TrustRadius
Birst almost live access
https://www.trustradius.com/business-intelligence-biBirstUnspecified6.9183101
Tim Welch profile photo
Updated January 09, 2019

Birst almost live access

Score 6 out of 101
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

birst appliance

Modules Used

  • birst connect live access

Overall Satisfaction with Birst

Birst is used as a delivery mechanism to display data to our client. We collect data on mobile device usage patterns, as well as analyst forecasts across many technology areas, and use Birst to visualise this data via dashboards that clients access from our website.
  • Connects directly to many types of external data sources, enabling us to plug into data where it already exists
  • Visualiser provides a user friendly interface for non-tech users to build their own databases
  • HTML dashboards look far better now than the original Flash versions
  • Connectivity between the live sources frequently drops and does not reconnect automatically
  • Cannot add dynamic titles to reports - so although can create a dynamic text box, this title cannot be exported along with the report
  • Designer runs query as soon as an attribute is dropped on screen - would be useful if you know you need to add another 4, to be able to disable the query execution until all items have been added
  • Speed and agility
Main usage for Birst was to enable clients to access and analyse data, however feedback from clients is that performance is the number one priority even over flexibility. Birst often struggles in this aspect when querying large datasets, due to the way it tries to pre-cache data from a larger query so it can attempt to anticipate a future query - however this frequently means the initial query is much slower than is necessary.
Birst is not as intuitive or flexible for cube design and aggregations as using SQL Analysis services - at times seems an odd mix between gui based, and required specific code.
Power BI is the tool of choice internally, but is limited by security settings that we need to enable to suport client access.
Tableau is unfortunately beyond our budget to provide the solution we would like to deliver.
Currently we have very in depth dashboards created in Birst, to rewrite these in an alternative product would incur a large overhead in cost and time that would need to be considered in any decision tom move away from Birst.
Birst is used by several hundred client customers, around 20 internal users, and designed by 3 internal IT Birst admins
Too often gives "-103" errors and drops connections, either during import of data / meta data, or on dashboards when connecting to a SQL Analysis Cube. This appears to be due to it requiring http connectivity via a dll, rather than having native connectivity into SSAS (like PowerBI has)
Quite easy once the appropriate permissions are set up to enable multiple users to work in the same space, however cannot send a link to a pre-populated / filtered report. Parameters are maintained within the page itself rather than in the URL, so reproducing a report for a colleague is not always easy on the dashboard, although can be exported to various other formats (excel, pdf, powerpoint)
We find the performance of the dashboards is sometimes very slow - and has been noted by customers. a key question would be to confirm the acceptable delay and build the dashboards around that kpi.

Birst Feature Ratings

Pixel Perfect reports
Not Rated
Customizable dashboards
7
Report Formatting Templates
Not Rated
Drill-down analysis
6
Formatting capabilities
5
Integration with R or other statistical packages
Not Rated
Report sharing and collaboration
3
Publish to Web
Not Rated
Publish to PDF
6
Report Versioning
Not Rated
Report Delivery Scheduling
Not Rated
Pre-built visualization formats (heatmaps, scatter plots etc.)
5
Location Analytics / Geographic Visualization
6
Predictive Analytics
Not Rated
Multi-User Support (named login)
8
Role-Based Security Model
8
Multiple Access Permission Levels (Create, Read, Delete)
6
Responsive Design for Web Access
Not Rated
Dedicated iOS Application
Not Rated
Dedicated Android Application
Not Rated
Dashboard / Report / Visualization Interactivity on Mobile
Not Rated

Additional Questions on Birst Capabilities

Nowhere near as user friendly as other tools. Part of the problem is combination of Flash and HTML options, although this is configured at a user level rather than a dashboard level. As the features in each option are not the same, this can mean users working in one format cannot utilise dashboards that are more suited for the other format.

Using Birst

5 - Internal data analysis, and dashboard design for client facing dashboards
2 - Birst requires a lot of patience to use well.
Benefits from input by BI designers, and data modellers / designers
  • Visualisation of data analysis
  • Presentation of data in visual format for clients, delivered via internet
  • Analysis tool for data held in SQL Analysis Services
  • Live access connections to SQL Analysis services cubes in MDX and Tabular format
  • using prompts to enable custom searches of data
  • Basic dashboarding of KPI's
  • Client facing data access
Yes - Excel_Reports, as way of publishing data to website for clients
  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
Birst was the best value product in the market place at the time, for the functionality we believed we needed

Birst Implementation

Disappointing that it is on a "delivered VM" rather than a software install as 99.9% of other software is provided.
Change management was minimal - Processes are in place for changes to Birst - the main one being the regression testing required across multiple appliance servers in dev / UAT / live whenever a new Birst patch is released
  • VM that is provided is restricted to Windows 2008 - no support for 2012 or higher
  • Cannot integrate with our own host providers as there is no real "install"
  • Permissions didn't seem to integrate with our AD

Birst Training

Product is not intuitive, and frequently seems to require clicking back to different pages just to get the product to save recent changes. Support desk are not familiar with using the "Live Connect" method to connect to external data sources, and are more comfortable using the native datawarehouse system, meaning there are times it feels we are the ones telling the support team how to do things.

Configuring Birst

Product is quite configurable, regarding data sources, location, file location etc. but still limited to within the provided VM
we have learnt that the memory on the appliance server is the crucial specification to address when configuring Birst
No - we have not done any customization to the interface - All we have done is add some corporate branding and images to
No - we have not done any custom code
We are looking to configure load balancing across multiple appliance servers via NLB but have not yet implement this

Birst Support

Frequently the first line support appear to know nothing about the "Live Data Access" part of the product, which is the main use we have for it. Frustrating to find that we spend several hours on the phone just having to reshow problems, to still get no support help.
ProsCons
None
Slow Resolution
Poor followup
Less knowledgeable
Problems left unsolved
Escalation required
Need to explain problems multiple times
Support doesn't seem to care
Yes - Multiple bugs are raised with the support desk, many they either deny initially or admit were introduced by the frequent updates. Difficult to keep track of what may be errors caused by us, compared to what has been introduced by the software, which makes regression testing every Birst service pack a real chore
The only time we have felt valued has been at the "Birst Forward" conference in SFO, when we were given the opportunity to meet with more senior development team members who actually seemed to understand our issues. Prior to that, the only exception support has come when issues have been escalated to a level that resulted in staff on the West coast agreeing to phone calls at 5am their time to overlap with the UK

Using Birst

ProsCons
None
Do not like to use
Unnecessarily complex
Difficult to use
Requires technical support
Inconsistent
Slow to learn
Cumbersome
  • Creating dynamic charts
  • Click through functionality
  • changing page layouts
  • re-sizing charts
  • dynamic text
  • changing data connections
  • working with external data sources via live connection

Birst Reliability

we can see that loading a lot of data can cause a noticable slow down in performance. Birst support indicated that they don't really consider anything less than 30 seconds to be an issue, but that is not the case for our customers, so we have had to change some of implementation to address this
We frequently experience -103 errors due to us using the Live Connect functionality, which does not seem to handle even minor interruptions in connectivity, and treats all future connection attempts or data requests as errors, even if the issue does not exist any longer
Birst struggles with complex data sets coming from SSAS, that resolve very quickly on tools like PowerBI

Integrating Birst

Nothing special
  • SQL SSAS
  • Corporate website
Linking to SQL SSAS initially was easy, but it was very unclear how subsequent changes in structure could be reflected.
Integrating via our website simply required permissions and SSO tokens from users
  • File import/export
  • ETL tools

Relationship with Birst

As a relatively new company at the time, Birst were keen to establish new clients, and were able to offer a deal and terms that we couldn't refuse
Most of our dealings are with the support team, which can cause frustration. Part of our problem is that the account is US based, but most of our users are based in the UK, so there are no local support groups or help available for the people actually experiencing the problems.
Number of appliances, and ongoing license fees
Identify what support / user focus groups are available for the people who will actually be using the software

Upgrading Birst

Yes - Birst frequently bring out new versions. While the down time is minimal while upgrading, there are nearly always unexpected impacts in each release affecting existing functionality. This has often led to support tickets being raised due issues where features that were working previously have stopped, but whether that was due to an error at our end or from the latest update is usually a chore to determine
  • Better stability of the Live Access connection

Evaluating Birst and Competitors

Additional products, considerations and use cases would be considered if we were evaluating today.
At the time it was only a couple of people who chose the product based on one of their specific requirements, and other users / products were then crow-barred into that solution.