Tool Evaluation Series: Mode

Chris Nguyen
4 min readJan 6, 2024

Mode is a Business Intelligence (BI) tool for analytics meant to be a full stack platform for anyone from a data analyst to an end user. It aims to be a central hub for an organization’s data analyses and knowledge through ad-hoc analysis, self-serve analytics, dashboards, and more. I will evaluate Mode in terms of expanding BI capabilities to a more general audience — defined as the audience outside of data teams that may not be highly trained in data but want to use it to answer their own business questions without having to wait for the data team to answer them. Or in other words “Is Mode a good self-service tool?”.

The way I will do this is by defining a few criteria that I care about and using Mode to see how well it fulfills that criteria. The criteria will be:

  1. Setup & Maintenance: is the tool easy to set up, maintain, and learn?
  2. Useful Features: what are 3+ things that make this tool stand out?
  3. Cost: how expensive do I think this tool is? I define expensive as “Does this cost me as much as Tableau?”
  4. Audience Fit: do I think the tool fits my intended general audience?

1. Setup & Maintenance

Very easy. Mode is a web-based application where you can connect to databases online. No installation required so you can get Mode up and running in minutes. A running list of supported databases is here and I am directly looking for Trino support for my organization, which is included.

Maintenance should be low due to no installation and there are plenty of reference guides and tutorials provided on Mode University, its online library catalog. This will help general users that may not be used to making reports or using SQL to get started and have a structured learning program.

5 out of 5 points

Mode University is a free course catalog

2. Useful Features

  • SQL Editor: You have to write a SQL query to first pull the data to create a chart, so you have a SQL editor that lets the user pull data directly.
  • Visual Explorer: The Visual Explorer allows users to create charts. There are 16 charts by default but you can also create custom charts (although not as custom as Tableau). You drag Dimension and Measure fields like in Tableau.
Visual Explorer view in Mode
  • Report Builder: In Report Builder, you can place charts you created one after the other. But it seems that you can only add them vertically on top of each other? I couldn’t find a way to add them side-by-side to save scrolling efforts.

I can create charts and reports easily enough. But it all feels very restricted in Mode. There’s not really anything in here that I can’t do in an existing BI tool like Tableau so it doesn’t feel that unique to me.

3 out of 5 points

3. Cost

In terms of cost, Mode was the most opaque tool I evaluated. It’s really unclear what it would cost for a business without going through a sales team to even get an estimate. I have no idea how much this tool costs and that’s a negative for a tool that doesn’t have any unique feature I really want because I can’t even argue for it in terms of price.

1 out of 5 points

Pricing plan isn’t open

4. Audience Fit

Do I think Mode fits my general audience? It’s rather easy to get started with it but I felt restricted the whole time I used it. I can’t place charts where I want them to be and the reports were pretty generic looking. It’s an okay tool but not enough about it stands out compared to the other BI tools I use or evaluated. It would fit my audience but not any more than tools I already have.

3 out of 5 points

Verdict

Mode felt fine to me but I just don’t think enough about it stood out as a tool I really wanted to add to my repertoire. I didn’t hate it but didn’t love any specific feature of it at the same time. Very middle of the road feeling.

12 out of 20 points

--

--