I regularly attend the local chapter meetings for the Data Warehouse Institute and the last few meetings featured a “Data Visualization Bake Off.” This is where 4 vendors present the latest in their visualization tools. Meetings like this really give you a chance to compare the various offerings and at least at a high level, see where the feature sets differ.

For many of the larger vendors, their visual analytics tools are an extension of what has been their suite of business intelligence products over the years, where other vendors such as Tableau and Qlik are more of a current “pure play” focusing on a more singular tool – plus the newer players in the field have the distinct advantage of having been able to write their software over the last few years without the challenges of the established vendors to maintain backwards compatibility with established customer bases.

Here are a few of the trends I observed at these meetings:

  • Many vendors are offering an API and are developing an ecosystem of developers for tools and other applications that work with their visualization tools.
  • A trend towards more integrated applications, for example, deploying data visualizations in the mainstream applications of your business.
  • More tools with directly imbedded statistical capabilities such as the use of R. Microsoft provides R calls directly within SQL Server.
  • Cloud, desktop, mobile for all offerings and all integrated.
  • Public cloud sites provided by vendors for client learning and for showing examples of how these products can be used.
  • Multiple database connectors for all products. Tableau for example can connect directly to Google Analytics. You can incorporate online giving from your database and web site statistics all in the same visualization.
  • Most vendors will lease you 3rd party data sets that work with their tools. One example was data from the Weather Network. Do gifts correlate with weather? Now we can find out.
  • Incorporation of machine learning in the suites. Query suggestions.

These seemed to be the main ones that stood out. As always, the vendors have continually changing marketing lingo for all of their offerings. If you’re making an enterprise decision for a particular product, make sure you do your due diligence.