What should I look for?
There are so many different types of business intelligence (BI) tools in the market now, such as Looker, Mode, Tableau, Chartio, Periscope, etc. As the go-to-data-person at my company, which one should I use to analyse data with and how should I evaluate and determine that it is the best tool to suggest my company to use?
In this post, I want to explore from a data analyst and marketing/business user’s point of view to see what I should look for when I am choosing a BI tool for my company. And I will focus on comparing Tableau and Mode for the purpose of this post. I will explain and compare them in terms of pricing, advantages/disadvantages, and functionality, etc.
Acquired in 2019 by Salesforce, Tableau is one of the most established BI tools in the marketplace. It is famous for its ease to learn and use, beautiful and attractive visualizations, and a large and strong community for help.
If your team is using Tableau on your local machine and deploy with Tableau server,
- Tableau Creator plan ($70/user/mo) allows you to have Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, and one Creator license of Tableau Server.
- Tableau Explorer plan ($35/user/mo) allows you to have one Explorer license of Tableau Server.
- Tableau Viewer plan ($12/user/mo) allows your to have one Viewer license of Tableau Server.
If your team is using Tableau Online, which is a cloud platform fully hosted by Tableau,
- Tableau Creator plan is still $70/user/mo.
- Tableau Explorer plan is now $42/user/mo.
- Tableau Viewer plan is adjusted to $15/user/mo.
Tableau is user-friendly to both data analyst and business users because everything is manipulated using their intuitive interface and there is no need to use any code -- just drag-and-drop. And probably even junior users have had some exposure to Tableau in their career already because junior folks are very likely to have used tableau before in their course work or internship.
Tableau is a well established brand. They have a large pool of users who could give suggestions to Tableau and Tableau has enough resources to continue developing new products and updates for their users.
Tableau has a variety of products that could serve your different needs. It is easy to connect to different databases, i.e. Panoply, Amazon Redshift, Google Ads, PostgreSQL, etc. You can access your dashboards across different devices, such as desktop, tablets and mobile with their Tableau Mobile integration. That gives you a lot of control management on accessibility and allows you to chat instantly using their in-app messaging tool.
May be time consuming?
Speaking of cons, there are a lot of products and functionality that Tableau is offering, and although they could be helpful to an analyst, having too many options might tempt you to spend time on the fancy stuff to make it look pretty and spend less time on the real meat. Also, you will need to spend a certain amount of time to learn how to utilize the full potential of Tableau. This could be costly and hence you will need to factor in the time for on-boarding and training when considering.
Tableau offers a lot of free or paid resources on their website to help users better utilize their offerings. Since Tableau has been around for a very long time and has built a huge users pool, it has a strong community and forum where you can easily ask for help and get answers from.
Tableau also has free or paid learning sessions offered online or in-person classroom learning. For users to better level up their skills, Tableau offers free training materials on their website and certification for individuals who are interested to list them under their professional qualification.
Mode is a BI application that not only has tools for you to perform data analyses and build dashboards, it also offers tools for you to perform more complicated data analytics using machine learning with Python/R in one single cloud based application. And Mode promises giving their users an experience of “for analysts by analyst”.
Mode offers two pricing models: Mode Studio and Mode Business.
Mode Studio is free forever! It comes with all the basic functions of Mode. And you can already start playing with your data, performing analyses and building dashboards after connecting to your database or after importing your spreadsheets.
Mode Business offers a free 14-day trial and then they charge you based on your company size and usage. Mode Business unlocks all the meat and juice of Mode and helps users to achieve more, such as sharing with team members, interactive charts, embedding functionality, customized dashboard theme, automation and more.
SQL/Python/R - All in one tool
Mode offers analysts with all the things that they could dream of to make their life easier. Not only is it a cloud based collaborative application for easy access with different devices, it allows analysts to query data using SQL, perform machine learning using Python/R and build interactive dashboards in one single application.
Easy to connect
With just a few clicks, users can easily connect their databases to Mode using it’s API integration, for example, Panoply, Amazon Redshifts, Google BigQuery, MySQL, etc. And Mode allows you to share your insights with email, link and slack, making your life a lot easier to collaborate with team members.
Version Control and Automation
Mode offers in-app version control. It is a very powerful tool in a collaborative enviroment as all the team members can see and understand what has changed recently and by who. Users can set up a schedule to run report with the latest data automatically, so team members can stay up-to-date with the company's performance.
Report and Dashboard
In addition to a standard dashboard where you can see from other BI tools, Mode also believes that reporting will tell you more insights than just a dashboard. Mode has a report feature where you can mix and match text explanations, interactive dashboard and custom made visualizations from machine learning by utilizing the building blocks feature in their report functionality.
Require SQL knowledge
Mode requires a bit of technical knowledge from their users as a user needs to use SQL to query data or use scripting language like Python/R to perform machine learning tasks. This might be a little unfriendly to business users who doesn’t know SQL/Python/R. And users can drag-and-drop their data to build dashboard only after they have queried data using SQL.
Mode also offers a lot of free resources on their website to help their users achieve success. They have one of the best free online resources for you to learn SQL and Python to become a data analyst.
Mode has their documentations released online and they are built using HTML, so you could research about all its functionality and do a lot of cool things. For example, you can customize your Mode application color theme to match your company color theme for a more personal experience (for Mode Business users only).
So, Tableau or Mode for my company?
Well, that depends…
There are a few things that you or your team need to spend time on brainstorming and factor into the equation when considering a BI tool to adapt. I will talk about that below.
Your company is probably using a variety of tools and databases, and you should consider whether that particular BI tool allows you to connect to those services. For example, you should choose a BI tool that offers a lot of data connectors and API integrations, which would allow you to collect to the services you are using already and update data in real time quickly and easily.
What are your use cases?
Based on your use cases, what are the minimum requirements or skills you will need in order to receive good ROI from the BI tool that you have invested in?
- What are the skills and resources that you need to invest in in order to learn and utilize all the meat and juice of that BI tool?
- Is that BI tool designed for a collaborative team environment? Is it easy to access from any browsers and devices? Does it allow for customization for various dashboard needs?
- Is your audience more technical or non-technical focused? You want to have a BI tool that is easy to communicate and present to your target audiences.
What are the pricing models and what commitment will you need to make for adapting that BI tool? To answer that question, you should consider the potential growth of your company. Invest in the BI tool that could best fit your company’s goals and department’s needs by predicting the growth of your company and generalizing your company’s needs.
To answer the original question -- Tableau or Mode?
If your team or organization cares more about stability, is more business-user-focused, and want easy-to-use functionality and visualizations, I would recommend you to go for Tableau. Since Tableau is well established, it has a lot of resources to support medium to large size organizations, and their intuitive interface is easy to use for building visualizations to understand and communicate your company’s performance with business focused users.
If your team or organization cares more about in-depth analytics, machine learning, and is more analyst-user-focused, I would recommend you to pick Mode. With Mode, you could utilize the flexibility of SQL/Python/R to dive in and perform in-depth analytics about your company’s performance and use machine learning to make predictions. Also you could utilize their report feature to build a more technical and informative dashboard that other standard BI tools couldn’t offer, and communicate to your audiences with more technical insights.
Panoply can help speeding up your pipeline
Panoply is a cloud data warehouse where you can gather data from different data sources (i.e. AWS S3, Google analytics and etc.) easily into one place and then connect to different Business Intelligence tools (i.e. Tableau, Looker, Mode and etc.) for analytics and insights.
Panoply offers over 100 integration with data sources and BI tools. The best part is Panoply will optimize the query performance for you and you don’t need to worry too much about it. With Panoply’s intuitive interface, in only a few clicks and you’ll be able to connect to your databases and BI tools easily and quickly.
To help you focus on drawing insights and growing your company, Panoply’s pricing is very transparent and has no hidden fees. It offers a free 21-day trial and they have different plans starting at only $325/mo.