There is no doubt that business intelligence (BI) and data analytics have become essential to today’s businesses.
In fact, as recently as two years ago, 50% of business leaders said they based at least half of their decisions on data.
The recent growth in business technology has made the investment into a BI solution significantly more affordable than what it was just a few years ago, leveling out the competition for companies of all sizes. But just because the technology is more accessible doesn’t mean choosing a solution has become simple.
Now there are more vendors than ever jockeying to gain your company’s business. That’s why you must do your homework before settling on a solution.
Know Your Company’s Needs
Before starting the selection process for a BI tool, you must do your homework. Talk to people from all the departments that’ll be affected by the BI tool (e.g., IT, finance, marketing, sales and operations) to find any issues that must be addressed.
Once you have a clear objective, create an implementation strategy. This should include every step, from the beginning of the solution’s deployment to determining what ROI metrics will be measured in the end. It’s important to consider the how users in different levels of the company will adopt the tool. What type of training will you need to provide for end users?
Director of Engineering and Principal Solutions Architect at Logi Analytics Charles Caldwell suggests that instead of finding a generic BI solution that can solve almost any problem, you should look for a solution that’s targeted toward your company’s specific needs. This increases the chances of a successful implementation.
Understanding the Technology
From data warehouses to data mining, dashboards to reporting tools, there are many different types of business intelligence tools. Aside from your company’s needs, you also need to understand what types of BI solutions are out there and which one will best suit your organization’s objective.
According to Cleverism, there are four categories of BI software, which are:
- Real-time – The software provides up-to-date data to the minute. It fosters quick decision making by using data warehousing advantages with event-driven strategies.
- Tactical – The software is used to observe current changes in business and identify new opportunities. The tools help determine what steps are necessary to achieve a company’s objective by cleaning and improving data.
- Investigative – The software uses dashboards to find patterns and irregularities in data. The tools can drill down into the discoveries to find correlations and create a hypothesis. This allows companies to find and predict trends for better decision making.
- Traditional – The software primarily uses historical data that is stored centrally. Different data points are easily accessible through key performance indicator dashboards to foster better decision making. However, this information is best used for organizations with historical patterns that stay relatively the same.
Although many vendors will offer application suites, it’s important to remember there’s no all-purpose solution that will fix everything at once. When reading reviews and asking for demos, don’t get blinded by features, as software engineers Olympic Software caution. Keep a critical eye on the functions the solution offers and if they align with your company’s objective.
What You Should Look For
According to Eldad Farkash, Sisense’s CTO and co-founder, most businesses underestimate the true complexity of their data.
“Many tools promise ‘self-service analytics’ for everyone in the company, but users don’t realize that the promise will only hold true if their data is of a limited size and scope – we’re talking about a few straightforward Excel sheets,” he said.
Businesses today usually manage large amounts of data. Even worse: The information’s often taken from various sources that don’t always correlate, which complicates matters when planning a BI project.
Farkash says an organization should find a data analytics software with both a back-end that can handle big, disparate data for data management, and an intuitive front- end that allows users to easily analyze the info.
When choosing the best BI tool for your company’s needs, there are several areas you should review. BI leaders Arcplan have come up with five criteria companies can use to evaluate BI reporting and analytics software. They are:
- Flexibility – The software needs to handle both immediate needs and more sophisticated needs that’ll arise in the future.
- Security – Features such as the ability to establish control settings for users, as well as share reports and data securely with users outside the company network, fall under this umbrella.
- Learnability – This measures the time it’ll take users to learn how to navigate and use the tool once it’s implemented.
- Mobility – Going beyond being able to access data from mobile devices, the tool should also be able to adjust displays and reports appropriately for the device you are using.
- Evolveability – The tool should be able to keep up with BI trends and adapt when your business grows.
Although the investment is more cost-effective, business intelligence is still a significant investment for a company. When comparing vendors and solutions, cutting corners will only land you with a tool that doesn’t accomplish what you need. Do your homework ahead of time to make a confident selection in the end.