Business Intelligence for a small organisation
February 28, 2017 12:26 AM   Subscribe

I've just got a new job for a small company who have brought me in to reorganise their data and reports, which are currently a tangled mess of Excel spreadsheets. My last experience of this was at a pan-European enterprise level so what cheaper or open-source options are available to a smaller company.

I'm comfortable with SQL and databases so setting up the database is not an issue but I'm looking for the best way to handle the reporting. My experience is nearly 10 years old but I'm looking for something like Cognos Impromptu or Business Objects which will give me a bit more power and flexibility than simply setting everything up in Access (which is also being considered).

So what I'm after is a tool that sits on top of any database and that will enable me to build fairly complex analytical reports (I'm working with timestamped logger data and we're looking for anomalies) that can ideally be shared locally over a network but that aren't a full "enterprise solution".
posted by jontyjago to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Presumably you already have licenses for Office? I'd start by looking at setting up PowerPivot models.
posted by pompomtom at 12:36 AM on February 28, 2017

Slightly more structured than PowerPivot, Microsoft PowerBI has relatively straightforward licensing, and also you're probably able to use the SQL Server reporting services stack (SSDT-BI, was SSRS) on a free license. The tabular data model in modern SQL server should save you the effort of building an entire cube.
posted by ambrosen at 1:26 AM on February 28, 2017

BusinessObjects has an Edge license which - although restricted - will serve small organizations just fine. But this depends on your defintion of small and the available budget. It is not something that most people can get up and running themselves, so you will probably need to hire consultancy.

If you are interested in analyzing logfile-like data then you may want to look at the Elastic stack (, which is open source, especially the LogStash and Kibana parts.
posted by IAr at 4:08 AM on February 28, 2017

Look at Tableau. Tableau and Microsoft (power Bi) are the market leaders in this space.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:09 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

One very low-tech but flexible thing my group has had success with is setting up external data connections between Excel and individual tables/views in a db. You can then slice and dice quite nicely with pivot tables. I have an Excel sheet with over a dozen tabs, each for a different use: expenses, payroll, etc. It doesn't replace the larger technology strategy you're looking for, but it fills in niches quite well.
posted by sapere aude at 3:26 PM on February 28, 2017

Just a note on PowerBI - from my understanding you can't share reports / dashboards over a local network. Their set up appears to be: PowerBI Desktop publishes to PowerBI Services (cloud-based), user with PowerBI account (set up with their work email) can then access the reports via logging in to the PowerBI Services website. Can confirm it connects to our SQL stack very easily though. But if that's set up for you already we've found PowerPivot to be super useful for both ad hoc and standard reporting into Excel, which can then be shared easily on your local network.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2017

« Older Should I use KeePass or KeePassX   |   I love you but I need to be alone (sometimes). Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.