Who will win the great ‘Visualization’ race?

Who will win the great ‘Visualization’ race?
BI Tools
Vaidehi Deshpande
Posted by on April 19, 2018 in Blog

Who will win the great ‘Visualization’ race?

Data Visualization is a deep ocean of variety of tools. I have worked on multiple Data Visualization tools like Qlik, MSBI, Tableau, Pentaho, BIRT, and a few more over a period of 5 years. It was quite challenging and interesting. At the same time, I always look forward to trying something new. For the last couple of months, I have been trying to get acquainted with JavaScript (JS) based chart libraries like KendoUI and Highcharts. People like me are always inclined towards a user-friendly interface. But one can’t undermine the importance of aesthetics and configurability available in visualization tools. Many big players are shifting their focus from traditional BI tools to JS based charting libraries for the same reason. It would be interesting to see how this shift unfolds in the background of ever-evolving BI practices. But why are organizations keen to take this path? Based on my experience, I think below are some of the prime reasons:

  • Cost – A major roadblock in selecting any BI is always the costs that businesses might incur per license. BI tools enlisted in Gartner’s magic quadrant are quite expensive and not every organization is equipped to adapt to them. Instead of spending heavily on licenses for a few users, BI practitioners would prefer to adopt the suitable UI frameworks or JS based chart libraries.
  • Connectivity – Since chart libraries are JavaScript based, in most of the cases, the connectivity to Big Data technologies like HBase, Impala, HIVE, Google BigQuery, Amazon Redshift along with other traditional data sources like Excel, Access, RDBMS, etc. is easily possible.
  • Flexibility – It is very easy to fit chart libraries within the existing frameworks or applications. Recently for one of the project, our designer designed UI for an application. However, due to the limitation on the configurability of the BI tool we were using, we could not sync up the designed dashboard with the rest of the UI. We could have synced it easily, had it been any of the chart-based libraries.
  • Advanced Analytics – Many chart libraries offer advanced visualizations like time-series forecasting, geospatial maps along with the traditional donut, funnel, radar, bar, pie, etc. The range is wide!
  • Platform – Irrespective of any platform we use, chart libraries offer cross-platform support.
  • Accessibility – Chart libraries can be embedded into your existing Web applications and UI frameworks to allow access anywhere. Be it desktop, mobile or tab!
  • Security – The data security can be maintained at the script-level i.e., Java, Python, PHP, etc.

JS based charting libraries have been in the market for a long time. But they have never been proved to be a substitute for the traditional BI tools. Considering the current scenario, now it can be a tough race though.  I believe that the traditional tools will still prevail for a longer time. Below are some of the reasons, why I think so:

  • Quick Turnaround time – When the business expects a quick turnaround time in terms of the dashboards, developers (like me!) tend to use BI tools like Qlik, PowerBI, Tableau, or any of such READYMADE tools. These tools help achieve the objectives in a lesser period compared to charting libraries as it doesn’t expect a lot of scripts to be configured to display a chart. The primary reason behind it that many of them have built-in connectivity to all the major data sources.
  • Developer Friendly – Most of the BI tools are drag-and-drop or require less scripting compared to JS based chart libraries. So, it is hassle-free for the developers to achieve the functionality quickly.
  • Self-Service Analysis – When it comes to self-service analysis like Saiku Analytics provides, the chart libraries may take a back-step. It will require a lot of configurability and modularity of script to get it to the next-level of self-service analysis.
  • Access Control – User or Group level access is provided by almost all BI tools. However, in case of JS based chart libraries, a lot of configuration will be required within the script.

The motive of using BI tools or JS chart libraries is always different. So, we can’t say which one of these will win at the end. Gauging the industry inclination, it seems in 2018 we will see many organizations, especially SMEs, adapting to the UI frameworks. But when it comes to CXOs of large organizations, BI tools will still be prominent among them. It seems the great race has already begun! I would love to know what you think about this!

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