Last month, ProgrammableWeb published an article that took a detailed look at DataSift and Gnip, two of the leading enterprise social data platforms. The article mentions the growing trend of Data as a Service (DaaS) and how DaaS is anticipated to significantly grow the market for Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics platforms.
In a recent report, Gartner predicts that business intelligence and analytics Will remain the top focus for CIOs through the year 2017. Roy Schulte, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, states in the report that:
"Major changes are imminent to the world of BI and analytics including the dominance of data discovery techniques, wider use of real-time streaming event data and the eventual acceleration in BI and analytics spending when big data finally matures. As the cost of acquiring, storing and managing data continues to fall, companies are finding it practical to apply BI and analytics in a far wider range of situations."
DaaS, BI and analytics have also led to the increasing use of data dashboard platforms by enterprises, SMBs, government agencies, and many other types of organizations. Gartner defines dashboards in their IT glossary and describes one of the benefits of dashboards as:
"Dashboards help improve decision making by revealing and communicating in-context insight into business performance, displaying KPIs or business metrics using intuitive visualization including charts, dials, gauges and “traffic lights” that indicate the progress of KPIs toward defined targets."
Earlier this month, The Boston Globe published an article that focuses on the use and benefits of data dashboards. The article describes how Martin J. Walsh, the new mayor of Boston, uses data dashboards to monitor various aspects of life in the city, view statistics for a variety of city services, view social media analysis information, and to help solve city problems. The Boston Globe article explains what led to Mayor Walsh using data dashboard technology:
"He [Mayor Walsh] borrowed the dashboard idea from one of the most data-driven mayors in the country, Michael Bloomberg. During his 12 year tenure as the top elected official in New York City, Bloomberg pushed his staff to find innovative ways to analyze a dizzying amount of data being collected from all parts of the city. The aim was to use computers to discover previously overlooked issues and find solutions to ones that had long proved frustrating."
This article takes a detailed look at four real-time business data and analytics dashboard platforms; Ducksboard, Geckoboard, Klipfolio, and Leftronic. These companies were chosen for comparison because they all focus specifically on dashboards and all have somewhat similar pricing. These companies were also included in this article because they either provide APIs for their platforms or have APIs in development.
To create a side-by-side comparison, online public information was reviewed including official company websites, developer documentation, LinkedIn and other sources. Each company was also contacted by email to verify specific platform features. The comparison charts were created using Google Charts, which is part of the Google Visualization API.
Screenshot of customized Ducksboard dashboard - Click on image for larger view.
Ducksboard was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain. Ducksboard is a real-time SaaS dashboard platform that allows business metrics to be tracked from a single location.
The company recently released new ready-made integrations which includes LinkedIn, Flurry, Realtime Google Analytics and Trello. The company also announced that a brand new interface is in development and there are plans for a closed beta very soon.
Screenshot of customized Geckoboard dashboard - Click on image for larger view.
Geckoboard was founded in 2010 and is based out of Shoreditch, East London. The Geckoboard platform allows businesses to monitor key data in real-time from a single place.
Earlier this month, Paul Joyce, Geckoboard Co-founder and CEO, was interviewed by Danny Schreiber for a Zapier Blog article in which he discusses how the Geckoboard company was started, how to select the right metrics, and other topics related to data and metrics.
Screenshot of Klipfolio example dashboard - Click on image for larger view.
Klipfolio was founded in 2001 and the company is headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. In 2011, the company launched the cloud version of their real-time business dashboard platform which has been well received by many enterprises and SMBs.
Last month, Klipfolio announced that the company has secured $1.7-million (CDN) in funding from US and Canadian based venture capital firms. Klipfolio plans on using the funding to develop new platform features and to increase the company's diverse customer base.
Screenshot of customized Leftronic dashboard - Click on image for larger view.
Leftronic was founded in 2010 and the company is based out of San Francisco, California. Leftronic is a real-time data visualization and dashboard platform that allows businesses to monitor key metrics from a single location.
Last month, the company announced the addition of an advanced dashboard customization feature to the platform. The new customization feature allows users to modify every element of the dashboard using CSS.
All four dashboard platforms offer many of the same features such as multiple dashboards, ready-made integrations, custom dashboards and widgets, dashboard sharing, large screen / TV mode, websocket support, and more.
All four platforms allow data to be pulled from popular online services such as Facebook and Twitter. All four platforms also allow data to be uploaded from Excel / CSV or using a Push API.
At the time of this writing, Klipfolio provides the most reporting options which include downloading the dashboard or specific widget as a PDF or image, downloading data as Excel / CSV, email alerts and reports, and embedding a specific widget in a web page.
At the time of this writing, Geckoboard features over 100 ready-made integrations, Ducksboard has over 60, Leftronic has over 50, and Klipfolio has a small selection. The web services available in ready-made integrations for each platform varies.
All of the companies feature ready-made integrations for popular web services such as Facebook, Google Analytics, Salesforce Desk, and Twitter.
Click on Image to View the Complete List
At the time of this writing, none of the four companies offer freemium accounts. However, all four companies offer a free trial of their platforms.
All four companies have a Push API that can be used to send data to their platforms. Ducksboard provides the most APIs and API features of the four companies at this time.
Klipfolio and Leftronic are both developing new REST APIs and a complete list of API features and functions are not yet available online.
API Documentation / Proficiency
Ducksboard has very well designed API documentation although it would be very helpful to have a quick start section, more API client libraries, and some walkthoughs.
At the time of this writing, Klipfolio and Leftronic have not yet published API documentation for their new REST APIs which are currently in development. The Geckoboard API documentation is incomplete and needs to be improved.
Klipfolio and Leftronic are currently developing new REST versions of their APIs. Hopefully developer support will be addressed when those APIs are officially launched.
Both Ducksboard and Geckoboard could use some improvement in developer support. I'd like to see both of these companies have actively maintained developer / API blogs and API Twitter accounts.
Although Ducksboard, Geckoboard, Klipfolio, and Leftronic all specialize in data dashboards, there are actually many differences between all of these platforms.
Ducksboard and Geckoboard both provide a large selection of ready-made integrations making it possible for non-technical users to set up a custom dashboard quickly and easily.
The Leftronic platform provides ready-made widgets and also includes quite a few advanced features such as an API testing tool that is accessible from the dashboard editor, snap to grid system for arranging dashboard widgets, and drop downs that display API access and advanced CSS information for each widget.
Klipfolio has the most advanced features of all the platforms which include point-and-click formulas, point-and-click API connectors, dashboard layout templates, and many more. Klipfolio has a fairly steep learning curve because of all the advanced features. However, Klipfolio users can create dashboards that monitor and analyze just about every type of metric and KPI a business would ever need.
Ducksboard, Geckoboard, Klipfolio, and Leftronic all have great features and the many differences between the platforms make them all somewhat unique. The best way to find out which data dashboard platform will work best for your project is to try them all out; all of these companies offer a free trial of their platforms.
By Janet Wagner. Janet is a data journalist and full stack developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, open data, data visualization, and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.