Data Visualization is a deep ocean of a variety of tools. I have worked on multiple Data Visualization tools like Qlik, MSBI, Tableau, Pentaho, BIRT, and over 5 years. It was quite challenging and interesting. At the same time, I always look forward to trying something new.

For the last few months, I have been trying to get acquainted with JavaScript (JS) based chart libraries like KendoUI and Highcharts. People are inclined towards a user-friendly interface. But one can’t undermine the importance of aesthetics and configurability available in visualization tools. Many big players are shifting their focus from traditional BI tools to JS-based charting libraries for the same reason. It would be interesting to see how this shift unfolds in the background of ever-evolving BI practices. But why are organizations keen to take this path? Based on my experience, I think below are some of the prime reasons:

Cost

A significant roadblock in selecting any BI is the costs businesses might incur per license. BI tools enlisted in Gartner’s magic quadrant are expensive, and few organizations adopt them. Instead of spending heavily on permits for a few users, BI practitioners prefer to adopt suitable UI frameworks or JS-based chart libraries.

Connectivity

Since chart libraries are JavaScript-based, in most cases, the connectivity to Big Data technologies like HBase, Impala, HIVE, Google BigQuery, and Amazon Redshift, along with other traditional data sources like Excel, Access, RDBMS, etc., is easily possible.

Flexibility

It is straightforward to fit chart libraries within the existing frameworks or applications. Recently, for one of the projects, our designer designed a UI for an application. However, due to the limitation on the configurability of the BI tool we were using, we could not sync up the designed dashboard with the rest of the UI. We could have synced it quickly had it been any chart-based library.

Advanced Analytics

Many chart libraries offer advanced visualizations like time-series forecasting, geospatial maps, and the traditional donut, funnel, radar, bar, pie, etc. The range is wide!

Platform

Irrespective of any platform we use, chart libraries offer cross-platform support.

Accessibility

Chart libraries can be embedded into your existing Web applications and UI frameworks to allow access anywhere. Be it desktop, mobile, or tab!

Security

The data security can be maintained at the script level, for example, Java, Python, PHP, etc.
JS-based charting libraries have been in the market for a long time. But for the traditional BI tools, they have never proved to be a substitute. Considering the current scenario, it can be a tough race, though. I believe that the traditional tools will still prevail for a longer time. Below are some of the reasons why I think so:

Quick Turnaround time

When the business expects a quick turnaround time regarding the dashboards, developers (like me!) tend to use BI tools like Qlik, PowerBI, Tableau, or any READYMADE tools. These tools help achieve the objectives in a shorter period than charting libraries as it doesn’t expect a lot of scripts to be configured to display a chart. The primary reason is that many have built-in connectivity to all the primary data sources.

Developer Friendly

Most BI tools are drag-and-drop or require less scripting than JS-based chart libraries. So, it is hassle-free for the developers to achieve the functionality quickly.

Self-Service Analysis

Regarding self-service analysis like Saiku Analytics provides, the chart libraries may take a back step. It will require a lot of configurability and modularity of the script to get it to the next level of self-service analysis.

Access Control

All BI tools provide User or Group level access. However, a lot of configuration will be required within the script in the case of JS-based chart libraries.

The motive of using BI tools or JS chart libraries is always different. So, we can’t say which one of these will win in the end. Gauging the industry inclination, it seems that in 2018 we will see many organizations, especially SMEs, adapting to the UI frameworks. But when it comes to CXOs of large organizations, BI tools will still be prominent among them. It seems the great race has already begun! I would love to know what you think about this!

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