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Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Business Analytics is one of today’s hottest career fields. However, success as a business analyst requires that you learn the right skills and software programs. Let’s see what tools you should know if you want to be a business analyst.

With the world generating immense amounts of data – and having systems in place to capture and manipulate that data to fuel business growth – job opportunities for business analysts are only going to grow.

If you are looking to start a career in business analytics, this article is for you. I will cover the basic skills you need to be successful. Then I’ll look at the top 10 tools that you can learn to further bolster your job prospects.

Before I dive into that, let’s cover why businesses need analysts and why generating data-based insights is so important today.

Why Does a Business Need Analysts?

Business analytics has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, but the field itself is not new. Companies have been analyzing information and data (mostly financial reports) for decades. What has changed?

The development of data systems, data warehouses, enterprise resource planning software, business intelligence (BI) tools, Cloud adoption, and the advent of social media have led to a massive rise in data. This data can be used to generate insights that can translate into millions of dollars making the collaboration with SBA loan business plan writers a crucial element in harnessing these opportunities. Such insights can sometimes be a business’ main competitive advantage.

Think about Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. Their offerings serve a customer need, but what makes them almost unbeatable in their fields is the data they have collected over many years. It is this data that helps them serve you better. For instance, your movie recommendations on Netflix, the ads you get on Facebook, the order of Google search results, and Amazon’s product recommendations all use data analytics.

But it’s not only billion-dollar companies who can benefit from data analysis. With open-source software and many economical Cloud-based data analytics tools widely available, almost any company can embark on business analysis. Even if your company hasn’t collected terabytes of data and your datasets are still small, you can still use data analysis to generate value for your business.

In corporations, insights are generated by business analysts, who work on various business requirements. The insights are then used to aid in making business decisions. Needless to say, great analysts can make a lot of difference through their work. This field is fulfilling, both with respect to the impact you can create and the money you can make in the process. According to, the average US business analyst’s salary is $69,000 to $86,000, and it can soar even higher with greater experience. So, how do you succeed in this field?

Basic Skills for Succeeding as a Business Analyst

Before I go into the top tools,we should first talk about the basic skills for making it as a business analyst. You should understand:

  1. The business needs and requirements of your company and their industry.
  2. How to use databases and SQL.
  3. How data is collected, stored, retrieved, and manipulated.
  4. What data visualizations are and how to use them.

Let me take you through a quick example to demonstrate an end-to-end business use case.

Suppose that you are a business analyst for a sales department that has a fleet of sales people. You are asked to measure and report their performance. You also need to present insights on how to improve their performance.

To deliver on this project, you need to understand how the sales team works and what they are targeting. Various metrics like average revenue per order, number of customers, total revenue, etc. can help measure performance. To calculate these metrics, you need to have a basic understanding of the available data. Typically, this is stored in databases; you would need to know what tables are present and what data you have available.

Data engineers usually ensure that you have a decent database system. As a business analyst, you need to know how to retrieve and manipulate this data. In my opinion, SQL is an absolute necessity here. A good grasp of SQL will let you quickly retrieve and analyze data.

After getting the metrics and the data in the required format, your next step is to represent these in a visually appealing manner that clearly highlights the insight. This is accomplished through data visualization. Here is an example of a dashboard with visualizations.

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

To summarize, here is the typical process that you use for generating insights:

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Most of the tools we’ll discuss below enable you to do exactly this. Along with these features, most modern tools also have Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities.

Now that you understand the basic skills and the process required in being a business analyst, let’s go through some of the top tools.

Top Tools for Business Analytics

If you want to join a large company as a beginner business analyst, then they may already have one or more BI tools. In that case, you will have to learn those tools. But first, make sure you have a good grasp of SQL; all business intelligence tools use SQL in one way or another. You should also understand what the different kinds of data visualizations do and when to use each one. With these SQL and basic data visualization skills, you’ll have a strong foundation to learn any of the tools on our list below.

Another bonus is that when you have mastered one tool, it’s easier to pick up the others. And as you grow and take on leadership positions, you may be required to choose the BI tools for your organization.

With that in mind, take a look at today’s top business analytics tools.

1. Microsoft Power BI

If you are a Microsoft fan and you want to get the best return for the amount you invest, try Microsoft Power BI for your data analysis and visualization needs. Power BI has a wonderful Windows application that readily connects to the Microsoft 365 suite. It’s backed by a BI leader; In fact, Gartner places Microsoft as a leader in its magic quadrant for Analytics and BI platforms:

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: Microsoft-Gartner

The basic desktop version of this app is free, but you will have to shell out $9.99 per user per month for the pro version and even more if you want the premium subscription.

For basic needs, the desktop version works just fine. But if you have a large organization that runs Microsoft Azure and has a lot of teams collaborating on analysis, I’d recommend the premium version. It has pre-built connectors to Microsoft Dynamics 365, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and some third-party tools as well.

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: Microsoft

2. Tableau

Tableau is one of the top data visualization tools on the market. Not only is it fast, but it offers several features to connect to various kinds of data sources. From Excel files to databases, Hadoop, and the Cloud, you can literally get data from anywhere.

In terms of ease of use, I give Tableau more marks than even PowerBI. You can create custom SQL queries inside Tableau to get data for your visualizations. Creating custom dashboards is simple; even a non-developer can easily write formulas and generate real time graphs and dashboards.

Here are the features of Tableau, as highlighted on their website:

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: Tableau

The only con for Tableau is the license fee. There’s a free 30-day trial, but long-term use means you will have to shell out a few hundred dollars per year per user. You can get detailed pricing information here. There are different license fees depending on whether you want to view or publish/report your data.

If you are a student or a teacher, you may get a free license for a year.

3. Qlik

Qlik’s objective is to make sure that everyone in the enterprise can access all the data they need for their role.

While you may think that getting all an enterprise’s huge amount of data in one place would overwhelm databases, Qlik claims that its ‘Associate Engine’ can make connecting data from various sources quite easy. It also includes AI and machine learning capabilities, and it can be used on-prem or in the Cloud.

Basically, Qlik offers and combines three different services:

  1. Data Integration – Builds data pipelines and gathers all your data in one place.
  2. Data Insights – Uses data analytics to generate visualizations and insights.
  3. Data Literacy as a Service – Helps organizations understand how they use their data and generates ideas for business improvement.

In terms of pricing, the basic version costs $30 per month per user.

4. Domo

If your preference is to enable business users to deploy their dashboards themselves, then Domo’s Cloud-based platform is for you.

Domo offers libraries to connect to a wide variety of systems, like AWS, Jira, GitHub, and so on. Industry leaders believe that Domo offers one of the most powerful data integration capabilities when it comes to BI tools. Its customer list includes the following big names:

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: Domo

For pricing, you will need to contact them for a quote.

5. Oracle Analytics Cloud

(Full disclosure: I used to work for Oracle, so I may be a bit biased.)

Launched in 2014, Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) is a jewel in the suite of Oracle BI products. It offers visualization capabilities and is packed with machine learning and AI features. Oracle has a rich history in enterprise apps, so I’d recommend OAC for mid to large enterprises.

Oracle also offers other Cloud tools, like Fusion, Cloud Human Capital Management, and Cloud Financials that come with their own analytics capabilities. Get more details on OAC’s features here.

6. Looker

Looker is a Google product that lets you perform data integrations, create data models, and use those to develop dashboards and generate insights.

Its edge over other tools is the ease with which you can collaborate with teammates on projects. It also has a great, simple-to-use interface. However, it takes some upfront investment and can be a little slow at times.

Here are Looker reviews, as published on Gartner:

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: Gartner

7. Tibco Spotfire

If you want to build advanced analytics capabilities like predictive and prescriptive models, Tibco Spotfire is a good choice. It lets you build complex models to support machine learning algorithms. It has good support for Python as well.

Here are some of the benefits offered by the platform:

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: Tibco

8. SAS Visual Analytics

SAS Visual Analytics is enabled by Viya, the company’s Cloud and microservices platform. This tool facilitates the automatic generation of charts, highlights data relationships, helps extract data from social media, and lets you perform things like sentiment analysis on the fly.

In terms of deployment, SAS Visual Analytics can run on premise or in a public or private Cloud. It is more suited for large organizations. You can find a full list of its features here.

9. Apache Spark

If you are looking for a fast, open-source way to perform Big Data advanced analytics, check out  Apache Spark.

It offers a fast engine and 80 high-level operators that facilitate building parallel apps. You can use it interactively with Python and R, and it delivers lightning-fast processing for built-in libraries like SQL, DataFrames, MLib for Machine Learning and GraphX.

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: ApacheSpark

While Spark is a little different from the other tools in the list, it is quite important  – especially if you want to make a career in business analytics with Big Data.

10. IBM Cognos Analytics

Last but not least, we have IBM’s Cognos Analytics. Cognos is a popular BI product that offers data integration and dashboard creation features. It also provides a wonderful mobile app so you can monitor the health of your business.

Like other applications it offers on-demand, Cloud, and on-premise (client hosted) versions.

It is slightly more expensive than PowerBI, but less expensive than Tableau.

Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics

Source: IBM

Ready to Start Your Business Analytics Journey?

Now that you have a good grasp of what is required to start your business analytics journey, it’s time for action!

Don’t get overwhelmed with the information provided here. The first steps are the most important. Remember, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” (Chinese Proverb)

I suggest you start with our SQL Basics course. Once you have a grasp on SQl’s fundamental queries, you can take up more advanced courses from

If you already know what skills you need and are looking for a job in the field, read this article on data jobs for an idea of what roles are available.

To move up the ladder from there, start increasing the scope of your projects. Talk to your prospective business partners and educate them on how you can help in adding value with your analysis. This works if you are employed by a company or if you are a freelancer or want to start your own consulting business.

Once you become more skilled and establish relationships, promotions and more business become easier. The key thing is to get started!