The Best BI Tools for Career Growth

by Hannah West Penick | December 11, 2017

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People analyzing data on laptops and paper

The minds behind the implementation of business intelligence solutions are even more crucial to success than the type of technology being implemented. A skillful professional at the helm of a BI operation is the key to converting data into actionable information. 

So how do you become the professional with the expertise many businesses and clients need? For those breaking into BI, a love for problem solving provides momentum, but it’s important to choose a good ramp into the industry by focusing on the platform that will be most conducive to a flourishing career. 

As you seek to increase your marketability by adding mastery of BI solutions to your tool belt, ask yourself: how best do I position myself between the loads of unorganized data and the end user who needs it to be actionable? Do I invest my time and energy in the most ubiquitous BI tools so that I have more opportunities, or do I plug into a niche tool so my skills are more scarce and valuable? How valuable is Tableau vs Power BI, or Power BI vs Qlik View

There’s no universal right answer as to which BI tools are guaranteed to make you a hot commodity, as the needs for each project and business are contextual. And you should be wary of building your career around learning the ins and outs of a particular BI tool. But certain ones may tighten your grasp of basic concepts so that you can adapt to the changing landscape of business intelligence analytics and stay competitive in the field. 

Here are four BI tools and featured competitors that we consider helpful for a flourishing career, and reasons why your experience with each may be valuable to prospective clients: 

Microsoft Power BI 

For larger enterprises already using an SQL server, Microsoft Power BI is an effective tool for exploring and visualizing data. There are a range of chart types for representing data in different formats. If the end user is a business user, they will need an expert to implement and use, which makes it a great tool for those looking to establish a career in BI. It’s also competitively priced. A drawback, however, is that it’s not as geared toward visualization as Tableau and Qlik. 

Featured Power BI competitor: Looker 

Looker is a newer, rapidly growing tool compatible with SQL. It’s ideal for ad-hoc data exploration and is quickly developing front-end visualization features. 

Tableau Desktop 

Tableau Desktop is ideal for allowing business analysts to pull from a large number of data sources to create a federated view of data. Users have the ability to publish complex visualizations and create dashboards useful for self-service administrative control. A drawback is that it requires supplementary products to prepare data for analysis.

Featured Tableau competitor: Birst

Birst is also a helpful tool for centralizing data and eliminating data silos. As with Tableau Desktop, it provides self-service analytics, but this is a viable alternative for organizations looking for cloud-based BI. It’s a very collaborative tool that allows data to be shared without changing the data at its source.

TIBCO Spotfire

With a wide range of capabilities suited for entry-level users and experts alike, TIBCO Spotfire is intended to produce usable results and drive new business growth. It allows for sharp focus on predictive and location analytics. It’s a versatile tool with usability that many business users will enjoy; however, end users may desire an experienced professional to access its most in-depth statistical analysis capabilities.

Featured TIBCO Spotfire Competitor: JMP Statistical Discovery Software

JMP Statistical Discovery Software is a powerful stat analysis tool with a pro version that allows a deeper focus on predictive analytics. It features impressive visualization tools and is fairly comprehensive, but unlike other products there is no free basic version available.


QlikView is a highly interactive tool that requires a trained developer and abundant analyst resources, making mastery of it a valuable and marketable skillset. It’s useful for managing vast amounts of data with agility and features sophisticated visualization tools. It can easily move from desktop to tablet to smartphone, a nice perk in today’s BI landscape. A drawback is that its broad set of capabilities comes at a high price compared to other leading BI tools.

Featured QlikView Competitor: SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform

For larger companies already using SAP enterprise applications, SAP BusinessObjects may be a better fit. There is more usability for business users without IT involvement, so even though it’s comparable to QlikView, a business intelligence specialist may not reap as many career-related rewards for developing expertise with this platform. Like QlikView, it is also somewhat pricey compared to other types of BI tools. 

Hannah West Penick currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes about the newest technology tools and trends for TrustRadius. TrustRadius is a community of professionals sharing software reviews, software discussions, and best practices.

Filed Under: Technology

Tags: business intelligence | data analytics

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