Choosing your Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics tool can be a lengthy process. There are countless vendors to choose from that all seem to offer similar features and make similar promises. How do you choose the right one for your organization, from the many? Here we’ve laid out the most important factors to take into consideration when vetting and selecting a business intelligence tool, so you can make the right choice for your organization.
Visual Functionality & Presentation -
When creating your data visualizations, is the tool easy to use and does it support a variety of user types? Does the data visualization software allow for the level of customization and flexibility that you need to support your objectives, and the requirements of the various functional groups in your organization? Your business intelligence reporting tool is the face of the whole operation. It’s what your users will refer to when making business decisions. So, while visuals may not seem all that important when choosing a BI tool, if your dashboards are difficult to create or to understand, or feature poor-quality visuals, then it will be infinitely more difficult to get people to actually use the tool in the first place.
Before selecting your BI tool, you need to figure out if you’re looking for a standalone solution, or an integrated solution. A standalone solution can only be accessed and viewed in its own application, whereas an integrated solution can be accessed and viewed through any pre-existing applications, websites, and services within your company. Integration allows you to put the benefits of BI directly into a service that your users already use and are familiar with.
Now, if you’ve decided to go with a standalone solution, you have your pick of the lot. Nearly every BI solution can operate as a standalone program. But the biggest problem you run into with standalone solutions, is that they have the lowest adoption rates. It all goes back to that old adage: out of sight, out of mind. Standalone solutions exist in a separate application that needs to be opened every time it’s used. And let’s be frank here, most people will forget. Integrated solutions bring your analytics tool forward to a location that can’t be ignored.
Integrated tools come in two types: partially integrated and fully integrated. And the difference between the two is important. While aesthetically, there isn’t much of a difference --both partially and fully integrated solutions will have the same basic look. Where the big difference lies is in data security; with partially integrated solutions being far less secure than fully integrated (to the point where they actually present a security risk to your company’s data).
If you choose to go with an integrated solution be sure to find out if that solution is partially or fully integrated. Most companies will advertise integration, but not specify.
Every organization is unique in its operations and needs, so you need to ensure you select a BI vendor that can accommodate your specific requirements – for today and in the future. Can the BI Vendor build a solution that fits with your business and data requirements? Is the solution flexible in that it can be extended or altered to meet future needs? Many vendors only provide minimal customization abilities, and some don’t even offer the ability to expand. While this might work for some companies, most will need a custom set-up –one that can integrate flawlessly into their operations, and grow as they grow. Business users can be very particular about the way they consume their data making customization and extensibility critical factors to take into account when selecting your BI vendor and tool.
A mobile BI tool is an easy, and powerful way to keep everyone connected. Mobility features are crucial to factor in for any company that has off-site workers, board members, or partners that need access to company data in order to be effective and informed. Determine what you need from your mobile BI application. Do your users need to simply view dashboards and reports, or also create or edit them on-the-go? Mobility has come far in the BI space, and more and more vendors are offering mobile solutions. Just be sure that they offer the features that are necessary for your operation’s success.
Training Requirements -
Any good quality BI tool will require some product training. This is all a part of the necessary investment you need to make in order to reap the full benefits of any BI solution. BI has the capacity to radically change your organization for the better, but only if you are willing to make the upfront investment in time and energy. Decide early on to take the time to train your users on the BI product, or risk missing out on some of the biggest benefits BI has to offer. Another thing you need to keep in mind is the quality and flexibility of the training offered. Does your vendor train both advanced business and technical users? Some vendors only offer training for the technical group, which means you now have to expend your own resources training your advanced business users. Look for a solution that trains all users, so your organization can gain the biggest rewards.
There are three major things to consider in regards to cost: subscriptions, growth, and hidden fees. Get the full details on all costs for your solution now, and as your needs change and grow. Does the vendor require quarterly or yearly subscriptions on top of any upfront costs? This is something that may not be advertised however may come into play later.
As your business grows and expands, so will your BI needs. Will the vendor allow you to scale your solution with a flexible pricing model? Are there any additional fees that aren’t listed in the pricing model, but necessary for full implementation or scale up of your BI reporting tool (ex. hardware, server use, development/testing environment etc.)? Make sure to find out what you will be spending on your BI solution up front to avoid any surprises in the future.
IT Support -
An easy way to make both your business and technical users happy is to go with a self-service BI tool. Self-service BI allows business users an easy BI experience; freeing up your IT department to focus on other tasks. Make sure that while your selection provides self-service capabilities, it still allows for IT to easily control the deployment and prevent “end-users chaos”. Not all users would want to use the self-service options (some will just be simple consumers) and not all users should have the same level of data access and control. Make sure your vendor also has a fully capable support team to accommodate any issues or questions your technical users may have.
You want to make sure you’re relying on an expert, flexible vendor who will help innovate solutions custom to your organization’s needs or problems. Vendor support teams that go above and beyond really make a difference to your entire BI experience.
A BI tool will radically improve your company’s operations, but only if it’s the right tool for your organization. This includes not only the product itself, but the training, support, and expertise your vendor provides for you. You can easily reap all of the benefits BI has to offer, by choosing the right BI vendor and reporting tool for your organization’s needs, today and in the future.
When considering your BI tool, we at Dundas are more than happy to provide you with all of the information you need to understand the full offerings of Dundas BI, our business intelligence and analytics tool. If you have any questions, or if you want to see if Dundas BI is the right fit for your organization, contact us today.