Business priorities are increasingly becoming a bigger driver of BI. According to recent Forrsights BI and big data surveys, business drivers like "improve business planning", "gain an overall competitive advantage", "improve customer interaction and satisfaction" and "make better-informed business decisions" are at the top of the BI drivers list. With the increasing demands from business partners, there is also increased need and expectation for speed in any given BI tool to deliver results quicker. The days where you can take a week or two to develop a traditional BI report based on given requirements are numbered, if not over. Business partners also require BI reports to display increasingly larger amounts of data at one glance. It is not surprising that over 50% of the companies in the leaders quadrant of Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI 2013 are companies that label themselves as data visualization BI vendors.

GE's definition of data visualization is "a powerful way to simplify complexity." Both QlikView and Spotfire are rising stars as data visualization BI tools. This blog will compare what QlikView (v11.20) and Spotfire (v5.0) offer as a BI tool and the best use case for each.

Both QlikView and Spotfire are in the same leaders' quadrant of Garner Magic Quadrant for BI 2013.They also both have a shorter learning curve than previous generation BI tools, with more built-in ready-for-use visualizations that help to meet various data presentation needs when compared to traditional enterprise BI tools. They both have incorporated extract, transformation, and load (ETL) functionality into the tool so that you do not have to wait for the ETL team to complete their job before reporting can be done. Both tools offer ability to integrate with open R for predictive analysis, although Spotfire also offers its own R engine, TERR, to better address enterprise concerns on stability and reliability. In addition, both Spotfire and QlikView reports can be accessed via a web browser on the desktop or via a mobile device for those who are on the go. Both tools are amazingly flexible for various data filtration and multiple dimensions.

Data ingestion and transformation in Spofire is as simple as operating spreadsheets. QlikView, however, requires using scripts for ETL and is not as robust as it could be. For example, if there are same column names in different tables, managing the relationship among those tables can be cumbersome. However, QlikView's scripting allows better customization of visualization, aggregation and data modeling. Its built-in debugger is a handy tool.

As for visualization, Spotfire offers a larger selection of built-in ready-for-use reporting functions accessible via simple GUI with little custom expressions needed. However, if the standard built-in aggregations do not meet your specific needs of certain visualization, it is very difficult to customize it to meet your needs. QlikView, on the other hand, does not offer as many visual presentations or built-in analytics such as various regression analyses that Spotfire offers. Qlikview however allows much easier customization for chart area, dynamic chart title, and additional chart layers.

When it comes to hadoop integration, both tools offer connectors for hadoop that may require additional cost. Spotfire's hadoop connector is offered through its Application Data Services not included in the standard edition, while QlikView offers a JDBC connector via a third party that charges a fee or an ODBC connector by Cloudera that does not support the CDH4.2 or later.

If Spotfire would add capabilities to allow customization for additional aggregation and visualization options, or if QlikView would add capabilities to allow more robust data ingestion and transformation as well as built-in predictive analytics, they both would meet many more enterprise reporting needs.

At its current offerings, Spotfire is a great BI tool for ad-hoc reporting needs when business partners and analysts need to discover data quickly or create report prototypes quickly. It is also a great BI tool for chemical or pharmaceutical companies due to Spotfire's customized tool for those industries. On the other hand, QlikView is good at generating report prototype quickly and at being a general BI tool for meeting more traditional report needs.