Best Business Intelligence Tools166Business Intelligence Tools & Analytics software provides historical, current and predictive views of business operations.TIBCO Spotfire1 Crystal2 Desktop3 Jaspersoft4 Lumira5 Informer7 Server8 Reports10 BI11 Power BI12 Cognos13 BI15 SharePoint / SQL16 BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) Platform17 Analytics18 Sense19 BI Foundation Suite22 Analytics24 Jaspersoft Community Edition25

Best Business Intelligence Tools

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Business Intelligence Tools Overview

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence products are all designed to make sense of the huge quantities of data that organizations accumulate over time, by analyzing it and presenting it in a form where it can guide decision-making.

Business Intelligence products (BI) make up a large heterogeneous category of software. Not all tools in the category can be meaningfully compared to each other. There are several sub-categories of tools of which the most substantive are Full-Stack Business Intelligence Tools and Data Visualization Tools.

Business Intelligence Tools Features & Capabilities

  • BI Platform Type

  • Supported Data Sources

  • Standard Reporting

  • Ad-Hoc Reporting

  • Report Output and Scheduling

  • Data Discovery and Visualization

  • Access Control and Security

  • Mobile Capabilities

  • APIs / Embedding

Full-Stack Business Intelligence Tools

Full-stack or traditional products are enterprise-level tools designed to solve the specific problem of enterprise data silos. Much crucial business data is stored in a range of different data stores, many attached to business applications like ERP. These tools consolidate all data in a data warehouse which is a relational database designed for data mining instead of transactional processing.

Slices of data from the warehouse—usually summary data for a single department like sales or finance—are stored in a “data mart” for quick access. All of this structured data is normalized by using an ETL process (Extract, Transform and Load) whereby transactional data is combined into a single pool of data and then “transformed” into a more appropriate format for querying and analysis before being written in the data warehouse database.

The Full-Stack Business Intelligence TrustMap shows only those products that belong in this sub-category.

Data Discovery and Visualization Business Intelligence

Data Visualization products have a different purpose. These products are primarily designed to help data analysts discover patterns in large quantities of data and to build compelling visual representations which allow these patterns to be easily understood.

These tools often use a technology called in-memory analytics to query data residing on a computer’s RAM rather than on a physical disk. which means that the data does not have to be stored anywhere for subsequent analysis.

The Data Visualization TrustMap shows only those tools that belong in this sub-category.

Pricing Information

Business Intelligence software is generally quite expensive. However, it’s worth remembering that it is often money very well-spent in terms of significantly improved decision making.

One of the impediments to understanding pricing is that vendors base their pricing on a broad range of different variables from number of users to number of CPU cores.

However, as a very rough guide, advanced report authoring can cost $2,000 to $2,500 per seat, while interactive report viewing can be about half that amount. Static report viewing can be as little as $50 per seat.

Types of Business Intelligence Tools

The Data Management Problem that BI solves

Companies collect large quantities of operations data as a by-product of doing business. Huge quantities of data are stored in finance, procurement, sales, marketing systems and multiple other data repositories. Being able to analyze and understand this data is extremely important to running the business. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems typically contain data concerning the supply chain and inventory levels in addition to financial data. HR systems contain all employee records including demographic data, salary level, and performance reviews. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems contain customer, sales pipeline, forecasting and sometimes customer support case data.

The problem is that all this operational data is typically not accessible in one place for analysis in order to make decisions and provide strategic guidance to the business as a whole. For example, inventory data from an ERP system could be combined with sales forecasting information to understand how to optimize inventories in response to demand. This is the problem that business intelligence systems were designed to solve.

How Business Intelligence Tools Work

Traditional business intelligence solutions solve this problem by putting data into a common store called a warehouse. The data is then normalized - removing redundancy and duplication - making it easier to run queries and retrieve data for reporting. Newer data discovery and visualization platforms solve the problem differently, by either connecting directly to the various data sources, or storing data in-memory for analysis and visualization. There are many different types of business intelligence technology, not all of which depend on the business warehouse paradigm. Many new approaches have emerged, and the following sections describe some of the major classes of business intelligence technology.

On-premise Full Stack Products

On-premise full stack BI solutions have been around the longest and are now being eclipsed by newer, more flexible technology. However, thee tools still have a very large installed base, and are still very effective for managing structured data from many sources and structuring it for standard reporting across the enterprise. They have a number of key components, although every solution does not necessarily have each component of the stack:

  • Data warehouse: A relational database designed specifically for data analysis instead of standard transactional processing. It acts as the conduit between operational data stores and the gaining of insight based on composite data. Slices of data from the warehouse—usually summary data for a single department like sales or finance—are stored in a “data mart” for quicker access.
  • Extract, Transform, Load (ETL): The first important task is to extract the data from the various data sources and load it into a data warehouse where it is normalized (organized into tables while cleaning the data and removing redundancy and inconstancies). Once it has been appropriately structured it is available for querying and analysis.
  • OLAP or ad-hoc query tools: OLAP (Online Analytical Processing), and its close cousin ROLAP—(Relational) Online Analytical Processing, is a technology that allows users to query data across multiple dimensions, for building standard reports or for enabling users to ask a specific business question.
  • Presentation layer: Dashboards, scorecards and reports presenting the data to users in a visually appealing way that is easy to understand.

These tools are useful for organizations that wish to deliver relatively stable operational reports in a consistent format to front-line staff across the organization to help them monitor their progress or understand where performance is lagging. The advantage of this kind of enterprise reporting capability is the consistency of the data sets being used across the entire organization, which makes it easy to create alignment. It is notoriously difficult to achieve alignment if there is no common agreement about the accuracy of data, and stakeholders have different sets of data showing contradictory information. This is typically what people mean when they refer to a “single source of the truth”.

However, on-premise first, full-stack BI systems are difficult to build and implement, expensive, and often difficult to learn and use. They also lack flexibility and are difficult to change once they have been built. It has been relatively common in recent years for publications and analysts to bemoan the high failure rates for BI projects, and full-stack deployments are often the culprits. Implementation times for these tools can be long, because setting up the data warehouse and creating the schema are inherently IT-intensive, complex tasks. When they are finally up and running, the ROI can be low, often because of usability problems.

However, it should be pointed out that this does not have to be so. In recent years, a new category of data warehouse automation tools has emerged to mitigate these problems. Products like TimeXtender, Kalido, WhereScape, and Attunity go some way to making data warehouse creation and maintenance a far more agile and collaborative experience. These tools are capable of automating the creation of a data warehouse schema, indexes, cubes, etc. They can also create business metadata for specific business intelligence tools. In this way, they can dramatically simplify and speed up both data warehouse development and subsequent maintenance.

Additionally, not all tools in this category are legacy tools. There are more modern approaches to providing end-to-end capabilities using newer technology. A good example of this is Sisense, which uses a more flexible version of OLAP cubes, called “elasticubes”, and leverages data storage provided by the chip set to eliminate some of the speed limitations of disk storage. This approach yields significant speed increases of more than 50x over the competition.

Full-stack BI tools built on a data warehouse can still provide immense value to larger organizations with the resources to deploy and manage them, and the deep pockets required to invest in them.

Example Products

Best Fit For

  • Organizations whose primary need is for alignment and consistency of data across a very large organization and the provision of accurate reports to line of business managers and operational employees. These tools provide “a single version of the truth” as a basis for decision making across an entire enterprise.
  • Organizations with access to a highly skilled IT division, which includes ETL developers, report developers, data architects, data administrators and—very importantly—corporate trainers. (However, some newer products that attempt to radically simplify both deployment and usage need far less IT oversight).

Open-Source Full-Stack Products

The primary reason for choosing open-source BI tools is often perceived cost. Commercial BI tools are still largely seen as having superior technology, while open-source tools are viewed as offering good-enough technology at a fraction of the price. But although download of the software can be completely free, large-scale open-source deployments can still turn out to be a significant investment when factoring development costs. Also, there are very often commercial versions of the products that offer capabilities that the core free product does not. These typically include enterprise-level features like integrated security, connectivity to multiple data sources, administration tools, etc.

It is also important to bear in mind that these are developer-led tools and are designed with a developer mindset, which often means that significant development resources will be required to deploy and integrate them in an existing corporate environment.

There is however renewed interest in open-source BI tools today, partly fuelled by the extraordinary success of open-source products like Hadoop and Revolution Analytics R, recently acquired by Microsoft, which have raised awareness of the open-source approach.

Example Products

Best Fit For

  • Open-Source BI can be a good choice for organizations that have the technical expertise required to integrate the code base and make it work effectively within the organization. Typically these tool sets are very complete, due to the large number of developers working on the code base.
  • Open-source reporting engines are a particularly logical case for application vendors looking for a reporting engine to integrate into their product.

Cloud Full-Stack Products

Cloud full-stack BI products are a subset of full-stack products. They tend to include a data store, an ETL and semantic layer, and a range of front-end presentation tools sitting on top. The difference is largely in the deployment model (cloud versus on-premise). However, it makes sense to consider these solutions independently since they have some unique characteristics. For example, they are far easier to deploy, and do not require nearly as much IT oversight as traditional full-stack BI products.

Increasingly traditional full-stack BI providers are offering cloud versions, but most are single tenant, i.e. a single instance of the software supporting a single customer. Cloud-only full-stack BI products like Birst and GoodData are true multi-tenant SaaS products deployed on public clouds and offer all the advantages of true SaaS products, i.e. lower cost, frequent updates, and no data center infrastructure required. Tableau introduced a cloud-version of the product, Tableau Online, in 2013.

This familiarity with the cloud paradigm for enterprise business systems, in conjunction with massive and growing demand for analytics by business users, has spurred the development of cloud BI systems, and a basic comfort level with analytics in the cloud. It was inevitable that as operational data moved to the cloud, analytics would soon follow, and cloud BI is fast becoming ubiquitous, despite some reservations among highly regulated industries. Cloud BI platforms are often positioned as splitting the difference between legacy and discovery tools, offering the ease-of-use of discovery tools, with legacy data integration capabilities.

Cloud BI has been talked up as the next big thing in the BI world for some time now, but adoption has been has been slower than expected. One of the major obstacles has been concern over data security—corporations have been reluctant to put sensitive data in the cloud. However, as more operational data is located in the cloud as cloud-based operational systems like Salesforce, NetSuite, Zendesk, SuccessFactors and a multitude of others become ubiquitous, cloud BI adoption is becoming much more mainstream. This familiarity with the cloud paradigm for enterprise business systems, in conjunction with massive and growing demand for analytics by business users, has provided a basic comfort level with analytics in the cloud. It was inevitable that as operational data moved to the cloud, analytics would soon follow, and cloud BI is fast becoming ubiquitous, despite some reservations among companies in highly regulated industries.

Example Products

Best Fit For

  • Organizations that have come from the Internet world and have been using SaaS applications like Salesforce and SuccessFactors to run their businesses. These organizations are likely to have fewer security concerns around storing their data in the cloud.
  • Organizations of all sizes that want a much easier to deploy, less IT-centric version of the full-stack products allowing “single version of the truth” reporting across a department or a whole company.
  • Smaller organizations with a limited budget that want a fully featured system at far lower initial cost due to the absence of any capital outlay for on-premises infrastructure.

Data Discovery and Visualization Products

Data discovery and visualization tools are designed for data analysts and more technical business users. The focus of these tools is not really reporting and monitoring, but rather ad-hoc analysis of multiple data sources. They provide data analysts with an intuitive way to sift through large volumes of disparate data to expose patterns and outliers hidden in the data. They replace the traditional rows and columns of traditional data presentations with graphical pictures and charts.

These tools have taken the BI world by storm, largely because of the low cost of implementation and because they do not require IT support. Ease of use is another key feature encouraging rapid adoption. They allow end users with some comfort level in data analysis to access multiple different data sources and perform data mash-ups and display the results in visually compelling ways. For example, a company might produce a visualization of expenses by department across a large enterprise to help hone in on outliers and figure out the reason for the disparity.

Example Products

Best Fit For

  • Business analysts requiring access to data from disparate systems, and the ability to blend the data with no required IT assistance, and produce visually compelling images to understand the data and tell a story.
  • These are not the right tools for providing a reporting infrastructure across an entire company and very few companies use these tools as their corporate BI standard, but it is also rare for at least one of these tools not be used at an individual or departmental level.

Big Data Products

Big data does not describe a single technology or initiative, but rather a broad trend that is affecting all kinds of organizations. Big data technology emerged in response to the enormous volumes of data that have inundated organizations in recent years, and that are beyond the capacity of traditional business intelligence tools to process and manage. The problem that Big Data technology vendors are trying to solve is how to actually use this data to improve business outcomes. Terabytes of digital information are collected from actual physical devices like RFID sensors and machines, along with human-sourced communications like text image or video. Most existing BI systems cannot easily comprehend this kind of data, as they have been designed to make sense of highly structured data organized in tables and stored in a data warehouse. That leaves a vast quantity of potentially very useful data out in the cold. This is the driver behind the rapid ascension of the Hadoop and noSQL data stores like MongoDB and Cassandra, and the constellation of products that have accrued around them.

The value the big data technology can bring to the enterprise is varied and profound. Here are some typical use cases among many:

  • IT Data Center Optimization: Running a large, complex modern data center is not an easy task. A large data center can produce terabytes of plain text log files. Big data systems can help analyze this massive volume of log files to understand the root cause for any system breakdown, or sub-optimal performance. These systems can analyze terabytes of data daily to decipher what is happening across the stack with every single transaction. Without big data systems, this is impossible.
  • Fraud Detection: Fraud detection is all about building models in order to identify customers engaging in fraudulent behaviors. The problem is building these models however, is the underlying data. Because the volume of transactional data is so intimidatingly large, models are usually constructed on subsets or segments of the entire data set. Partial data and high latency can seriously reduce the predictive power of these models. Big data tools allow models to be built on the entire data set and with very low latency, thus vastly improving the power and accuracy of the predictive models.
  • Call center analytics: Big data models can help to understand customer loyalty decay, and to remediate customer dissatisfaction at key touch points to increase customer loyalty.
  • Social media analytics: Analysis of torrents of data in the form of social media streams can provide insight into what customers are saying about a company and its products along with those of competitors. While this sentiment analysis is important, the real power of social analytics is linking this sentiment data to transactional data to understand how sales promotions, loyalty programs and competitor activities correlate to this social sentiment.

Example Products

Best Fit For

  • Companies who need to analyze very high volumes of data, from very diverse data sources, to solve pressing and complex business problems.
  • Data-rich organizations with an IT department closely connected to business units, and with a strong desire to use their data to gain competitive advantage.

Embedded BI

Several BI vendors also sell their products to ISVs to embed analytics capabilities in their own products. While this is not a separate class of products, this specific use case has become increasingly important as companies grapple with ever-growing data volumes and become more familiar with data discovery and visualization tools. Many software vendors realize that built-in analytics capabilities are critically important to the success of their products in the marketplace and are faced with a critical build-or-buy decision. They can add significant competitive advantage to their own customers by providing tested BI technology. This can allow them a rapid time to market and better cost management than building capabilities in a domain where they have limited expertise.

In the early days of this model, companies embedded proprietary code in their products using APIs provided by BI vendors. However, web-based solutions no longer need to be embedded, but reside adjacent to the application, greatly simplifying deployment and administration.

The market initially developed around open-source products designed primarily for developers like Logi Analytics, Tibco Jaspersoft, OpenText and Pentaho (Hitachi Data Systems). The emergence of cloud hosting infrastructure allows vendors to make their solutions available in platform-as-a-service cloud environments.

This use case is quickly becoming pervasive in the marketplace. GoodData, for example, is now almost exclusively focused on this market. In addition to GoodData, embedded solutions are also available from Logi Analytics, Tibco Jaspersoft, OpenText and Pentaho (Hitachi Data Systems), Birst, Qlik, Tableau, Looker and Sisense.

Pages 3-29 are available in the complete TrustRadius 2016 Buyer's Guide to Business Intelligence and cover

  • Recent Trends in the Business Intelligence Market
  • The Best Business Intelligence Products for Small Businesses
  • The Best Business Intelligence Products for Mid-sized Companies
  • The Best Business Intelligence Products for Enterprises
  • Methodology
  • Alteryx Analytics Ratings & User Feedback
  • Birst Ratings & User Feedback
  • Chartio Ratings & User Feedback
  • Dundas BI Ratings & User Feedback
  • Entrinsik Informer Ratings & User Feedback
  • GoodData Ratings & User Feedback
  • IBM Cognos Ratings & User Feedback
  • InsightSquared Ratings & User Feedback
  • Looker Ratings & User Feedback
  • Microsoft BI Ratings & User Feedback
  • MicroStrategy Ratings & User Feedback
  • Pentaho Ratings & User Feedback
  • QlikView Ratings & User Feedback
  • SAP Business Objects Ratings & User Feedback
  • SAP BusinessObjects Lumira Ratings & User Feedback
  • SAP Crystal Reports Ratings & User Feedback
  • Sisense Ratings & User Feedback
  • Tableau Desktop and Server Ratings & User Feedback
  • TIBCO Jaspersoft Ratings & User Feedback
  • TIBCO Spotfire Ratings & User Feedback
  • Zoho Reports Ratings & User Feedback
  • How to Buy a BI Solution

Business Intelligence Products

Listings (1-25 of 189)

TIBCO Spotfire

Top Rated
459 Ratings

TIBCO SpotfireⓇ is a data discovery and business intelligence tool with capabilities that range from colorful graphic visualizations for the entry-level user to in-depth statistical analysis. According to the vendor, their built in analytical engines help users utilize the results of data mining,...

SAP Crystal

396 Ratings

SAP Crystal (SAP Crystal Reports, SAP Crystal Server) is designed to help users create powerful, richly formatted, dynamic reports from virtually any data source – delivered in dozens of formats, in up to 24 languages. According to the vendor, SAP Crystal Reports is a robust production reporting...

Tableau Desktop

Top Rated
1172 Ratings

Tableau Desktop is the rapid-fire authoring environment used to create and publish complex visualizations, reports and dashboards in multiple output formats. Using Tableau Desktop, a report author can connect to multiple data sources, explore relationships, create dashboards, modify metadata, and...

TIBCO Jaspersoft

Top Rated
230 Ratings

Jaspersoft is a Business Intelligence suite that brings users worldwide more timely, actionable data inside their apps and business processes, through an embeddable reporting and analytics. The vendor says Jaspersoft is a cost-effective platform, and its goal is to help users make better decisions...

SAP Lumira

Top Rated
414 Ratings

SAP Lumira Discovery is a data visualization software solution that helps business users take full advantage of the massive amounts of data that is available to their business by using data analysis and data visualization capabilities. The data available in all major data sources (like MS Excel,...


Top Rated
176 Ratings

Birst Networked BI is a BI product that promises to enable a single view of data and eliminate data silos. Additionally, decentralized teams and individual users can augment this shared analytic fabric with their own local data, without compromising data governance. This consistency comes from a...

Entrinsik Informer

83 Ratings

Entrinsik Informer is a web-based Reporting and Business Intelligence (BI) application. It helps organizations transform real-time data into actionable information by delivering ad-hoc reporting, data analysis and interactive dashboards.

Tableau Server

Top Rated
517 Ratings

Tableau Server is an enterprise-class business analytics platform that can scale up to hundreds of thousands of users. It allows distributed mobile and browser-based users to interact with Tableau workbooks published to the server from Tableau Desktop. Tableau Server comprises 4 main...


533 Ratings

QlikView® is a data discovery product for creating rapidly developed, highly interactive guided analytics applications and dashboards, purpose built for business challenges. With Qlik’s Associative Data Indexing engine at its core, it allows people to explore freely, to uncover insights and data...

Zoho Reports

100 Ratings

Zoho Reports is a cloud-based reporting and business intelligence platform for small to medium-sized businesses. It allows businesses to know and track their key performance metrics. It has a pay-as-you-go pricing model. Various customization options allow businesses to tailor Zoho Reports to their...

Microsoft BI

575 Ratings

Microsoft BI benefits from the ubiquity of SQL server and the set of tools built around the database, including an ETL layer, master data management, data cleansing, report and reporting. The reporting engine is SQL Server Reporting Services which does not have the visualization capabilities of...

IBM Cognos

296 Ratings

IBM Cognos is an established product with a large user base. It is a full-featured platform comprising Query Studio, Reporting Studio, Analysis Studio and Event Studio, and Cognos Administration along with some newer tools for Microsoft Office integration, full-text search and dashboards. Query...


Top Rated
84 Ratings

Sisense simplifies business analytics for complex data. Powered by its unique In-Chip™ and Single Stack™ technologies – Sisense delivers unmatched performance, agility and value, eliminating much of the costly data preparation traditionally needed with business analytics tools and providing a...

Dundas BI

53 Ratings

Dundas BI is Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Visualization software that includes customizable dashboards, reporting and visual data analytics. According to the vendor, their solution is the most flexible BI platform, with seamless integration into the user’s business applications, allowing...

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) Platform

405 Ratings

The SAP® BusinessObjects™ Business Intelligence (BI) platform is a flexible, scalable information infrastructure that aims to help you more easily discover and share insights for better business decisions. According to the vendor, the integrated, unified infrastructure enables scalability from one...

MicroStrategy Analytics

201 Ratings

MicroStrategy Analytics is a platform for Business Intelligence (BI) and self-service analytics. It enables organizations worldwide to analyze the vast amounts of data stored across their enterprises to make better business decisions. MicroStrategy currently has 3 versions: MicroStrategy...

Qlik Sense

Top Rated
306 Ratings

Qlik Sense® is a visual analytics platform that is designed to empower users to see the whole story that lives within their data. It supports a full spectrum of BI use cases including self-service visualization for everyone, centrally deployed guided analytics apps and dashboards, and custom and...


Top Rated
78 Ratings

Looker is business intelligence application with an analytics-oriented application server that sits on top of relational data stores. The Looker platform includes an end-user interface for exploring data, a reusable development paradigm for creating data discovery experiences, and an extensible API...


Top Rated
59 Ratings

InsightSquared is a sales analytics platform that provides sales leaders with the insights they need to drive performance and close deals. According to the vendor, the comprehensive set of reports provide sales leaders with ready access to all the analysis they need to assess their progress,...


38 Ratings

Chartio is a business intelligence tool that connects to the world’s most popular data sources in real-time by working with an organization’s database. Some key features include: Drag and Drop UI, Powerful Query Mode and Powerful Filters.

Alteryx Analytics

Top Rated
106 Ratings

Alteryx Analytics is a business intelligence and predictive analytics offering.

TIBCO Jaspersoft Community Edition

29 Ratings

TIBCO offers Jaspersoft Community Edition, a free product that offers embeddable pixel-perfect reports for Java apps and small workgroups

Business Intelligence Articles

2016 Buyer's Guide to Business Intelligence

  • Compare the pros & cons of the top BI vendors in this free 111-page guide from TrustRadius
  • Quickly identify the right BI software product for your use case based on 2,250+ in-depth reviews
  • Understand the 5 critical steps to completing a successful Business Intelligence software purchase

Buyer's Guide to Business Intelligence

  • Compare the pros & cons of the top rated BI vendors in this free 33-page guide from TrustRadius
  • Quickly identify the right BI software product for your use case based on 530+ in-depth reviews
  • Understand the 5 critical steps to completing a successful Business Intelligence software purchase

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Salesforce announced its entry into Business Intelligence (BI) software market at Dreamforce 2014 with the launch of Salesforce Analytics Cloud, also known as Salesforce Wave. At TrustRadius, we pride ourselves on sharing the end-user perspective. In the case of Wave, it’s been impossible to track down any beta users, so we’re offering our own perspectives and those of market participants we interviewed.  

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BI software was historically something that only large-enterprises had the capacity to use. The category was dominated by enterprise vendors like IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects and MicroStrategy. More recently, data discovery and visualization tools like Tableau and QlikView, along with cloud BI vendors like Birst and GoodData, have succeeded in making BI accessible to the mid-market, but these tools still require a level of technical sophistication that is beyond the purview of many small organizations. This is the challenge that InsightSquared has taken on: making BI a feasible option for small, unsophisticated organizations.  

Top 10 Fastest Growing BI Software Products

An estimated $14 billion is spent on business intelligence (BI) software each year. Last year, the market grew more than 8 percent, with certain segments like Cloud BI growing much faster ­Business Intelligence software is also an extremely popular category on TrustRadius. Unique page views for BI software products – a measure for how many people are running evaluations – grew 16 percent from Q2 to Q3. In this article, learn who the fastest growing BI products are.  

Interview with Barry Devlin, Business Intelligence Consultant, Author and Speaker

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