What makes a BI solution enterprise-ready? Or, by the same token, what warning signs tell you immediately that your BI won’t cope with the complex needs of a large and rapidly growing organization — and should send you fleeing for the hills?
The offerings of BI solutions for enterprises vary wildly, but whether you’re using an on-premise version or an enterprise BI cloud solution, there are some common factors you absolutely must watch out for.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.
What Does Gartner Say?
Let’s start with the industry’s preeminent authority on the matter: Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.
To figure out how well equipped for the task each enterprise BI platform is, Gartner looks at how well it performs in the following areas: key use cases, infrastructure, data management, data analysis and content creation, how findings are shared, and overall product capabilities.
Key Use Cases
The most important questions to ask here are:
- Does the BI platform have self-contained data management capabilities that offer agile, centralized BI provisioning and a streamlined workflow?
- Can individual business units and users gather their own self-service analytics?
- Does the solution facilitate governed data discovery?
- Can it be embedded into the customer’s own products and technology?
- Can access then be granted to external customers, too?
It’s essential that any enterprise-grade BI solution has a robust system in place for user administration and security, as well the underlying architecture to audit access, optimize performance, and ensure high availability and disaster recovery.
What’s more, it should be capable of connecting to and ingesting all kinds of structured and unstructured data sources and working with all kinds of data storage systems, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
Users should be able to make use of a common SOR semantic model and manage metadata easily — including tools for searching, capturing, storing, reusing, and publishing metadata objects like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics, dimensions, hierarchies, measures, report layout objects, and parameters. Admins should be able to mash up their data and metadata however they want to draw out the insights they need.
Next up, enterprise business intelligence software should really come with built-in capabilities for self-contained data storage and ETL functions, allowing you to index and refresh your data quickly and easily, too.
The biggest issue here, though, is the ability to prepare your data for analysis without having to run to IT at every step. Intuitive, genuinely self-service data preparation tools are crucial, especially when it comes to combining disparate data sources and building your own analytic models and reports.
Analysis and Content Creation
How engaging and well-connected is the front end of your BI solution? To make the grade, enterprise BI should allow you to build your own interactive dashboards, use advanced, embedded analytics to manipulate data however you want — and access it from anywhere, including mobile devices.
The visuals on offer should also go way beyond simple pie and bar charts — you should be able to create beautiful, interactive tree, heat and geographic maps, scatter plots, and so on, too. Ideally, you’ll even be able to make use of smart data discovery tools and innovative tools like natural language processing to engage with the results as seamlessly as possible.
How Findings are Shared
How easy is it to embed or integrate your BI solution with your company’s broader technology architecture? Can users access content from outside the application easily enough, without switching whole systems? Is extensive support on hand, including software developer kits with APIs, to help you figure it out?
Plus, once you’ve drawn out the insights or generated the reports you need, is there a straightforward way to publish, distribute, collaborate on, and discuss this with your colleagues?
Overall Platform Capabilities
Finally, does your BI solution bind everything together in a single package that’s easy to use, deploy and administer… or are all your tools scattered across lots of different, hard-to-integrate products?
6 Big Red Flags
Whoa, a lot to consider, right? To recap, let’s now run through six crucial issues that should help you eliminate an unworthy enterprise BI platform from the running, post haste!
1. You’re Stuck With the Same Few Reports
To merit your investment, your enterprise business intelligence software must offer the flexibility to let you build dashboards however you want them, mashing up data sources at will and running ad hoc queries with up-to-date information in near to real time.
2. You Sacrifice Granularity for Sharp Graphics
You should never have to choose between gorgeous visualizations and the detail behind the data. Your BI platform should give you the headline numbers and trends, but also the capacity to dive beyond these, right down to a granular level, to ensure you understand exactly the context and process that led you here.
3. You Need IT to Handle Every Query
To turn around the business-critical insights you need while this information is still hot, you’ll have to be able to do most of it yourself. That means opting for genuinely self-service BI that gives non-techie users intuitive ways to connect up data and frame queries, without turning to IT at every step.
4. You’re Limited to a Handful of Data Sources
Multiple data sources are now the norm, and you never know where your next source of vital insights will be. Your BI system should be powerful enough to handle all kinds of SQL and unstructured data sources, with plenty of connectors and integrations on offer to centralize this seamlessly for a single version of the truth.
5. It Buckles Under Too Much Data
Scalability is everything. Unless you have a magical gold-egg-laying-goose, your budget presumably doesn’t stretch to endless new hardware as big data gets more humongous every day. Invest in a BI solution with smart systems in place to ensure fast, unfettered access to your entire data store without ever grinding to a halt.
6. Customer Service Is Lacking
To get the most out of any enterprise-level technology, you will need in-depth customer support from your provider. That means having a dedicated customer success manager on hand to help you translate your business goals into the best possible use of the product – or, at the very least, plenty of guidance and documentation for your own developers to figure out how best to deploy and integrate the system.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, though, choosing the right enterprise business intelligence software for your business boils down to selecting a platform that gives you the freedom to query whatever kind of data you want, however you want, at whatever volumes you want, wherever you want.
And as ambitious as that sounds, there’s no need to settle for anything less.