Just a few decades ago, only the largest and most powerful enterprises had access to advanced data analysis tools. Software licenses were prohibitively expensive and businesses had to hire experienced data scientists to perform analytics.

This is no longer the case. Today, even the smallest businesses can use top-quality analytics tools at relatively little cost. You can perform detailed calculations directly from a desktop or tablet within minutes. In many cases, you don’t need any special training. 

However, while data analysis tools are more accessible, there are more tools on the market than ever before. How do you choose the best ones for your business? This guide will walk you through some of the most important data analysis tools and offer a few essential tips on how to incorporate them into your business strategy

What Are Some of the Best Data Analysis Tools?

There are many different data analysis tools on the market, but they all are designed to help you accomplish the same end goal: The best tools help you organize your data and identify patterns that would be difficult to spot on your own. 

However, every data analysis tool uses slightly different methods. Some tools specialize in very specific types of data analysis such as statistical data or machine learning. Others are more inclusive, offering a broad range of data analysis options on a user-friendly platform. 

To help you decide which tool is right for your business, we’ve put together a list of some of the most noteworthy data analysis tools on the market.

Basic Data Analysis Tools

  • Excel: This is a fairly basic tool, but it’s very effective. You can use Excel to format data and generate simple visualizations like pie charts or line graphs. The tool is most effective for filtering data. In other words, most businesses use Excel in combination with another data analysis tool to generate meaningful insights. You can start by filtering and formatting your data in Excel and then run your data through a more advanced tool like Power BI or Tableau. Most other data analysis tools are compatible with Excel, so all businesses should have this software.
  • R Programming: A programming language and free software primarily used for data modeling and statistical data analysis. The tool works by compiling your data and running it through different programming and statistical features. These features are developed in the R language and can include everything from geo-spatial coordinates to time series analysis. There are thousands of unique analytics features. The downside of using R for data analytics is that it requires some prior programming knowledge. You must also decide which features you want to use and determine how to incorporate them into your existing system. It isn’t intuitive.

Best Data Analysis Platforms

  • Power BI: This tool takes data analysis to the next level. Power BI is a suite of data analytics services that allows you to govern data, generate visualizations; and share reports with colleagues. It’s primarily used for predictive modeling and reporting. The user-friendly dashboard enables you to cluster data and make forecasting calculations quickly. It’s an especially useful tool for businesses that need to generate a lot of reports or want a simple platform to work on large-scale projects. 
  • Tableau: This tool is similar to Power BI in that it also provides a user-friendly data analysis dashboard. However, it’s more focused on visualizations than predictive modeling. It offers a massive number of visualization options that make it easy to identify patterns and share insights with everyone in the company. You can also choose either an on-premise or cloud model, enabling greater flexibility. Another benefit is that Tableau offers a quick installation option for small and mid-size enterprises. You can set the system up from scratch in just a few hours. However, one downside is that Tableau is more difficult to learn and more expensive than Power BI. 
  • Pentaho: This is another visualization platform that uses data integration and analytical processing to generate insights. It also offers a number of mobile-friendly options that users can perform from their smartphones or tablets. It’s mainly used as a data migration tool, allowing users to easily move sets of data between different databases. While this is an effective tool for creating visualizations and analyzing big data, it can take more time to install compared with Tableau, especially for small and mid-size businesses. 
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE): This tool is mainly used for complex, detailed data analysis. OBIEE can take data from multiple sources and integrate it automatically. However, OBIEE usually handles small data sets rather than large reports. It also has limited visualization options and a steep learning curve. The user may need extensive data analytics knowledge before using this tool. If your business needs to generate a lot of reports or you don’t have a team of data analysis experts on staff, then OBIEE may not be the best tool for you. 
  • SAS Visual Analytics (VA): The SAS VA platform provides data analytics and visualizations to enterprises. In this sense, Tableau and SAS VA are quite similar, but there are a few key differences between them. SAS VA can handle larger sets of data, which is why larger enterprises often use it. This usually isn’t an important factor for smaller enterprises. SAS VA takes more time to install and often requires help from a third party, whereas Tableau can be quickly and easily installed on a desktop computer. In general, SAS VA is great for exploratory data analysis and enterprises working with large sets of data, but it may be too much work to install for smaller enterprises that have limited staff, time, and resources.

Other Data Analysis Tools

  • RapidMiner: A self-service data analysis tool that lets users create their own algorithms and models. It essentially puts advanced data science in the hands of users who don’t have data science backgrounds. RapidMiner offers a local runtime so that users can test their models, saving time and resources. This is a very specific tool that doesn’t offer as many comprehensive self-service options like visualizations or reporting features.
  • QlikView: This tool uses in-memory data processing to store data and generate reports. QlikView also uses a unique color-coding system to show relationships and other patterns in the data. For example, one group of related data could be displayed in purple, while another group of unrelated data is displayed in green. The tool doesn’t have as many features as a more comprehensive software like Tableau, Power BI, OBIEE, Pentaho, or SAS VA, but it can process data very quickly.

You’re not limited to just one of these data analysis tools. For example, you can use Excel to filter data, Tableau to generate daily reports, and RapidMiner to test models. Or, you can hire a data analytics firm that uses a combination of the tools above to provide customers with a full range of services. Read on to learn more about which option is the right choice for your business.

Which Tool is Right for Your Business?

If you want to choose the best tool for your business, start by thinking about your strategy, infrastructure, timeline and budget. For example, if you want to implement a more effective fraud detection system, then you should look for tools that offer descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analysis features. If, on the other hand, you just want to generate more visually-engaging reports that you can show stakeholders every week, then focus on tools that offer robust visual aids.

Here are some of the top reasons why businesses choose each of the following data analytics tools:

  • Excel for very basic data collection, analysis and filtering. 
  • R programming for specific or unusual types of data analysis. You’ll need an R programming expert on staff to help you with this process. 
  • Power BI for generating daily and weekly reports or working on projects as a team. 
  • Tableau for creating beautiful, detailed visualizations and helping staff engage more with the data. 
  • Pentaho for creating reports from mobile devices and migrating data from one database to another. 
  • OBIEE for performing a deep, detailed analysis on very small data sets. 
  • SAS VA for performing exploratory data analysis and analyzing very large data sets. 
  • RapidMiner for data modeling. 
  • QlikView for extremely fast data processing.

The problem that many businesses face when they use a new data analysis tool is that the cost and learning curve are often quite high. Not only are advanced data analytics software licenses expensive, but it may also take weeks, months, or even years to fully transition to the new system. The fewer experienced data analytics experts you have on staff, the more complicated, time-consuming, and costly this process will be. The cost increases with every new tool you add to your system. 

This is why you need to come up with an effective data analysis strategy before you buy any new software licenses. Here’s how to develop the perfect strategy for your company.

How to Develop an Effective Data Analytics Strategy

The problem with many modern data analysis tools is that there’s a great deal of overlap in the services they provide. For instance, Tableau, Power BI, OBIEE, Pentaho, and SAS VA all provide platforms for analyzing data and generating visualizations. However, some tools are better at certain types of analysis than others. You would be hard-pressed to find a better visualization tool than Tableau, but SAS VA is a better tool for analyzing large sets of data. You’ll either have to buy licenses for both (which is prohibitively expensive for many businesses) or choose which option is most important to you. 

That said, you don’t have to compromise or spend more money than necessary. When you hire a data analysis firm that uses multiple types of analytics tools, you can have every feature without the added cost or effort. Firms charge a monthly service fee that gives you access to all of the best analytics tools. You’ll also only pay for what you actually use. If you don’t plan on doing any exploratory data analysis, for instance, then the firm can offer you a customized package that doesn’t include this feature. 

What’s more, these firms will even create a user-friendly dashboard that incorporates all of these tools in one place. You won’t have to switch between different platforms or manually move data from system to system. Everything you need is right at your fingertips. 

Every aspect of the analytics process, from data collection and governance to data processing and visualizations, are all provided by the firm. By hiring a team of experts to handle all of the licensing and installation steps for you, you’ll get to relax and enjoy all of the benefits of advanced data analysis. 

To incorporate state of the art data analytics tools into your business strategy, contact Tek Leaders today. Our team of data analytics experts will guide you to the best tools based on your unique needs. We’ll even help you with the data migration process, ensuring that all of your data is integrated seamlessly into the new software system. If you have more questions about this process, you can reach us by email directly.

Author: Shashank Reddy Tummala.

Shashank is the COO of Tek Leaders inc.He helps SMB’s to achieve their goals in their journey of Digital Transformation.