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Highlights From the Gartner BI Bake-Off

Earlier this year, we competed alongside Microsoft, Tableau, and Qlik to demonstrate our data discovery capabilities at the Gartner BI Bake-Off. At this annual enterprise analytics face-off, each company was tasked with analyzing U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard Data to address the question: Do SAT scores and college tuition predict future earnings?

We were confident and excited to take on this challenge, and we emerged as a top performer in 13 of the 15 categories. Here are five ways MicroStrategy stood out from the BI crowd:

Ease of Data Preparation

MicroStrategy 10 makes data easier than ever to work with. It can blend data from a variety of sources, including Hadoop, databases, websites, Excel files, and many more. We were able to easily edit the dataset right in MicroStrategy, immediately eliminating irrelevant numbers in zip codes, splitting columns based on null values, renaming state abbreviations with the full name, and so forth. To facilitate the bulk wrangling process, we also imported a script and applied it to the dataset. Then, to augment the data given to us by Gartner, we pulled in Wikipedia data that listed U.S. states by income. MicroStrategy automatically identified and linked attributes together, facilitating the cross-functional analysis process.

Swift Dashboard Design

Designing an information-rich dashboard has never been faster. We used the geo-attributes of each state to create a map of the U.S., then used minimum SAT score requirements to impose color gradients on each state. Alongside the map, we added bar charts to visually rank SAT score minimum requirements, earnings after graduation, and tuition fees, all by school. In the filter panel, we dragged and dropped average SAT scores and states to allow for deeper, location-based analysis.

Governed Sharing

MicroStrategy ensures that no data is over-exposed. Once our dashboard was ready, we demonstrated how it can be shared in a way that is safe and governed by uploading it to a centralized server. From here, each member of the project can receive individualized levels of access to various parts of the dashboard. It’s important to share data in a way that’s governed, so users know the dashboard can be trusted. This approach cross references data in the dashboard with the source so secured sharing is possible.


We went on to show how dashboards can be distributed automatically. For example, a dashboard could be sent on the first day of each month to keep marketing and sales teams in the loop on monthly sales pipelines and conversions. Users can also annotate the dashboard to make notes on specific behaviors that data makes obvious. We gave an example of a parent circling the state of Texas on the interactive dashboard map and making a note to their kids as they conduct their college search.

Mobile Productivity Apps

To wrap up our presentation, we showed how the MicroStrategy mobile platform can be used to build custom, native applications for Android and iOS. We crafted a college guide for mobile users and seamlessly swiped from panel to panel through a variety of visualizations. The app is even touch optimized, making the college guide easy to interact with. Zooming in on information or honing in on region-specific activity is quick, easy, and intuitive.

What did we conclude from this experience? The harder it is to get into a school, the higher the salary band is after graduation. Upon visualizing the data, we saw a correlation between family affluence, SAT scores, tuition cost, and salary projections after graduation. In short, SAT scores and tuition costs are variables that affect future earnings. However, our data did highlight that specialty education does provide good value for investment. Health sciences- and technology-focused programs offer significant return on investment with respect to tuition costs.

Check out the bakeoff for yourself to see how we dug into this data using powerful data discovery tools.

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