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Birst Review 9 of 96
Review: "Birst is the best tool we found to meet our needs, but has some significant issues"
https://www.trustradius.com/business-intelligence-biBirstUnspecified6.8182101
Robin Filan profile photo
Updated January 08, 2019

Review: "Birst is the best tool we found to meet our needs, but has some significant issues"

Score 3 out of 101
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with Birst

We use Birst in addition to a separate data warehouse to ingest Google Analytics, event tracking, operational and sales data. We build reports that are distributed across the company by giving everyone a Birst account and having them log in to view relevant dashboard.

There are two use cases:

1. The Data warehouse team has modeled the data into a data mart in the data warehouse. In this case we use a Live Access connection to create a report.
2. The data warehouse team has not modeled the data in the data warehouse yet, so the data is ingested with Birst Connect and then transformed with Birst ETL. The data is reloaded through Birst Connect by kicking off automated Windows Task Scheduler.
  • Easy to create visualizations
  • Very attractive visualizations
  • Connect to many data sources
  • Terrible documentation and training resources. Sometimes not enough documentation, sometimes it is WRONG! Often we are told to post our issues to the Birst user forum, as if we should be able to figure out our own problems rather than Birst troubleshooting their own product.
  • Sometimes when there are bugs we are told they will only be addressed by voting on them as feature requests, not addressing the bugs. Some feature requests are years old.
  • When using Birst Connect there is a lot that can go wrong on the Birst side of things completely out of our control, and then we are waiting on technical support to resolve. In particular the space can get "locked" if we try to process while it's already processing. I've also experienced where a staging table was deleted in the user interface, but not the backend of the tool, so it failed until the support team manually removed it.
  • Birst technical support is very weak. They often do not answer the phone, and they always ask to go on a call with you after submitting a ticket, no matter if we've provided extensive documentation within the ticket.
  • The ETL features are incredibly hard to use, though very powerful. As someone who has an understanding of database theory I found the fact that the training refused to teach to "primary keys" and "foreign keys" and "facts and dimensions" and instead made us learn a whole different terminology of "levels" and "hierarchies" very confusing.
  • Processing is entirely mysterious to us. There's little explanation of what is happening when it is processing, which makes it hard to troubleshoot when things go wrong.
  • Terrible or non-existent error messages. When a scripted source fails to execute the log in the scripted source doesn't even generate an error message. We've also found that the error message "data format is not correct" doesn't actually mean that, but can mean a whole bunch of other things related to the model.
  • Birst does not allow snowflake data structure more than 2 levels deep. This is a problem as our data warehouse is a snowflake, so we always have to flatten our tables.
  • Even though the visualization tool makes nice views, it is not as robust as even years old versions of Tableau. In particular I've found I often export my data out of Birst and into Tableau when I want to visualize two or more attributes.
  • Birst sends its users to the user Forum, but half of the issues on there have not been resolved. There's a person whose job it is to reply whether the users have figured out a solution. Why is this our responsibility to figure out their tool?
  • Very, very little support for using Live Access to connect to data. Some of the Birst support staff don't even know how to use it.
  • Ability to meet corporate data standards such as scale and security
  • Ability to do ad-hoc analysis and scheduled reports
  • Increased adoption, usage and self-service
  • Other
The main thing was that we needed a tool that would allow us to easily distribute the reporting, which it does. But the time it takes to build a report in Birst is significant.
Birst was the only tool that did the following:
  • robust enough ETL for our data warehouse team
  • data would remain within our data warehouse and not within the tool's proprietary store, in case the company went out of business.
  • allow us to distribute reports within the company within their tool
  • embed reporting as iframes
  • relatively easily to build reporting
  • connect to many different kinds of data.
Easily able to access the data and bring it in. The challenge is modeling it once it's in.
It's not like Tableau, it's a whole BI platform to combine data from lots of sources. It does that better than a lot of other tools and has a good method for distribution. The learning curve is VERY high.

Birst Feature Ratings

Pixel Perfect reports
2
Customizable dashboards
8
Report Formatting Templates
Not Rated
Drill-down analysis
4
Formatting capabilities
2
Integration with R or other statistical packages
Not Rated
Report sharing and collaboration
10
Publish to Web
Not Rated
Publish to PDF
10
Report Delivery Scheduling
10
Pre-built visualization formats (heatmaps, scatter plots etc.)
6
Location Analytics / Geographic Visualization
Not Rated
Predictive Analytics
Not Rated
Multi-User Support (named login)
10
Role-Based Security Model
10
Multiple Access Permission Levels (Create, Read, Delete)
10
Responsive Design for Web Access
3
Dedicated iOS Application
Not Rated
Dedicated Android Application
Not Rated
Dashboard / Report / Visualization Interactivity on Mobile
Not Rated

Using Birst

Users and Roles

  1. Business Intelligence/Analytics teams - build reports for end users to access.
  2. Data warehouse administrators - build spaces off of modeled data using Live Access
  3. Business/Product/Marketing/Finance analysts - explore completed reports for insights
  4. Executives - review high level KPIs with overview dashboards

Support Headcount Required

12 - 
  • database design theory
  • sql
  • data visualization

Birst has several of its own proprietary languages you must learn.

Business Processes Supported

  • Reporting on main business KPI that is too complex to calculate in an self-service analytics tool.
  • Creating high level dashboards for executives.
  • Creating reports with complex business logic so that end users do not have to replicate this logic themselves.

Innovative Uses

  • Data discovery on taxonomy data
  • Create attractive dashboards to be exported as PDFs for sales people who will not be using Birst itself.

Future Planned Uses

  • We would like to be able to connect Birst to Google Sheets so that we can bring data into the models without having to add that data to a database. Apparently this is possible but we haven't done it yet.
  • We would like to be able to connect to an API for reporting, we've only done this once successfully.

Products Replaced

Yes - Birst replaced Tableau. Tableau was an acceptable tool for creating visualizations and reports but it had a few main issues that we could not resolve:
  • The contract structure of Tableau licenses meant that it was prohibitively expensive to give everyone who wanted to access a Tableau report access to the tool. We needed a better way to distribute reporting.
  • Tableau does not allow for very complex data modeling. This is one of the strongest features of Birst in my opinion, the ability to create a data model inside Birst. It's very powerful but also VERY hard to set up properly.
  • At the time Tableau did not have good support for combining data from two different sources. "Data blending" was awkward at best. I think this has been resolved in newer versions of Tableau.

Key Differentiators

  • Product Features
  • Prior Experience with the Product
We did an extensive POC evaluation before we moved forward with Birst. It was the only tool we found that allowed us to do the following:
  • join together data from many sources
  • easily distribute the reporting
  • allow us to report out of our own system and not load our data into their proprietary cloud (Live Access)
  • cloud based system so we did not have to support any servers.

Birst Support

Support

3
There are a few technicians I know by name that are particularly good, but until the main staff gets in at 9AM PST they are not very helpful at all.

Birst Customer Support Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Kept well informed
Slow Resolution
Poor followup
Less knowledgeable
Problems left unsolved
Escalation required
Difficult to get immediate help
Need to explain problems multiple times

Premium Support

Yes

Bug Resolution

Yes - Most have not been resolved quickly. Either they've been sitting in code review for a year or they told us we should try to get people to vote on it for a feature request!