Spotfire is a very intuitive design tool. It’s very easy to manipulate X axes and Y axes to build visualizations. The tool does not have a heavy learning curve. It’s also well-designed in that once you learn one thing, it’s quite easy to use that knowledge to do something else. The UI is quite consistent. Once you know one thing, it’s easy to do other things.
Marking visualization components and filtering for drill-down into the underlying data are very intuitive and easy to understand.
The tool is also very easy to customize. For example, the SDK allows for custom visualizations.
Ease of use though is primordial. We did not want to deploy a tool that was so difficult to use that we would not get any internal adoption. The primary goal was to bring in a product that could be used by people of all different skill levels and would be widely adopted across the organization.
On the back end, when designing visualizations, actually getting data into the product can be a bit esoteric. For a technical person, writing SQL queries is relatively straightforward. But the product has been designed for less technical users. All users are forced to use a GUI which is poorly designed and very difficult to use. The Information Designer (used for setting up data sources and creating information database queries) is the weakest part of the product and needs to be redesigned.
Data volume. Ours is a very data-intensive business. We produce Terabytes of data. This huge volume of data is not always practical to pull in. The desktop version of the product loads all data into RAM and not on disk which can be problematic. Obviously, it can only load what data your physical machine has resources for. Once you have all the data, of course, it’s very easy to filter and drill down and the product works very well. The problem is the hard RAM limit. Tableau works around this problem by doing some smarter caching so that you are not pulling everything into RAM. This is not really a problem for sales, but for engineering where the volumes of data tend to be very large, the overhead can be prohibitive.
Ease of use. It’s very easy to get something running quickly – very little wasted time.
Queries are re-usable. Every time a query is constructed, it is available as a reusable module of SQL. This is particularly useful for Sales which is often looking at data sets which are a slight variant of an earlier query. This is very efficient and again is related to speed to information.
4.5. is a very stable product with very few glitches. The product has come a very long-way (earlier versions have been far less stable). The Web Player in particular was once very buggy and unstable, but is now rock solid.
100 - • About 50 people use it once a week or more. About 100 people have access, but use it only occasionally. • The main users are the various engineering groups (they use it for data pipeline validation) • Sales department also uses quite a bit. They don’t know SQL, so they like to use the tool to see how they are doing.
• The other main contender was Tableau. The main reason we chose Tibco Spotfire was the strength of the API. We use this for things like building custom charts and custom authentication (LDAP integration).
I rolled out training internally: There are two separate versions of training: o Designer training for the desktop version concentrating on back-end SQL o Basic training for the Web player for less technical staff
We did some basic Iron Python scripting (C# code). The business reason for this was related to automating tasks, rather than really extending the application functionality. For example, we animated some visualizations. Most of the custom work we did was to make it easier to navigate a report.