Review: Domo is good BI, not great BI

Domo delivers on data sources and visualizations, but is harder to use and overpriced compared to Tableau, Qlik Sense, and Microsoft Power BI

Review: Domo is good BI, not great
At a Glance

In the last couple of years I have reviewed four of the leading business intelligence (BI) products: Tableau, Qlik Sense, Microsoft Power BI, and Amazon QuickSight. In general terms, Tableau sets the bar for ease of use, and Power BI sets the bar for low price.

Domo is an online BI tool that combines a large assortment of data connectors, an ETL system, a unified data store, a large selection of visualizations, integrated social media, and reporting. Domo claims to be more than a BI tool because its social media tool can lead to “actionable insights,” but in practice every BI tool either leads to actions that benefit the business or winds up tossed onto the rubbish heap.

Domo is a very capable BI system. It stands out with support for lots of data sources and lots of chart types, and the integrated social media feature is nice (if overblown). However, Domo is harder to learn and use than Tableau, Qlik Sense, and Power BI, and at $2,000 per user per year it is multiples more expensive (in terms of per user licensing costs).

Depending on your needs, Tableau, Qlik Sense, or Power BI is highly likely to be a better choice than Domo.  

Learning Domo

As shown in the figure below, Domo’s Getting Started page includes links to 14 interactive tutorials (called apps, confusingly), which are mostly video-based with multiple-choice quizzes. I found these more annoying than helpful, but I prefer written explanations and have experience with other BI systems; your response may differ. I learned more from the Domo University write-ups for data specialists.

domo home Domo

Every company with a Domo account receives its own cloud workspace. Shown is the Getting Started page of InfoWorld’s workspace, right after I logged in for the first time. The “Buzz” column on the right is a context-sensitive social media feature.

There are a lot of write-ups, to be sure, but as far as I can tell only for specialized topics. Unfortunately, the only orderly introductions to the product seem to be video-based and aimed at novices. I wound up simply trying the different parts of the product myself.

To be fair, Domo does offer courses, training apps, and webinars in addition to videos and articles. While I sat through two briefings with the company, I did not attend any of the webinars or courses while I was reviewing the product.

Domo data sources 

One of Domo’s strengths is that it has a large selection of data connectors, as shown in the figure below. I counted 272 of them at the time of my review. I’m told that there are more than 100 other data connectors that are still being vetted before being added to the Appstore (you can ask Domo customer support for the links to any you need). Data connections can be set to update automatically on a schedule if you wish, and can warn you if your copy of the data is not current.

domo appstore Domo

The Domo Appstore includes many quick starts and data connectors (I counted 272 of the latter), some free and some paid. Apparently there are even more connectors that haven’t yet been vetted for the store.

Once you have imported data, you can transform it, filter it, and combine it with other data sources. There are four basic processing methods: ETL DataFlows, SQL DataFlows, DataFusion, and an R plug-in. ETL DataFlows are built using drag-and-drop to create a chain of column actions. SQL DataFlows allow for the use of common SQL commands so that data can be accessed, joined, cleaned, and transformed within Domo, but you really need to know SQL to use it effectively. DataFusion is the drag-and-drop way of combining data sources with joins. The output of any of these processing methods is an output data source.

domo prepare Domo

Once you have imported your data into Domo, you can process it using ETL DataFlows, SQL DataFlows, DataFusion, or an R plug-in (not shown).

Domo cards, visualizations, dashboards, and reports

What Domo calls a “card” is basically a chart applied to a data source, with some settings. The figure below shows the first page of example cards.

domo example cards Domo

Domo example cards demonstrate how visualizations look when populated from appropriate data sources.

You can build your own cards by pressing “Add card” and “Design” from the Overview page. You will then be able to choose a data set, bring it into the Analyzer, choose a visualization, and customize the presentation, as shown in the figure below.

domo analyzer Domo

Domo’s Analyzer is where you build cards from data sources and chart types. Here I have built a bubble chart with a filter (to show or exclude the real-time products) from a market research spreadsheet of my own. Pay no attention to the data, as it’s several years old and was based on personal opinions; most of the products have since improved, but a few (Parse, for example) have disappeared from the market.

Domo has a large selection of chart types, probably as many as I’ve seen in a BI tool. They are grouped into classes such as “maps” and “data science,” which makes some sense once you get used to it, but I would prefer a more intuitive UI for this. In fact, I could make that statement about the whole product: I’d prefer a more intuitive user interface.

The Analyzer lacks some features, despite the large number of visualization types. For example, in Tableau, if you add extra dimensions to a chart, it will generate a multi-pane chart. If there’s a way to do that in Domo, I didn’t find it. The closest I was able to come was to add an interactive filter, seen near the right of the screenshot above.

At the top right of the image above you’ll see an icon labeled “beast mode.” That’s basically an interface for creating calculated fields using formulas. I have no idea why it’s not called “Calculated Fields.”

You can combine cards into collections and pages, which are essentially dashboards. The easiest way to create a coherent dashboard in a common domain is to use a QuickStart app; otherwise, you just drag your cards around. You can also take snapshots, annotate them, and publish them.

You can share cards, pages, and snapshots with other paid users in your company. Unfortunately, it seems that unregistered users can’t use the interactive filters in cards—they can only get a slideshow report. Given the high cost of paid seats, that’s a problem.

Domo social media and alerts

Buzz, shown on the right-hand side of the very first figure in this review, is “an integrated collaboration platform that provides your team with real-time social insights enabling faster, better decisions.” The messages in the Buzz pane are context-sensitive, and linked to specific cards. When you share a card with a group, the group can interact in the card’s Buzz stream. Think of it like a Twitter conversation using a hashtag. If you follow the Buzz for a card, you can get notifications when people comment. If you enable alerts for a card, you can be notified when the data changes in ways you specify.

Buzz is certainly a useful and convenient feature, making it easy to share information, solicit input, and keep up with new analyses. But it’s not a reason to consider Domo over its more polished and less pricey competitors. 

Even though I think Domo is a good BI product, I find it somewhat hard to learn, awkward to use, badly documented, and more than a little overpriced compared to Tableau, Qlik Sense, Power BI, and QuickSight. Yes, I’m aware that Domo’s pricing is all-inclusive. You don’t ever have to pay more when you import more data, for example. Still, $167 per user per month is hard to justify compared to $42 for Tableau Online, and if you want to add social capabilities to Tableau you can easily do so with Slack ($6.67 per user per month) and a free Tableau bot. It’s even harder to justify $167 for Domo compared to $9.99 for Power BI.

I give Domo high marks for its selections of data connectors and visualizations. Its analytic power is OK. I give the product low marks for ease of learning, ease of use, and especially for value.

Would I buy Domo for my company? Not at the current price, and not with the current awkward user experience.

Cost: Starter tier: free. Retail pricing starts (on average) at $2,000 per user per year; pricing is customized based on factors such as volume pricing and multi-year contracts. 

Platform: Cloud host, browser client. 

At a Glance
  • Although Domo is a very good BI product, it is hard to learn, awkward to use, badly documented, and overpriced compared to the market leaders.


    • Lots of data sources can be pulled into Domo and automatically updated
    • Lots of presentation types
    • Unlimited online storage
    • Good sharing capabilities for other registered users


    • Four times as expensive as Tableau Online, and 16x as expensive as Power BI
    • Not easy to learn or use
    • Limited sharing with unregistered users

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