BI tool or purpose built analytic tool?

Published / 06/07/2015

When working with clients and prospects we are often asked to comment on or even compete with a BI tool-set for an analytics project. As developers of Focal365, we obviously have a view on its advantages – but we do see a place for both options in the market. Actually when best used they are complementary to each other.

Below is our view on the merits of an analytic application (e.g. Focal365) versus a BI tool-set (such as Business Objects, Tableau and Cognos).

No IWMS (TRIRIGA and Planon) or property application (Horizon and Harborflex) has the flexible analytic capability that users expect today. Therefore every implementation, except the most basic, need to be supplemented by some additional solution.


What are your Options?

BI tool-kit

This is a non-specific (would work with any business domain) set of tools to produce regular and ad-hoc reports & dashboards. Leading options include Business Objects, Cognos, Tableau Qlikview.

Some examples of the software’s features are listed below:

  • Not restricted to particular domain
  • Organisation may already have skills and experience
  • Licence costs could be low (depending on tool chosen)

As with all software, it can contain some disadvantages:

  • Requires significant IT support – at least in set-up (installation, building data models, identifying and interfacing data) and maintenance
  • Maintenance of reports and queries as data changes (risk when end-users move on)
  • Quality Risks – will end-users test their reports with sufficient rigour
  • Support Risks – requirement to re-test as software versions change


This is an industry specific application that contains both pre-defined KPIs, dashboards and reports – but the ability for a user to configure and generate their own.

Some examples of the software’s features are as follows:

  • Pre-built queries, KPIs and meaningful dashboards that are specific to Property and FM – built on industry expertise and best practice
  • Data model reflects full scope of entities and elements needed
  • Pre-built interfaces / interface management module (Extract Transform Load – ETL) for range of applications and data sources
  • Constantly evolving – driven by leading industry users
  • Fixed cost – not driven by increasing user volumes
  • No training needed (or very limited)
  • Single-Sign-On (SSO)
  • Security – built in
  • Training material available

As with all software, it can contain some disadvantages:

  • Covers Property, FM and Projects – but not other business areas


The Functionality Summary of Focal365

As a mature and proven application, Focal365 has a wide-range of functionality – built specifically for the business arenas of property, FM, workplace and capital projects. These include:

  • Real Estate / Property – including all financial reporting
  • FM / Operations Analytics
  • Workplace / Occupancy
  • Energy and Waste Management reporting
  • Project Portfolio Management
  • Operations / Helpdesk – with self-service for employees and preventive scheduling
  • Asset Management
  • Document Management
  • Admin & Security
  • Interface Management – built in tool (Extract Transform Load (ETL) capability)

It is also designed based on key principles of ease of use; visualisation of valuable information. By consistent use of maps, pictures, filters / drop-downs and other selection criteria; users attention is drawn to the important information. Time can be spent on the implications of the data – not trying to find out what is happening – but dealing with it.


Overall Summary

The choice is really down to company strategy and culture. If an organisation prefers to build rather than buy IT solutions then a BI tool-kit may be the best option. There is no restriction to the scope and analytics that can be provided – limitations come from the quality of IT and experienced business user that is assigned. The output will be as good as the resources that can be dedicated.

If an organisation prefers their business users to focus on the core area and valuable IT resources are reserved for strategic advice and application deployment – then a dedicated application is the better choice.

Focal365 provides the “best of both worlds”:

  • Proven, focused product – built on years of industry and relevant IT experience
  • Robust interfaces – already developed and the ability to design and manage others
  • Solution with pre-built queries, reports and dashboards – that constantly evolve
  • Rapid deployment with customer data to provide immediate business value – no need to build database and queries
  • Ad-hoc reports, user definable dashboards, exports to Excel, Word, PDF
  • SaaS model – with secure, scalable and robust provision including Single-Sign-On (SSO)

Should a client have an existing BI tool then this really “comes into its own” when analysing data from very different domains. For example, data exported from Focal365 combined with information from an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Talent Management application. This focuses scarce client analytic resources on the areas very specific to the company’s structure and systems.


BI tool or purpose built analytic tool