Enterprise BI Software: What is it, and What are the Best Solutions?

Not all business intelligence software is created equal. Sure, there are plenty of great BI tools out there — ones with great reporting, data analytics and visualizations. But just because a BI tool works great for one business, doesn’t guarantee it’ll have the same impact for another. This is especially true when you take into account the size of a business.

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There’s a plethora of self-service BI tools that work great for small and mid-sized companies. They provide great dashboards and ad hoc queries that make their decision-making processes easier. But these tools rarely suffice for the enterprise: the large company with even larger software requirements. As such, they need more than just BI software — they need enterprise BI software.

What is Enterprise BI Software?

To properly discuss the differences between enterprise BI software and self-service BI, we first need to take a look at what makes enterprise software, well, enterprise software. At its core, it’s pretty straightforward: software designed for use in large businesses. The goal is to increase productivity and efficiency in the complex environment that is your average enterprise.

So enterprise BI, then, is simply BI software that caters its functionality to large businesses. But is that all it means? Of course not.

System Deployment and Management

Enterprise BI software, due to their size and complexity, require a lot more management than self-service BI tools.  While department-level management is the norm for self-service BI, enterprise BI platforms are usually managed centrally by an IT department. This is especially common for enterprise BI tools deployed on-premise. With the high level of infrastructure (such as servers) and budget needed to run an enterprise-level on-premise system, only a fully functional, fully staffed IT department could handle it.

Here’s a fun tidbit: most enterprise BI solutions used to be deployed exclusively on-premise. This was because cybersecurity was a serious risk, and many enterprises wanted to do as much as they could to reduce the risk of getting hacked. But as the cloud’s security capabilities improved and its popularity increased, the number of vendors offering a cloud computing BI platform grew considerably.

Today, most self-service BI tools are deployed on the cloud. But when it comes to enterprise BI, businesses have a plethora of deployment options. That said, most BI buyers today don’t have a strong preference for either deployment, as long as their BI tool comes with the features they need.

Data Sources

The data that flows through enterprise BI systems differs from their self-service counterparts as well. First and foremost, there’s simply a lot more data that get processed in an enterprise BI tool. As you can imagine, a large business tends to collect a lot more data than smaller ones. As such, this requires a system with a higher capacity for data analytics than average self-service BI tools can handle.

As a result of processing this huge amount of data, enterprise BI platforms utilize different data sources. A small business can get away with using CSV files to collect a few hundred data points. All you have to do is upload it to a self-service system and it can produce insightful analytics. Unfortunately for large businesses, a CSV isn’t nearly sufficient to hold the tens or hundreds of thousands of data points that they need an enterprise BI solution to analyze.

In light of this, enterprise BI platforms analyze data taken from rigid, well-structured data models. Usually housed in data warehouses like a SQL server, these data models are complex but secure. Not to mention, they’re built specifically for use in data analytics.

Data Management

Managing data for enterprise BI software is a huge undertaking, even more so than it is for a self-service BI tool. IT departments have a huge hand in managing the data used by enterprise BI software, whereas there isn’t much data management needed for self-service tools. More often than not, all that’s done to manage this data is saving and uploading a CSV file.

Because of this, self-service tools have shorter lead times, leading to quicker business decisions. But the tradeoff is that the data isn’t governed as well.

Enterprise BI platforms, along with your IT department, provide thorough data governance. The platforms themselves maintain a high level of security, and can help test your data for accuracy. This eliminates any duplicate data sets and other forms of bad data. So while self-service tools can be better for on-the-fly decision making, enterprise BI software is better for long-term, accurate planning.

What are the Best Enterprise BI Software Solutions?

There’s no shortage of great business intelligence tools out there, but only a select few can be classified as an enterprise BI solution. These are the best of the best. The vendors that cater to the needs of large enterprises.

Yes, we love self-service systems like Qlikview, Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, but they’re more for small and mid-sized businesses. In other words, they’re not enterprise BI tools, so you won’t see them here. This list is a great starting point for any enterprise looking to leverage its data more effectively and gain powerful decision-making insights.

Cloudera Enterprise

Cloudera is a bit of an unconventional enterprise BI solution, in that it incorporates open-source capabilities within its system. They provide a community of Hadoop developers and experts to help businesses make full use of these open-source capabilities. In addition, they provide the usual enterprise BI functionality, such as data management. Cloudera also includes perimeter data security, fault-tolerance, automated backup and disaster recovery to protect your data.

Oracle BI

You would expect a powerful enterprise BI platform to come from one of the biggest software developers in the world, and that’s just what Oracle BI is. Like any good BI solution, it provides business intelligence dashboards for at-a-glance analysis. Their OLAP functionality helps you make the most of your business analytics, as it’s designed to help business users forecast performance levels and other analysis. Like a self-service BI tool, Oracle BI can process ad hoc analysis for quick decision making.

IBM Cognos BI

IBM Cognos BI is one of the easiest systems to integrate with. Whether you’re integrating it with another type of software, such as CRM, or other IBM modules, Cognos makes it easy to evaluate all of your business processes. For example, integrating with Watson AI adds cutting-edge predictive analytics to its existing business intelligence features. Along similar lines, both the on-premise deployment and the cloud deployment of the system are built to be scalable. So no matter how many users you start out on the platform, you can increase them without trouble as you need.

SAP BusinessObjects

SAP’s BusinessObjects describes themselves as helping make companies great in the new “age of data.” With its comprehensive suite of applications, the claim isn’t far off at all. With dynamic features such as ad hoc reporting, predictive analytics, business intelligence dashboards and mobile applications, the system has no shortage of features. Integration with other analytics platforms like SAP Crystal and SAP Lumira only enhance these features, so businesses can perform as much heavy-duty analysis as they need.

MicroStrategy Analytics

MicroStrategy Analytics is one of the simpler enterprise BI solutions to learn. It includes drag-and-drop functionality, which is an often-underrated aspect of easy-to-learn software. And like most enterprise BI solutions deployed on the cloud, the platform is available on your mobile device as well as your desktop. Additionally, it offers intuitive visualizations and one-click sharing for the insights you unearth with the software. You can also combine multiple data sources, such as spreadsheets and Hadoop databases, to aggregate all of your analysis.


Sisense BI is all about speed. They designed their reporting dashboards to be interactive and intuitive, and their data visualizations easy to understand. Combines dashboards, reporting capabilities and Big Data analytics functionality in a single platform. Like MicroStrategy, you can combine data from multiple sources (without the need for IT intervention) for robust and accurate analysis. In addition, you can include custom permissions so that certain data is only accessible to certain levels of users, e.g. your C-level users.


Domo is a rarity in the enterprise BI landscape, in that its only deployment option is the cloud. Because of this, it’s naturally mobile-friendly, allowing data analysis wherever your users go. The cloud only helps it provide more collaboration for your users as well, since you can share visualization, reports and insights with any user anywhere.

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