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  • Writer's pictureDuc Pham

Top 10 Business Intelligence solutions for SMBs in 2024: Boost Your Data-Driven Success with AI

In today’s competitive business landscape, using data efficiently can make the difference for SMBs. BI tools are crucial for data-driven decisions, but finding a cost-effective, user-friendly option is a challenge. Here are the top 10 BI tools of 2024 for SMBs.

As we are halfway through 2024, it’s time for our edition of the Top Business Intelligence tools. Today, I will cover data analysis solutions for SMBs.


Key requirements for an SMBs BI solution:

  1. Affordability: Most SMBs operate on thin margins and strict budgets, so free or low-cost software is usually the go-to choice unless they can dramatically lift business bypass the following pain points:

  2. Great customer service: small companies often face the challenge of limited resources and staffing, which is why a dedicated customer success team could be valuable. Such a team has the potential to amplify operational capabilities and deepen the company's technical knowledge, providing substantial asset.

  3. Ease of use.

  4. Low-tech or non-tech resource requirement.

  5. Out-of-the-box solutions: small businesses often see only a few moves ahead, with decisions on software solutions driven by immediate needs. Business Intelligence (BI) tools tailored for the SMBs must prioritize functions that are ready to use with minimal setup, ensuring a streamlined integration into their operations without a hefty investment.

As the title suggests, I will have a special mention to their AI features, as Artifical Intelligence has significantly enhance SMBs' operational productivity and business efficiency, making it user-friendly and low-tech.


Before we started, here some more clarification:

  • BI stands for Business Intelligence, so the tools need to perform various generic and custom data analysis tasks. Solutions focused on one area (e.g., marketing or product intelligence) or one industry (e.g., e-commerce, finance) are excluded. However, some specialized analytics tools are included because they can be used for more generic and ad-hoc purposes.

  • Don’t trust everything AI tells you. This not only applies to using AI in analytics, like today article, when you ask AI like Gemini or ChatGPT about the best BI tools, you might see names like Domo, Zoho Analytics, or even Pentaho. While they were popular and good 3-5 years ago, they are not the best fit for SMBs now.

  • The Gartner Magic Quadrant survey is a good reference source but be aware that it leans more towards enterprise solutions.


Here are the Top Business Intelligence tools for SMBs in H1-2024, in alphabetical order:

1. Excel

Excel is arguably the most widely used BI tool in the world, making it perfect for SMBs due to its familiarity, affordability, and robust functionalities. Excel provides powerful data analysis capabilities, from simple charts to complex pivot tables and advanced formulas. With Microsoft’s new Excel AI Co-pilot, users can automate insights and simplify data exploration. Additionally, Excel and the Office suite are typically included in business expenses, so there is no extra cost for Business Intelligence.

AI copilot for Excel data analysis
AI copilot for Excel data analysis

*Note: Excel & Google Spreadsheet is not equal in the data analysis function, yes you can add BI add-on to write SQL or Python on Spreadsheet. But then, it's not low-tech anymore.



2. Looker Studio

Looker Studio, part of Google Cloud, provides an intuitive, web-based interface ideal for SMBs looking for a scalable solution. It excels in data integration and visualization, especially for those invested in the Google ecosystem (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Ads, Search Console). Looker Studio enables advanced data exploration and machine learning capabilities simply and directly. 

Looker Studio is a free & self-serve BI tool from Google
Looker Studio is a free & self-serve BI tool from Google

The biggest plus: it's free, but be aware that data computation incurs costs in BigQuery or Google Cloud credits. Bigger companies with concern on security can now purchase Looker Studio Pro for Team workspace, users & content (data & report access) management and email reporting.



3. Mode

Mode offers a comprehensive BI platform that combines SQL, R, and Python notebooks with powerful visualization tools. It might look complicated for SMBs without technical resources, but it offers extensive flexibility and advanced analytics capabilities. Mode’s AI-powered query suggestions help data analysts quickly write their ad hoc analyses. The free tier (Studio version) is ideal for exploring and visualizing business insights. Additionally, Mode provides extensive educational tutorials for learning SQL and Python.

Mode.com Data Query AI Assistant
Mode.com Query AI Assistant


4. Polymer

Polymer is one of the new contestant, an innovative BI tool designed to make data analysis accessible for SMBs without requiring deep technical skills. Its standout feature is its no-code approach, which automates data integration and uses AI dashboards to generate visualized insights. Users can connect their data and let Polymer generate insights automatically.

Polymer PolyAI Chat Response
Polymer PolyAI Chat Response

The platform also offers PolyAI, a conversational AI that allows users to ask questions in plain English and receive instant, clear answers. This convenience costs $25/month for one user and 10 PolyAI Chat Responses. Polymer Search is one true tool tailor for small & non-technical businesses as their highest tier cost you only $125/ month (30 PolyAI chat reponse), but as of now (June 2024), there are no way to increase your chat credits so you force to purchase extra package if you need more AI response.



5. PostHog

PostHog is an open-source product analytics platform designed for ease of use and powerful out-of-the-box features. It allows SMBs to track user behavior and gain insights without deep technical skills. PostHog offers ready-to-use data integration, enabling users to blend internal and external data for self-service analytics. While PostHog doesn’t have its own AI features, it partners with third parties to track LLM (product) insights, providing valuable metrics such as LLM costs, user interactions, and latency spikes.

PostHog self-served data analytics
PostHog self-served data analytics

While PostHog doesn’t have its own AI features, it partners with third parties to track LLM (product) insights, providing valuable metrics such as LLM costs, user interactions, and latency spikes.


PostHog is open-source (minus Team collaboration features), companies can keep their data & self-manage their cost for data computing & scale up. Beside on-premise version, its Cloud offering is also highly cost-effective.



6. Power BI

Power BI, part of Microsoft’s extensive data analysis stack, is a highly affordable and powerful BI tool. It provides a user-friendly interface and integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products. It’s a traditional choice for companies upgrading their analytics stack from Excel due to their similarities. However, it is a Windows-OS bound platform with a complex to navigate online offering. Pricing starts at $10/user, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious businesses.


For it's AI offering, it's a tricky to follow. PowerBI itself had a lot of AI functions bundle into groups:

PowerBI AI Anamoly Detection
Power BI AI Anamoly Detection
  • AI-augmented visuals: it can detect anomaly, trendline & forecast in a Line chart data. Decomposition Tree & Clustering is for data mining (in Table & Scatter Chart) that help you ELT the result output (like segment, filter, grouping) into new datasets.

PowerBI Decomposition Tree
PowerBI Decomposition Tree
  • AI-powered visuals: bundling smart narrative, dynamic text description of charts, with Q&A, using text to explore & build chart, Key Influencers, identifies fields & filter for a target outcome.

  • AI Insights: include Text Analytics & Computer Vision functions by plug-in with Azure Cloud (more specific: Azure Cognitive Services) that can help you automated data labelling, detection & data mapping.



7. Qlik

Qlik offers a range of BI tools, with Qlik Sense being particularly notable for its self-service capabilities. It provides robust data integration, visualization, and analytics. Qlik Sense offers a modern look, no-code ETL thanks to their acquisition of Talend, and a comprehensive platform for SMBs at $20/user. However, it's too much similar to PowerBI in term of functionality, even has the same down side: a windows-only tool.


Qlik's AI functionalities embed machine learning across all phases of an organization's data process:

  • Qlik StAIge: streamlining integration, facilitating data validation, generating augmented insights.

Qlik AI Augmented Analytics Builder
Qlik AI Augmented Analytics Builder
  • Qlik Answer: offering AI-driven assistants with recommendations and a chatbot Q&A style for instant AI response.

Qlik-Answer-AI-Insights-Advisor
Qlik Answer AI Insights Advisor
  • Qlik AutoML: assisting you build or connect and train your predictive AI models and deep-dive in what-if analysis.

Qlik AutoML Build your own Predictive model
Qlik AutoML Build your own Predictive model

Accessing these AI features requires the Qlik Analytics Cloud, (Qlik AutoML is price independently), a competitively priced alternative to Power BI, boasting significantly improved UX and UI. The price started at $850/ month for 20 full users to $2700/ month for more data processing power, which are both lower than PowerBI $5000 / node per month for heavy analytics use cases.


I rate Qlik at the top of this list for AI-adoption, in both offering and the accessibility. They had from A to nearly Z, no kidding, their extensive glossary of AI capabilities spans nearly the entire alphabet.

Qlik StAIge AI features glossary
Qlik StAIge AI features glossary

However, this implies that Qlik Analytics Cloud would have the steepest learning curve.



8. RocketBI

Yes, we shamelessly refer to ourselves in this blog post. But why not? We’re confident that in terms of UX/UI and functionality, we can compete with anyone on this list.


RocketBI is a no-code first and an overall one stop data solution for SMBs. We cover all steps of data workflow with drag and drop functions so business users can easily perform data exploration on complex data with ease, action including:

  • Connect to SMBs data: from online services (Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Shopify...) to database & cloud warehouse (Redshift, BigQuery...) or they can upload their file (CSV, Google Sheet...)

RocketBI no-code data integration
RocketBI no-code data integration
  • Clean up & prepare data: using our data cook to visually process data, join billion of rows data instantly.

RocketBI Interactive Data Prep
RocketBI Interactive Data Prep
RocketBI no-code data processing
RocketBI no-code data processing

  • Explore and analyze: utilizing our data visualization and interactive relationship builder.

  • Reporting & Collaboration: sharing data, report with secure dashboards & role-based data access. You can also build email reporting and enable data download for specific person.


Our cloud solution is priced at $190/month for the first 3 users and $12 for each additional user.


We also offer an open-source version for self-deployment.

RocketBI in-development AI Assistant
RocketBI in-development AI Assistant

For AI, stay tuned for our upcoming AI update in very near future.



9. Tableau

Tableau is renowned for its powerful data visualization capabilities. It offers an easy-to-use interface that requires minimal technical know-how, allowing users to create interactive and shareable dashboards. Tableau’s AI-driven analytics, called Einstein AI, includes features like: 

  • Einstein Copilot: augmented data preparation and natural language processing & presenting . To put it simple, it's an AI assistant help you to write SQL in Tableau Data Prep and build a chart base on your question in the chat.

Einstein Copilot generate chart from data
Einstein Copilot generate chart from data
  • Explain data: this is a more traditional use of AI, based on statistical models and integrated data to unearth hidden insights without a data expert involvement.

Tableau Einstein AI explain data
Tableau Einstein AI explain data
  • Data stories: is a AI-gen auto explanation of a dashboard, behind the scene, it's a collection of the bullet points sumary of each chart you had in the dashboard and then an overview that is generated by AI from all the important insights.


After being acquired by Salesforce, Tableau had become affordable:

  • $75/ month for a Creator: the main analyst & accessible to the core offline software with data prep and integration tool. (so full AI-features)

  • $42/month for an Explorer: you can can explore data but for the cloud version only. (Explain data & Data stories feature)

  • $15/ month for a Viewer: basically view & interact with shared dashboards and charts. (only access to Data stories)



10. ThoughtSpot

ThoughtSpot brings the power of search to BI with its intuitive, search interface, powered by AI. You can say it's one of the first AI-powered data analysis tool, been in the business since 2012.

ThoughtSpot search-based Analytics
ThoughtSpot search-based Analytics

Before the LLMs craze, they employed patented machine learning model to detect and make your business data easy to search insights with natural language. Their latest AI update: ThoughtSpot Sage will include conversational follow-up, human loop feedback (which can be later refining the LLMs results.

ThoughtSpot AI Generated Insights
ThoughtSpot AI Generated Insights

ThoughtSpot is the best in this list in term of mobility with their native iOS and Android apps. However, it's just for insight monitoring, not for complex analysis task.

ThoughtSpot native mobile app
ThoughtSpot native mobile app

With their expertise in AI data analytics, ThoughtSpot is on the pricier side started at $95/ month for a team of 5 users, however, with a very limited data storage (~5 million rows) and it quickly scale to $1250/ month for 25 million rows of data.


Another drawback is it lacks ETL capability, which may be acceptable for SMBs. Organizations might need to perform data preprocessing and establish a centralized data warehouse before pushing data to ThoughtSpot.



Conclusion

In 2024, SMBs have a wealth of Business Intelligence tools to choose from, each offering unique benefits tailored to different needs and budgets. Among these are the familiar Excel, the versatile RocketBI, the AI-driven ThoughtSpot, and the AI-powered Qlik. However, whatever tool that you select in this top 10 list, would meet the essential criteria of being cost-effective, user-friendly, low in technical complexity, and offering comprehensive out-of-the-box solutions.


Top 10 BI solutions for H1-2024 showcase a diverse background:

  • Enterprise-oriented: PowerBI, Tableau.

  • SMBs focus: Mode Analytics and Polymer.

  • Open-source: RocketBI and PostHog.

  • AI-heavy: ThoughtSpot & Qlik

  • 100% free: Looker Studio or self-hosted RocketBI or PostHog.


If you decide to try out Rocket.BI, go to our register page or checkout out repo: https://github.com/datainsider-co/rocket-bi


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