Yellowfin vs Grafana Helix: Which is Best for BMC Smart Reporting Users?

Yellowfin vs Grafana Helix: Which is Best for BMC Smart Reporting Users?

Bundled as part of the BMC Remedy suite, Smart Reporting has been used by almost 1,000 global companies to deliver insights on their IT and Service Management Ops. What you may not know is Yellowfin has powered BMC Smart Reporting for 10 years. 

Many of these organizations have used the powerful self-service analytics of Yellowfin to implement tailored reporting specific to their unique business processes and needs - as well as leveraging the great out-of-the-box content provided in Smart Reporting.

In the last several years, BMC decided to undertake significant product modernization initiatives and transition its products to the integrated Helix software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. As part of this effort, BMC built a new dashboarding and reporting solution based on Grafana open source. BMC customers now have several choices:

  1. Migrate to the new Grafana solution
  2. Continue with the legacy Smart Reporting, at least for some time 
  3. Upgrade to the latest Yellowfin Version 9, provided by Yellowfin BI
  4. Utilize a hybrid approach that uses some combination of the above

While BMC partners and customers would prefer a simple approach, in any large transformation there are multiple considerations. The good news is there are options that both meet customer needs and deliver ROI. This article compares those options - Smart Reporting, Helix and Yellowfin - to help you make your long-term decision.


Grafana Helix Tooling Needs Time to Evolve

BMC has invested significantly in their Grafana-enabled Helix dashboards and delivered a robust product. However, the reality is the tooling is still immature compared to modern BI platforms and will likely never serve that purpose. Smaller new customers will likely find that the provided dashboards and reports fulfill their needs, but more sophisticated organizations will likely want to use Helix together with a more purpose-built BI tool.

BMC has communicated an aggressive roadmap to continue to improve Helix. Both the core platform and the dashboarding solution will evolve and improve over the next several years. As Yellowfin BI is a partner of BMC, we will work to ensure that our solution complements Helix, so that BMC customers can maximize their value compared to other alternatives.

Read More: Why Upgrading to Yellowfin is the Best Choice for BMC Remedy/Helix Users

Yellowfin vs Grafana dashboards

A visual comparison of Yellowfin dashboard next to a BMC Helix (Grafana) dashboard.


Preserve your investment in Smart Reporting and minimize change costs

Most businesses, whilst having common and overlapping requirements, have their own unique challenges, operating environment, structure and so on. Out-of-the-box content, such as provided by Smart Reporting, often offers a good ‘starting point’, but rarely fully meets the business requirement. 

Most Smart Reporting customers have extended the out-of-the-box solution by developing reports and dashboards to meet their specific needs. Many hours of development, testing and user training has been undertaken to build and deploy these solutions into the business.

As there is no migration path between Yellowfin and Grafana, a move to the Grafana solution involves rebuilding all custom reporting, including retesting all reports to ensure they continue to be accurate, as well as a significant change management activity to retrain all users on the new system. As Yellowfin has significantly more features and functionality than Grafana, it is likely that many reports and dashboards cannot be implemented in a like-for-like fashion. For example, as drill down and drill anywhere are not supported in Grafana, any reports built using that capability will not be able to be replaced.

Yellowfin also offers you great deployment flexibility. You can choose to run in any cloud-platform or your choice or deploy on-premise, based on the specific needs of your business and data protection requirements.

Finally, Yellowfin’s embedded BI solution has been acclaimed by analysts, appearing 8 times in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics, including 3 times as a Visionary. Yellowfin provides industry leading reporting and dashboards, as well as advanced analytics and collaboration capabilities.

Ultimately, migrating to a Yellowfin supported release for Smart Reporting is the only way to preserve the investment made to date in customized reporting, and to avoid the significant costs involved in changing solutions - compared to a move to Grafana Helix.


Take advantage of the latest Yellowfin releases

BMC elected to keep Smart Reporting on Yellowfin Version 8, which was officially out of support at the end of 2022, and currently in extended support for BMC Customers only. 

Yellowfin Version 9 was released at the end of 2019, and involved a significant upgrade to the platform, including a complete rewrite of the Dashboard and PDF export capability. Since the release of Version 9, Yellowfin has continued to introduce innovative features, including our Guided Natural Language Query (Guided NLQ) solution - an innovative take on NLQ solutions that is both easier to setup and use, but offers the ability to easily create complex queries not supported in other BI vendors solutions.

Migrating to a Yellowfin supported release will allow customers to further extend their solution should they wish to do so, by taking advantage of:

Canvas Dashboards and Code Mode - unparalleled flexibility to create amazing dashboard designs, as well as extend the dashboard using a low code approach, to enable custom design elements and source system write back.

Signals - the ability to configure fully automated analytics, as Yellowfin Signals scans your data and uses advanced algorithms to detect significant changes, anomalies, trend changes and more, providing automated alerts to subscribed users.

Presentations and Stories - a dashboard is not for everyone, specifically it lacks the business context. Yellowfin has introduced innovative data storytelling capabilities designed to communicate data more effectively and with the associated context. Stories provides a blog-form user interface for communicating the story behind the data, whilst Present provides a Slideshow experience designed for presenting data to an audience.

Guided NLQ - the ability to generate new insight without having to request changes from IT is important for business agility, but most business users lack the skills to do so. Guided NLQ provides a unique interface for Business Users to write a question, using assisted prompts from the system - enabling true self-service for non-technical users.

As well as availing of new, powerful features - staying on the latest release also means you are up to date with bug fixes and security patches and ensures that your organization has the best bug-free, and most secure experience.

Extend BMC Smart Reporting to Yellowfin Webinar

Watch our on-demand webinar on how to extend your BMC Smart Reporting to Yellowfin.

Continue to leverage the power and flexibility of an industry leading BI solutions

Yellowfin has over 20 years of experience in the analytics business. It has a deep heritage in providing reporting and dashboards to thousands of customers. The solution has continued to evolve over that time, with thousands of customer ideas implemented in the platform.

As well as providing significant capabilities that are simply not provided by Grafana (eg. Canvas Dashboards, NLQ, Signals, Stories, Presentations, Guided NLQ etc), there are significant product gaps at the detail level that may not be readily apparent. 

Here are some key areas of difference:

  • Powerful query generation capabilities - Yellowfin has the capability to generate almost any type of Query using our Advanced Drag and Drop Report Builder - including all varieties of sub-queries, advanced calculations and even the ability to blend data from multiple sources in a single query. Grafana relies on hand-coded SQL or a relatively simplistic report builder form.


  • Extensive visualization capabilities - Yellowfin ships with an extensive chart library and allows the ability to efficiently populate multiple charts from a single query. Yellowfin can also easily be extended to use third-party charting libraries such as FusionCharts, to provide additional charting and mapping options.

  • Advanced Report interaction capabilities - drill down, drill anywhere and drill through to detail can easily be configured in Yellowfin. These capabilities have only limited support in Grafana by using data links. Yellowfin also has other advanced interaction capabilities such as series selection, advanced filtering, and even the ability to automatically generate insights by clicking on a chart data point through Assisted Insights.

  • Pixel perfect exports - Yellowfin has extensive export capabilities - exports to PDF are pixel perfect for both Dashboards and Reports, preserving the exact layout of the report as it appears in Yellowfin. Exports to XLS also preserve report formatting when opened in Excel. Grafana exports do not preserve the formatting as it appears in Grafana.

  • Advanced broadcasting capabilities - Yellowfin has extensive broadcasting capabilities - including the ability to support conditional broadcasts based on alert rules, the ability to populate recipient lists from a query, the ability to export in any format (PDF, XLS, DOCX, HTML or a link), and even the ability to run export workload on a separate server node for performance.

  • Extensive formatting and customization capabilities - Creating aesthetically pleasing Reports and Dashboards is key to driving user adoption. Yellowfin has extensive capabilities to define reports exactly as you would like them to appear, including positioning of totals and subtotals, formatting of every aspect of appearance (fonts, colors, background colors etc.). In addition, our Dashboard Canvas has the ability to create complex custom designs and includes the ability to position objects to the pixel and create overlapping designs.

  • Fine-grained security and multi-tenancy - Yellowfin has an extensive and comprehensive security model - allowing the protection of entire data sets, down to specific columns and individual rows using row-based security (not supported in Grafana). Yellowfin can also be configured for multi-tenancy, allowing multiple companies to share a single Yellowfin instance whilst ensuring data is separate and protected.

  • Advanced APIs and Embedding - Yellowfin has an extensive set of APIs including both REST and SOAP APIs for accessing and manipulating server content, as well as an advanced JSAPI for embedding content in an application or web page. Yellowfin can also be completely rebranded to match your company's brand.

For a full list of Yellowfin’s technical capabilities, please visit the Yellowfin Wiki.


Combine Smart Reporting with Other Data Sources to Achieve Deeper Insights

As some BMC Smart Reporting users may know, the solution was locked to a single data source. In comparison, Yellowfin has the capability to connect to virtually any data platform, whether cloud-based or on premise - including SaaS applications via our partnership with CDATA. Migrating to a Yellowfin supported release can allow you to upgrade your license in order to connect to any number of data sources. Yellowfin can combine data from different data sources on a single dashboard, and blend data from different data sources in a single query.

Combining ITSM data from BMC with other data provides the ability to discover previously undiscovered correlations and business insights - as well as providing a unified reporting interface for your business users.

Learn More: Building Custom ITSM Dashboards for BMC Smart Reporting with Yellowfin


Yellowfin vs Grafana: Key Features Comparison Summary 

The table outlines some feature/functional differences between Yellowfin BI and the existing Grafana-enabled Helix dashboards. Not all of these are required or needed by every customer, however they highlight why BMC customers may want to consider Yellowfin BI as part of their Helix solution.

BMC Helix vs Yellowfin tools comparison chart


Yellowfin vs BMC Helix: Comparison Conclusion

Looking back at the alternatives in front of BMC Customers, we recommend a hybrid approach that prepares BMC customers for Helix but maximizes immediate results by adopting Yellowfin 9.0

Grafana tooling will inevitably get better over time, but immediate adoption will allow improved capabilities with minimal incremental efforts or investments. 

The ITSM landscape is changing rapidly and having a flexible BI solution that can work across systems and tools will deliver increased agility to IT organizations. 

Next Steps: Yellowfin for BMC Remedy/ Helix Users

Easily extend your investment in BMC Smart Reporting with industry-leading BI features. Discover the full breadth of Yellowfin embedded analytics now.