Nonprofits are increasingly asking us about data analysis tools. They are eager to use data analysis to advance their efforts and to understand what gaps they have in their data that jeopardize an effective analysis.
Our clients want intuitive, visual reporting and analysis tools. Frequently, the first thought in their minds is Tableau–a market-leading data visualization tool. This thought is largely driven by Tableau’s product excellence and friendliness to the nonprofit space–combined with Tableau Public’s very low cost (free). Tableau is indeed an excellent product, and well worth any nonprofit’s consideration.
Some information (data) management systems used by nonprofits are already bundled with well-considered data analysis tools. In a recent survey of case management systems for a national nonprofit client, we learned that each of the market-leaders in this product category has some level of integration with a third-party reporting and data analysis tool, including such offerings as SAP Business Objects and Microsoft Reporting Services.
So whether being evaluated as a stand-alone product or as bundled with information management solutions, clients want to know which solutions are the most likely to offer success both now and in the future.
As InformationWeek and other outlets have reported, Gartner recently recalibrated their Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics definition to take into consideration the prevailing market needs and how those needs will evolve over the next three years. This recalibration has resulted in strong showings for the three vendors in the “Leaders” category: Tableau, Qlik, and Microsoft. Many nonprofit clients will have heard of Microsoft Power BI, which they may have seen promoted in association with Office 365, SharePoint Online, or Dynamics. Microsoft has also made a limited version of the Power BI platform available for free, no doubt to place it in closer competition with how Tableau introduces itself to first-time users. Qlik has come up in conversations with clients, but much less frequently. Perhaps it deserves strong consideration.
Our perspective is that Tableau and Power BI are uniquely positioned within the market to develop a large group of users with a basic level of proficiency in their products. The combination of a good product and a large user base increases the likelihood of successful adoption within a nonprofit organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean Tableau or Power BI is the best tool for every use case—each nonprofit must conduct its own evaluation/selection based on its unique business requirements. But these two systems should be included as candidates in nearly all selection projects within this software category.