Choosing the right business intelligence (BI) solution for your company can be overwhelming. There are niche solutions, general solutions and everything in between. Some BI providers specialize in certain industries, business sizes or even job roles.
To muddle things further, many vendors offer solutions that are of outstanding quality, which makes objectively choosing the ‘best’ solution just a bit of a challenge. In this blog we will explore five key criteria you should consider when deciding on a new BI solution for your business.
1. Which challenges are you looking to solve?
The first step to ensure your BI project will succeed is to determine which pain points you would like to “relieve.” This step demands ongoing communication with the members of your business who will be using the software. Often discovering which pain points you’d like to solve is a process; through discussion and collaboration what is possible new and valuable ideas can emerge.
There is nothing worse – for client and vendor, both – than being promised the world, only to discover upon implementation that the BI solution cannot do what your team had hoped it would. Having a clear idea of the challenges you would like to solve within your business allows you to ultimately request from the vendor a proof of concept (PoC) that relates directly to your business and its growth.
2. Who will use the solution?
It is essential to identify those employees who will use the solution. Consider asking questions like:
- What job roles do they fill?
- What’s the extent of their technological skills?
- Do they typically work from the office – or do they travel?
- What type of device do they typically work from: laptop, smart phone, or tablet?
Your answers to these questions will help determine what requisite capabilities you need from a BI solution. Are you looking for a solution specifically for your sales department? Or would you like a solution that can also benefit other teams (e.g., executive or inventory teams)?
Assessing the technological skillset of your intended BI users, as well as the amount of time they have to sit down and learn about the new solution, will further influence which BI solution you may consider. Some solutions, while simple for your IT team, may appear complicated to non-technical employees. In that case, choosing a solution that intuitively analyzes data and which does not require extensive training may be the way to go.
You may also want to think about how your intended users prefer to work. If they often travel, choosing a solution that can only be used at the office may not make much sense. Similarly, if you are anticipate your warehouse manager tracking inventory with the BI solution, it might be worth considering a solution that can be used on a tablet, bringing BI to the warehouse floor and obviating the need to return to his desk for every new query.
3. Does the vendor understand your industry?
One of the most overlooked criteria when choosing a BI solution is whether the vendor understands your industry. This does not mean that the vendor must have designed a niche product focused exclusively on your industry, but rather that the vendor can prove it has successfully worked with businesses similar to yours.
Obviously, the better the vendor understands your business needs, the better its BI solution can analyze what you need it to analyze. For example, a solution focused on SaaS businesses is unlikely to understand the needs of a food and beverage wholesaler. However, a vendor that has experience with your industry will likely “have the goods” and may even suggest metrics or means to use the solution that you had not considered.
A good place to start investigating a vendor’s familiarity with your type of business is to read the case studies or success stories each BI software vendor places on its website. Such case studies will tell you which industries the vendor has worked with in the past, how the solution has helped the relevant businesses, and often include direct quotes from the customers. Checking case studies is a good way to quickly tell whether a solution would be relevant to your company.
4. What do current business intelligence users have to say?
Lastly, you want to ensure you know how current users of the BI solution rate their experience. While case studies provide valuable information about how a vendor has worked with its customers, these reviews provide a hands-on and current evaluation of the customer’s experience with the solution.
You can look for reviews on sites like Better Buys, as well as third-party reviews like those on BARC. When you read them, note whether the customer found the solution easy to use, valuable to his or her job role, and whether the vendor delivered what it promised.
5. Choose the right BI solution for your business
After you have mapped out your pain points, considered who will use the solution, and found a solution that knows your industry and has excellent reviews, it’s time to request that PoC from the vendor. Once you’ve engaged relevant stakeholders, (e.g., project managers, executives and end-users) to get their input on what they need to see in a BI solution, you solicit those vendor candidates to see which can best deliver a practical solution that satisfies all parties.
If one vendor gains consensus from the team, your decision has been made. Welcome to the brave new world of digital BI.
Once you have made your choice, implemented the solution, and started to investigate trends in your business data, you can start making data-driven decisions and reap benefits like increased sales, lower operation costs and improved workforce efficiencies.