As your business grows, you’ll feel the need to use a Business Intelligence Solution to gain meaningful insights from your data and grow faster. BI Tools enable you to monitor your day-to-day operations and get actionable business intelligence to find new growth areas. But how do you choose a BI solution that drives your business to greater heights?
Here are 5 Factors you should consider while evaluating Business Intelligence Solutions for your organization:
1. Scalability Costs
Typically, organizations license a BI solution that meets their current needs, but don’t plan for future growth. As a result, these solutions become prohibitively expensive as your organization grows over time.
Today, your license allows you to analyze 1 millions rows of data. How much more will you need to pay when your data grows to 10 million rows, 1 year from now ?
Today, your BI solution is being used only by a 3 member IT team. How much more will you need to pay when hundreds of employees start using it?
I’ve seen businesses face a lot problems with rising fees incurred due to additional user licenses, more data, extra infrastructure, distribution fees, customer support charges and more. They licensed a solution with low initial cost, but it spiraled out of control as they grew. After having invested so much time, money & resources into such a solution, it becomes unaffordable after a point.
This doesn’t mean you should purchase all the licenses you’ll ever need, beforehand. But you must find out how the pricing changes as you add more users, or your data grows, or in case you need training & support. Once you start using a BI solution and find it useful, others in your company will surely want to use it too. Before you purchase a license, don’t forget to inquire pricing for a couple of future scenarios as well, to ensure that costs will be always under control.
2. Self-Service Capabilities
When an organization decides to adopt a BI tool, it’s the IT team that helps setup up the solution, learns how to use it and creates the initial set of reports. However, it’s the business users who use your BI solution on a day-to-day basis. So the BI solution needs to have self-service capabilities that allows end-users to analyze data and customize existing BI assets (such as reports, dashboards, charts) on their own, without depending on IT. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait for IT, every time they need to change something. This not only means slow turn around time but also increased IT workload.
Not every BI tool is truly self-service. As you start using them, you’ll realize that most tools needs a certain amount of coding or technical knowledge. Before you adopt a BI solution, go through the build process in detail. A true self-service BI tool is not just about stunning dashboards that are easy to use but need to be built by technical experts first. It should require no programming or technical expertise at any stage of BI cycle – whether you’re analyzing data, creating reports, sharing results, or collaborating with others.
Businesses constantly grow and evolve, so you’ll to need to build more analysis and reports, or modify the existing ones, sometime or the other. Ensure that your BI solution allows end users to do this on their own.
It’s the job of a BI tool to give you meaningful insights about every aspect of your business. So, naturally, it should play nice with other software and systems used in your organization.
I’ve seen businesses struggle for over a year trying to integrate a BI tool, before giving up on it and trying something else. The point of using BI tools is to quickly get actionable insights and make decisions, not spend months just to set it up. A good BI tool should be able to seamlessly integrate with your existing data sources and systems, or at least complement them.
So it’s essential to find out how easily you can integrate a solution with your existing systems before you buy.
4. Customization options
Your business is unique. It will have its own business rules and reporting requirements. So you’ll need a BI solution that can be customized enough to fit your organization.
Analytics & Reporting are only as good as the data and business rules that generate it. Before you license a BI solution, ensure you understand how customizable it is. Here are some of the questions you can ask the vendor:
- How easily can you customize the output? You may need to customize the report layout to fit more charts, or use a map instead of a table, or change formatting as per your organization’s branding. Sometimes you may need to make fine-grain customizations such as font size and color. Does the BI tool allow such changes?
- You’ll need to publish reports in various formats to send as email, create presentations or use in some other in-house software. Can you export dashboards as PDF and excel?
- How can you create custom business rules in it ? Every business runs on many custom rules – it can be to calculate revenue, credit sales, set targets, calculate operational KPIs and more. Will the BI solution allow you to build custom data analysis for your business?
- Does it allow for white-labelling?
5. Available Data Sources
Today’s data-driven businesses rely on multiple data sources to run successfully. So it’s important to find out if the BI solution supports the different data sources used by your organization. It may support your current database, but what happens when you add another one in future?
Sometimes, you may need to migrate to a different data source due to scalability issues or because of prohibitive storage costs. What changes would you need to make in your BI tool to work with the new data source?
Here are some of the questions you can ask the vendor:
- What data sources does the BI tool support?
- How easy is it to migrate from one data source to another? Would you need to rebuild all your analysis and reports, if you migrate?
- What new data sources do they plan to support in future?
These are just a few important things to consider while evaluating a BI solution. The key is to choose an easy-to-setup, easy-to-use BI tool that offers flexibility and a wide range of customization features; one that enables your business to grow faster without disrupting its existing processes and workflows.
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