So you’ve decided your company needs a Business Intelligence (BI) platform. Fantastic! But now what?
Whether you’re looking to embed real-time analytics within an existing product or company portal, or are looking to re-invent your current internal reporting structure with modern analytics, the actual process of selecting a Business Intelligence platform is not for the faint of heart. There’s so much to consider; like user experience, look and feel, vendor support, and whether or not its basic capabilities even meet your needs. Not to mention the immense investment in time, money, and effort!
Help! We’re drowning in choice!
When choosing a Business Intelligence platform, the options are plentiful, and the front runner often as clear as mud. Now more than ever, buyers are finding it difficult to correctly value comparisons between market alternatives due to the sheer quantity of players and their seemingly indistinguishable offerings, and this choice complexity tends to result in some erroneous decision making. To make matters worse, this trend is slowly becoming the norm.
HOWEVER, all hope is not lost! We’re here to ensure you get the most out of your Business Intelligence investment by starting you off on the right foot! We’ve put together a list of 5 questions to ask yourself when choosing a Business Intelligence platform. Whether you’ve narrowed down your list of possible vendors to a select few, or are just beginning your search, answering these questions will put you squarely on the path to BI success.
1. What Do I Need Business Intelligence For?
This one’s simple enough. Ask yourself first, for what purposes do you need a Business Intelligence platform. Are you looking for an internal solution that’ll empower your users to unlock the data insights they need, and help them make accurate decisions? And if that’s the case, are you seeking a solution designed for small teams, or one that needs to scale across the enterprise? Or are you looking to embed analytics into your customer-facing application(s) in order to gain a competitive advantage and empower your clients with access to real-time data?
Many companies are content with using Business Intelligence as a stand-alone solution or as an internal portal. Others are already providing their customers with an application, and a Business Intelligence platform would be a natural extension of their offering. When evaluating vendors, it’s important you find one whose BI offering is well suited to your intent. The differences are subtle, but when you begin your implementation, you’ll be glad you chose a BI platform that specializes in your use case.
2. How Important Is The User Experience?
Your users have different skills. This is true regardless of if you’re looking to extend your data reach to a larger audience, modernize your reporting with interactive analytics, or integrate a BI platform within existing portals or applications. The fact of the matter is, most users, be they internal or customers, do not all possess the same levels of tech-savvy. Ask yourself how technical your users are, and what tasks will they be performing within the BI platform.
Most users will identify as either Business Users, Analysts, or Developers. It’s important you understand your audience, in order to ensure they’re able to analyze data in a manner that best suits their needs and skills. However, we don’t recommend isolating those whose user personas differ from the majority of your audience; it’s important you select a BI platform that is designed with more than simply the analyst (for example) in mind. Make sure your shortlist of BI platforms includes one that provides an adaptive-user experience; that is, one that empowers any user by auto-adapting the user experience to the user’s skills. In other words, a BI platform that allows you to have ultimate control over the entire BI process so that you can easily customize it to the unique needs of your team or organization at scale.
3. What Role Does Interactivity Play?
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then what value would you place on a picture you’re able to interact with, and truly immerse yourself in? The reality is, effective BI is all about empowering your business people to take action. And what better way to do so, than by having them interact directly with their data to find answers to their questions. This is why during your evaluation, it’s important you spend time assessing BI platforms that focus on perfecting how you interact with and visualize your data, over those that are more rooted in traditional data analysis processes.
Besides, most end-users want sexy dashboards and data visualizations, and you want to get them excited and increase your levels of adoption; especially when introducing new software. So give the people what they want!
The best data discovery tools will utilize smart visualizations, coupled with extreme interactivity to transform your data into stunning pixel-perfect dashboards and reports. To extract the most value from your BI investment, you’ll want a BI platform that takes your visual delivery to the next level, and gets your users engaged and interested in the message you’re trying to convey.
4. How Much Should A Vendor Support Me?
You’ll quickly learn that finding the best BI platform doesn’t always equate to finding one that checks off all the must-haves on your features checklist. Yes, that’s a huge factor, and you’ll obviously want one that meets your needs from a functionality standpoint, however, the real cherry on top comes from the support you receive from the vendor. While there’s no benchmark in terms of how much a vendor should support its customers, we firmly believe that a vendor who offers a personalized experience, from start to finish, with a team that’s dedicated to your success, every step of the way, is imperative to the overall success of your BI project.
Focus on evaluating vendors who place emphasis on partnering with you, and who are willing – literally and figuratively – to do whatever it takes to help you push the boundaries of their BI platform to achieve your objectives. The best BI vendors value relationships, and see the benefit behind optimizing your BI investment. Look for vendors who impart their expertise onto you, and who make sure you have the knowledge, skills, and support you need to reach your BI and analytics project and organizational goals.
At the end of the day, this is the difference maker. This is what will ensure you’re well-equipped to achieve a lasting competitive advantage.
5. Is It Worth It To Ask For A Demonstration?
Product demos. Some people hate them, some people love them. But whichever side of the fence you find yourself on, they are a critical component of the software evaluation process; especially if you’re considering investing in something as complex as a Business Intelligence platform.
Asking for a demonstration of the platform’s capabilities is a fantastic way to start your evaluation off on the right track. That being said, it’s not enough to simply watch a pre-recorded demo or attend a group session. What you need to do, is identify vendors who are willing to walk you through a personalized, live demo, with YOUR actual, real, currently-being-used data; a vendor with whom you can enjoy an open-ended and engaging discussion that’s tailored to your needs. Oh, and once you’ve set up your demo, be sure to include everyone (and I mean everyone) who will play a key role in deciding which BI platform you ultimately choose. This will allow users and stakeholders from different parties to ensure you’re collectively asking the right questions to best understand how the software will meet your business needs.
Selecting a Business Intelligence platform is not like choosing a chocolate bar from your local convenience store. The options may be plentiful, but the similarities stop there. These 5 questions aren’t the only ones you’ll need to ask, but they’ll set the foundation for the remainder of your evaluation, and will pave the way for your successful BI implementation.
About the Author
Jordan Zenko is the Community & Content Manager at Dundas Data Visualization. As Dundas’ resident (and self-proclaimed) story-teller, he authors in-depth content that educates developers, analysts, and business users on the benefits of business intelligence.Follow on Linkedin