Over the holidays I enjoyed reviewing several BI vendors. To my pleasant surprise, a pretty innovative, little niche BI player called Targit has been hiding practically in my back yard. In all honesty, they were not really hiding. I just happened to never come across them in 15+ years except for reading a summary in the annual Gartner BI Magic Quadrant that is due to come out again any day now. Apparently the Targit BI solution is often used with Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. They include SharePoint web parts for integration and somewhere it sounded like they were using classic Microsoft BI as foundational technologies…even more reasons why I should have known about them sooner. Here is a brief overview of my holiday findings. Note that I did not do a super deep dive but I did get a good feel for the user experience, strengths and weaknesses.
Targit has both Cloud and on-premise BI Suite offerings. They market one integrated self-service BI and analytics solution to create dashboards, operational reports and perform ad-hoc analysis. They also have what-if reporting, alerting and predictive notification features. Their alerting and predictive notifications were fantastic options that I have rarely seen implemented as nicely as they have done it. For mobile BI, they have native apps for iPad and Android. The Targit desktop author solution contains a few different components – one to define data source connections, one called XBone for mashing up Excel and csv files into an in-memory, columnstore cube and the drag-drop dashboard, report and analysis authoring tool. Although they also have a web-based ANT server portal for publishing and collaboration, I did not review or install it.
In my review, I did the typical download, install, watch a few videos and dive right in! Usually I can get functional with a self-service BI tool in a few minutes even though each tool I review has quirks and hidden treasures. Well with Targit, I gave myself an F = total failure in my initial review. When I first saw the opening black themed screen with the very unique menu and a Q&A-like search feature, I was a bit confused. Clicking around I could open a few of the samples, create a new report but I could not create a decent dashboard or hook it up to my own data source – and I am deeply technical. I read the user guide docs and still was lost. As I stumbled around this tool, I found amazing alerting and predictive notifications that looked really impressive. I also got a good giggle out of the smiling/frowning face icon on the top right of the screen (yes, that really does exist) telling me why it was happy or sad due to increasing sales, decreasing profits, etc. It was interesting, entertaining and frustrating all at the same time. I saw enough to call them to let them know they were in a vendor select situation and that I needed a walk-through of this BI offering since I was not finding it naturally intuitive to learn.
The local sales rep was really helpful. It sounds like Targit is a close knit group that has been together a long time. They have a growing group of Microsoft-alumni, feed their team daily and partake in local festivities such as the pirate party in Tampa called Gasparilla. At some point I will drop in on them since they are in my hometown of Tampa, Florida. I did appreciate their excellent demos, use of best practice data visualizations/color schemes in their dashboards and technical marketing material. That level of high-quality demo material seems to be rare when I review a BI product. In the meantime, this is what I learned from my demo and walk-through that helped me do another hands-on review.
The user interface can be toggled between a white or black theme. Some of the menus are not intuitive – you can drag and drop dimensions, measures, create menu items in areas that don’t seem like you should be able to do so and only see the updates you are making when authoring by clicking a small icon in the top left corner of a visualization. Bottom line, there is a learning curve to using the Targit desktop authoring tool interface to get functional. It is awkward to use at first but once you get the hang of it, you can fairly quickly build basic dashboards and reports. Data source connections include SQL Server, SQL Server Analysis Services, SQL Server Reporting Services (yes, you read that right), Microsoft Search, Penatho Analysis Services, Oracle, IBM DB2, Oracle Warehouse Builder, Prophix, MySQL, SADAS and EXASOL. They also have ODBC/OLE DB via a generic connection. XBone can use Excel, text .csv files, DropBox and Google Drive data sources. Targit does have a nice array of basic data visualizations, support custom calculations, pixel perfect reporting, drill-down/interactive dashboards and reports, simple point-click forecasting with regression, scheduling and dashboard actions. It is not a Tableau-level data visualization solution by any means but it does have areas of strength not found in other self-service BI tools. A few other features that I really liked in addition to the alerts and notifications were the templates, search, app store/gallery of add-ins and the native mobile BI app.
I simply loved the notifications, intelligent agent and predictive sentinels. Check it out… So they have implemented a simple user interface on a visualization level that allows the user to pick a value to be notified of when it changes – and – also with predictive based rules they call sentinels for defining early warning criteria. Sure there are other BI tools that can do some of this but I feel Targit delivered proactive, smart, self-service BI in a fairly beautiful manner. Targit positions themselves with the tagline – have the courage to act. That is what dashboards should do – allow you to take action, proactive action is even better! For all the complaining and gripes that I have about the user interface, I do have to give this group a huge kudos on these specific smart, actionable BI features.
All in all, Targit has an interesting BI offering and it was a really fun BI solution to review once I learned how to create dashboards with it. At some point I will dive deeper into Targit development, Xbone and their portal. For more information about Targit, check out their web site and YouTube videos.