API/integration can be added if they have a valid cloud API and documentation from the REST connector – super helpful for any new software the company buys and uses.
- Simple Hierarchy here: Data sources – Klips – Dashboards
- Amazing community, support features & content by their team in speeding your learning curve.
- Limit of klips in a specific page and numbers of pages (dashboards) under an account. Pricing based on klips and dashboards count here
- Limit of 10MB per data source – could be a big issue here for enterprise or SMBs with large datasets. Although it can be solved by using dynamic data sources
- Slow learning and lot of development coding work to setup klips
- Complete cloud portal and access to all end-users by simple links and folders hierarchy. Looks are single visualizations and dashboards are collections of looks together – both are there in each folder.
- Simple UI / UX with drag-drop metrics & explores so that anyone can build visualizations in frontend. Also, if a look (visualization) is given, any end-user can click on “Explore from here” and do further explorations/deep-dives if they have the right access
- Inviting, sharing, sending, email automation, downloading reports/dashboards (i.e looks/dashboards) are quite simple and effective
- Total cloud experience in setup and building backend & frontend aspects (no desktop versions needed like Tableau, Power BI, qlik etc)
- A unique & new model-view approach along with entire Data modelling done properly (by LookML) with the use of their partners that handle data transfer instead of “Data Connectors” that every other company keeps building & improving
- Defining your own calculations for each metric and not treating it like a BlackBox since you have full control on the backend
- Adopting a new language (LookML) & the model-view approach for the end-users
- Each code needs to be pushed and needs to be approved from Development to Production state for it to be accessible by end-users
- The time & resources needed to set up and adopt across teams due to all of the above
- Dedicated people(min 1-2) needed to handle the looker dev/production modes & maintenance of all the codes
- One of the oldest and most used tools in BI industry. Great set of tools and options for analysts, growing companies, and big companies.
- Multiple options for subscription ranging from Tableau Online (latest) to Tableau desktop to Tableau server.
- Great customizations, ease of use, brilliant visualizations & loads of sharing and collaboration options makes it one of the most top used and famous tools in BI industry.
- The range of data sources is really big – most of the apps, data sources, and even big data sources can be connected directly to this
- Need to invest in desktop installed softwares – Tableau desktop for development and Tableau Online/Server for cloud sharing and hosting
- Time-consuming to build and share dashboards
- New softwares/integrations are tough to build
- Great ease of use and basic learning curve. Knowing and having the full context of SQL is very helpful here as most of the work is done using the same. Think of Tableau like a complete frontend to each SQL code you will be writing.
- There is a great level of customizations that can be done as there are various dimensions, parameters, calculated field options that can be leveraged here
- Data sources are easy and quick to connect. You can merge, mix as many data sets with great customized options here.
- Great community, forums and support and much more as it has been around for so long. Most doubts/concerns can be quickly answered here
- Multiple APIs have to be connected via WDCs. Adding of new APIs is a significant investment in terms of time and money for development
- Refreshing and automation needs good amount of work here as compared to others
There are Supermetrics connectors now directly available that plugin data into Google data studio, which makes this a very good option and a must-have solution for all SMBs and even some enterprise-level customers.
- A product rolled out by Google directly, which is available for free since March 2017 globally.
- Great set of initial basic level features as is there in most tools, all types of filters, segmentations, customizations along with most popular charts options are available for a start.
- Great numbers of updates, supporting connectors and partners are coming in here. You can track the latest updates here
- Decent range of Data sources here with most Google tools easily integrated, highly used Databases and file uploads along with it. The main problem comes with Google competitors datasets – Facebook, other social media, or any external sources from APIs directly, but with Supermetrics and many other integrations, these are all getting resolved quickly.
- Supermetrics is solving this problem very well. You can create a Google data studio dashboard with Facebook, Bing and Twitter in 3 minutes using Supermetrics. Many other external data sources are possible using the Supermetrics custom JSON/CSV connector. They also keep adding new connectors regularly and are a google partner in the same, so this is a great option to use here.
- The combination of both Data Studio and Supermetrics is very powerful to use here and will keep getting better with new updates they both keep bringing out.
- Data Studio is pretty simple to use and you just need a google account to get started here. The learning curve is smooth here due to great UI, ease of use and mainly a very good product by Google!
- One big advantage is the big google community, forums, the users who will be using it and thereby be creating supporting content around it. Whenever stuck anywhere, there will be help in the form of content by users, google or the community themselves – so you are in safe hands here
- Supermetrics use is also very simple, installing a basic chrome extension and using Google sheets is just an added layer that you would need to quickly learn. Their blog and content is very helpful with their step by step guides and regular updates on the new features being added.
- Google Data sources are easiest to connect to here (analytics, adwords etc) and along with Supermetrics you can technically connect most data sources that you would need for your business via Google sheets.
5. HTML/JS Dashboards – ( D3 / DC / Crossfilter / Highcharts Libraries )
- Great ease of use on your browser, all kinds of customizations possible
- A huge number of choices on visualizations and very visually appealing.
- Open source platform, so the use of it is technically free. However, there would be a good amount of costs in the development of the same and for servers to host it.
- Great options to create a fully Customized dashboard, every part of the dashboard has to be actually coded so the time taken is quite huge
- Each data source will need to be converted to JSON/CSVs which are read by these libraries and only then can they be used
- Server handling, amount of data flowing on the browsers, developmental issues, library bugs are some of the other complications involved
- Another good option is Cyfe, the best part about this is a large number of connections it provides and the super-low pricing
- Multiple free built-in & ready dashboards are available for use here. Inbuilt widgets help you in setting up visualizations very quickly here too.
- Sharing & collaboration options are also good.
- Lack in deep customizations, in merging datasets, in calculated fields and more advanced level analytics of any kind.
That is the end of the list for now. I will keep this page updated as and when new tools emerge in the market and if there are changes in any of the products above. For now, if you want to read about more options, here is another great list to check out.
How to choose the best option for YOUR business
Now, that you are aware of some top options and the vast number of actual tools out there, you want to make a decision on which one to go ahead with. There is no single “best tool”, the best is always the one that suits your specific requirements and needs at a specific point of time.
Here are some quick questions that you need to ask yourself and your team to come to a final choice.
- How many data sources/connectors do you have for your business that you would want to see in the dashboard? Does the option accommodate for all these data sources quickly?
- Examples of data sources/connectors – Shopify for E-Commerce data, Google analytics for Website data, Facebook for social data, Xero for financial data and so on.
- How do you want the end product to look like for periodical use? How much do you value the UI/UX/ease of use in your dashboard? What additional features do you really need?
- How many levels and depths of visualization do you want to see? How many customizations would you need in your final views of the dashboard?
- Who will be creating the dashboard and how much time will it take?
- Lastly, what are the costs associated with the dashboard software for the long term and does it fall within our budget?
The answers to these questions would help you determine your most optimum choice for your business currently. If you have any further questions and need any further help in the implementation of various types of dashboards you can reach out to me here.
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