“Go out and collect data and, instead of having the answer, just look at the data and see if the data tells you anything. When we’re allowed to do this with companies, it’s almost magical.” –Steven Levitt, economist and author of Freakonomics
Every business, large or small, collects data. Information on sales leads, website analytics, customer feedback, revenue reports – it’s all collected, ready to help you make better decisions. But when it’s stored in ad-hoc spreadsheets, it’s not very useful.
This is where dashboards and reporting tools come in. These tools (often sold as cloud applications) streamline, centralise and visualise your data, giving you a greater level of insight and business intelligence.
There are a lot of these tools on the market, so we’ve compared seven of the best to help you find one that’s right for you.
Microsoft Power BI
A vast improvement on its former range of business intelligence products, Microsoft’s cloud-based Power BI has quickly achieved heavyweight status in the reporting and analytics area.
Its list of features and functions make it sound like a supercharged version of Microsoft Excel: Power Pivot models, Power Queries and Power View worksheets. But Power Bi is much more than an ad-hoc analysis tool. It integrates with a range of cloud services like Salesforce and Adobe Analytics, and produces powerful visualisations, dashboards and charts that ‘expose’ your data.
Our verdict: Microsoft Power BI is a powerful, feature-rich software package that is great for professional services firms who like the familiarity of Microsoft products with the ease and accessibility of cloud services.
Grow pitches itself as ‘the #1 analytics software for growing teams’ and it is probably not exaggerating. The software is purposefully built for small to medium-size businesses that need to keep track of key metrics and KPIs (like revenue to date, cash balance, and website visitors) all in a clean, intuitive and integrated dashboard.
You can build your dashboards from scratch by pulling data from Quickbooks, Salesforce and Google Analytics, as well as your own spreadsheets and other SQL databases. Sharing and accessing dashboards is simple too: Grow is integrated with Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote and almost every other project management and social media tool that matters.
Our verdict: Grow is a great tool for small, fast-moving teams who want to the freedom to build data-rich dashboards without hours of effort and the support of an IT professional.
Automation and centralisation are the objectives of this powerful tool. Leftronic, a real-time dashboard that monitors your critical KPIs, is designed to give you automatic updates on your marketing campaigns, sales funnel and even the status of your servers.
With Leftronic, you can build dashboards from simple templates and connect directly to your databases and other sources such as Google Sheets, Twitter, Amazon Web Services and Basecamp. The tool is also integrated with over seventy other services and is accessible across mobile devices.
Our verdict: Additional features such as access and permissions management, API integration and the ability to create ‘collections’ of dashboards make Leftronic a good choice for larger businesses (with some IT resources) that need to streamline and automate their reporting.
Klipfolio is a robust dashboard-building tool that, well, allows you to build any kind of dashboard you need. With hundreds of integrations with other services spanning social media, technology, marketing and sales and finance, Klipfolio can be used to build many different dashboards that capture the critical KPIs across different areas of your business.
Our verdict: Klipfolio is the ideal tool for medium to large businesses with many distinct functioning teams that need insight into their activities and performance. It has 300 pre-built metrics and dashboards that are fully customisable, shareable and accessible via the cloud, meaning your teams won’t need IT support to set up their own dashboards.
Geckoboard is the tool of choice for businesses that want beautiful, well-designed dashboards and reports that can be easily edited and shared.
You start by building a dashboard that pulls data from integrated services or your own databases (via the Geckboard API). Geckoboard’s ‘widgets’ then transform your raw data into simple visualisations that capture your critical KPIs.
The dashboards can be themed light or dark and displayed under your business’s own domain name. You can even customise the look and feel of your dashboards with custom CSS.
Our verdict: Geckoboard boasts as many integrations as other similar software on the market, and the interface is simple enough for teams to use without the need for much support from IT. What makes Geckoboard different from its competitors is the emphasis on design, making it an ideal choice for visual learners.
Numerics is the business dashboard built for on-the-go, tech-savvy professionals who need constant access to their data and KPIs.
The app (built for the iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch) allows you to build unique dashboards using pre-designed widgets that visualise your website analytics, sales funnel, projects and everything else.
It’s integrated with a number of other services and displays your key metrics in the Notification Center of your Apple device. Numerics also connects to big screens (like a monitor or a TV) via Airplay or HDMI, and uses Touch ID to control access to your data.
Our verdict: This is a highly addictive, powerful tool for professionals who rely heavily on mobile devices for accessing, manipulating and sharing their data. The added emphasis on security and multi-tasking is nice too.
No list of reporting and dashboard tools is complete without mentioning Tableau. Alongside Microsoft Power BI, this is probably one of the most popular business intelligence tools among professional services firms.
There are three main products in the Tableau suite: Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server and Tableau Online. Each enables you to do the same thing: create powerful data visualisations, integrate and analyse data from multiple sources, and share your insights with colleagues. The difference between them comes down to accessibility – Tableau Server keeps your data secure on your local servers, while Tableau Online lets you forego the complex hardware in favour of the cloud.
Our verdict: Tableau is a safe bet for larger businesses that need reliable, powerful reporting tools that can handle high volumes of data. The downsides? It’s expensive, and the proliferation of Tableau products has made it difficult to know which one(s) is right for your business needs.