For a long time, Business Intelligence (BI) was the specialized domain belonging to your company’s statistics expert. However, in the last few years, we’ve seen an exponential growth in BI tools for the enterprise, meaning that in theory, anyone can gain real-time, actionable insights. Whether you’re a sales person, a CIO or a cattle farmer, the use of real-time data is changing how all kinds of industries work.
There’s been a lot of hype around BI and there are now a bewildering number of BI tools on the market. Choosing the right one will mean your colleagues can become more productive, work smarter and avoid waste. Choosing the wrong one will mean your colleagues are more confused than ever, which could result in them failing to adopt the tool and losing you time and money. So, how do you choose the right BI tool for your company?
It’s All About Strategy
Coming to a decision about which is the right tool for you will be much easier if you develop a strategy to narrow down the list of options and discover the best solution for you.
1. Be Clear About Your Requirements
When you invest in any new enterprise productivity software, it’s essential to have a clear idea of your requirements. This involves a series of sub-steps:
a. Build a list of needs
Your ‘needs’ list should be fairly short and specific and outline your most pressing requirements. Perhaps you need something that’s mobile ready? Something that can be embedded in your external website? Or something that can draw in data from X,Y or Z data source?
b. Build a list of wants
The ‘wants’ list can be as long as you like. Perhaps you want a tool that can be white-labelled to fit your corporate brand, for instance. Perhaps you’d like the graphs and charts to be interactive.
c. Work out your budget
This of course depends on the number of users per month. You need to have a good understanding of who in your organization will be using the BI tool and how many licenses you’ll need.
d. Work out who in your business will be using the tool
This will tell you the context in which they’re going to need it. Some companies will want a desktop BI tool, others need something that’s mobile and cloud based. At this stage, you need to speak to end users and find out their most pressing wants and needs from BI in their day-to-day work.
e. Work out what you plan to use the tool for
Do your sales people need BI on the road? Will store employees be helping customers interact with data on-screen? Having a clear idea of use cases will narrow down which kinds of tools are appropriate. Bear in mind that sometimes more ‘limited’ but less expensive tools will do everything you need – you don’t need the complexity of Photoshop if your users can get their work done in MS Paint (and vice versa). The same goes for BI.
2. Narrow Down Your Options
Armed with your requirements list, you should now be able to cut down a lot of BI tools out there. Some won’t correspond with your needs; some will be over budget; a lot will meet your basic needs but none of your wants; some will be purely desktop focused, only configured with a limited number of data sources not relevant to you. Narrow down your list to four or five contenders and then begin a deeper comparison.
3. How to Choose From Your Finalists?
Once you have your top contenders, now is the time to really begin comparing their strengths and weaknesses. So which kinds of things should you look out for?
- Are they ‘future focused’? You might have found a great provider. However, if it’s not clear what their plan is going forward, that should raise an eyebrow. A roadmap or a clear indication of where the company are planning to take their platform should be what you’re looking for. Do they currently only provide a desktop tool? Will this be expanded to include mobile any time soon? Are they planning to increase connections with more data sources in the near future?
- Do they have a large user base? Simply put, the wider the user base, the more likely you’ll find support and advice online.
- Is documentation, support and guidance available and up to date? Are there forums where you can ask questions from an active community?
4. Evaluate Features
Go back to your list of needs and wants. How does the product feature list compare with your needs and wants? What’s missing and what additional benefits does it offer?
5. Try a Free Download
Most providers will offer some kind of free download where you can test the product, explore how it works and see if it’s the right tool for you. This should help concretize your final decision.