Why BI Tools Excel in Reporting and Web Apps are Best for Writeback

Illustration of a person using a computer to generate reports and charts, with a web app icon and a BI icon in the background.

In the landscape of data analytics, businesses constantly seek strategies to enhance their operational efficiency. Business Intelligence (BI) tools, like PowerBI and Tableau, are instrumental in this quest, offering robust capabilities for analyzing and visualizing voluminous data. However, a trend is surfacing in the startup and product company space, where custom chart creation is often preferred over employing BI tools for both internal and customer-facing reporting.

Understanding the Limitations of Custom Charts and the Merits of BI Tools

Creating custom charts and visualizations may initially seem like an attractive option due to its perceived flexibility. However, it’s typically a more time-consuming and costly approach compared to utilizing BI tools. Custom development demands significant time and resources that could otherwise be allocated to enhancing product functionalities and features. Also, these custom solutions might not match the interactivity, error handling, and feature-rich nature of the charts generated by seasoned BI tools, potentially impacting the effectiveness of data representation.

BI tools, on the other hand, are purpose-built for data handling and expedited insight generation. They enable businesses to swiftly analyze large data sets and present findings via easily comprehensible visualizations. This quick insight generation can facilitate pattern recognition and trend identification, serving as a powerful aid in decision-making processes and operational improvements.

Moreover, BI tools shine in their capacity for swift report and dashboard iteration. The drag-and-drop features of these tools simplify visualization adjustments, data field additions or removals, and the experimentation with different chart types. This ease of use saves valuable resources compared to the effort required for coding custom charts. Furthermore, BI tools often offer pre-built templates and themes, enabling the creation of professional-looking reports and dashboards with minimal design effort.

When Writeback Functionality is Required

In certain situations, businesses may require writeback functionality – the capability to modify the underlying data source directly from a dashboard. This feature is beneficial when real-time data updates are required, or when businesses want to empower users with direct dashboard-based data update capabilities.

While implementing writeback functionality with BI tools might seem appealing, it often proves to be an inefficient and costly solution. Even with recent advancements, BI tools aren’t inherently designed for writeback functionality, and implementing it can be challenging. Furthermore, maintaining such a system for multiple daily users can escalate costs significantly.

Businesses should consider using web applications for writeback functionality. Designed specifically to handle data input and updates, web apps can be integrated with BI tools to provide a seamless user experience. This approach ensures data accuracy and timeliness while saving resources.

Conclusion

While startups and product companies may be tempted to code custom charts and embed them into their products, this route is typically slower and more expensive than leveraging BI tools like PowerBI and Tableau for report and dashboard generation. Conversely, BI tools aren’t ideal for writeback functionality. For this purpose, web apps should be considered. By choosing the right tool for the job, businesses can optimize their resources and fully exploit their technology stack.

*the article has been written with the assistance of ChatGPT and the image has been generated using Midjourney

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