Business Intelligence Tools

10 Questions to Ask While Evaluating Business Intelligence Tools

Business Intelligence Tools

10 Questions to Ask While Evaluating Business Intelligence Tools

The organizations which make data-driven decisions are fast to act on changing business dynamics, can focus on key performance areas better, and bring systematic measurements across the organization removing chaos and wasted efforts.

Transactional systems like ERP, CRM, HRMS help organizations streamline their day-to-day operations with transaction data capture capabilities, pre-defined workflows, and controls. The reporting in these applications is useful for the day-to-day functioning of the users.

However, management and decision-makers need to look at the big picture to make decisions that span across longer periods and have a profound impact on a business’s direction in the future, impacting both top and bottom lines for the organization, employee productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Business Intelligence Tools play a pivotal role in achieving this by bringing the information from the transactional systems and putting it forward in an actionable presentation format.

With a lot of Business Intelligence tools being offered right from small startups to big software vendors, deciding which tool to choose is a critical activity as it would support your decision-making for years to come.

Evaluating Business Intelligence Tools

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Here are a Few Things Which Might Help You Fine-Tune Your Choices:

1. Ease Of Getting Data From Multiple Data Sources

In today’s world, most organizations have multiple systems and sources of data. Some companies prefer to go with one vendor but most of the companies go with the best-of-the-breed approach and have multiple applications from many different vendors.

The Business Intelligence tool should have out of box integrations with the most used applications. This fast-tracks your development significantly reducing efforts and learning curve in integrating systems.

In addition, the tool should be able to pull data not only from databases but also from files, cloud storage such as google drive, cloud databases, REST APIs, and so on. This ensures you are not limited to sources from where you can get data.

2. Availability Of Deployment Options (On-Cloud & On-Premises)

BI offerings in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) model are the fastest way to get started as you do not have to deal with hardware procurement, software installations, security arrangements, and other administrative tasks. The data is pulled from both your on-premises as well as cloud sources and all the work happens in cloud-only.

3. Interactive Visual Exploration

Great visualizations such as KPIs, Trends, Comparative charts help one get quick a grasp of the business situation. A good analyst can build great stories using visualization which helps the users to logically navigate through decision making.

Along with charts, tabular presentation of data, ability to drill down, ability to export underlying data are all critical requirements.

4. Mobile Accessibility

Information must be available to users at right time no matter where they are. Hence all the great visualizations, dashboards built must be available on mobile devices as well with ease like desktops and laptops.

In addition, one must be able to schedule and send the reports and dashboards as email either on schedule or on a particular triggering event.

5. Publishing Analytic Content

Although the beautiful visualizations look great in the browser or on mobile, in day-to-day working, these reports are also required in different formats such as Excel, PDF, PowerPoint, etc. for different reasons. This increases access of the data to the end-users dramatically and reduces duplication of work in re-creating these reports in different formats.

6. Governance & Meta Data Management

The reports and dashboards access may require user authentication but what is more important is how easily data authorization is maintained. The tool must be able to support setting up data authorization (who can see which data) dynamically based on the data itself. With various compliance requirements, the tool should be able to support both column and row-level security for all the data in the reporting tool

7. Vendor Reputation

There are quite a few large as well as small vendors offering BI tools. Although it is not required that the vendor should be a large software vendor, it is important that the vendor you are considering has a global presence, support organization, a good community of developers and must have ratings from leading analysts such as Gartner, Forrester, etc.

8. Availability of 3rd Party Resources

It is important that the tool is easy enough and have a self-service BI capability. But often, you would need expert help at least in the beginning to help you set up the BI for your organization and get you running using best practices. So, it is important to ensure there is a partner community that can help you implement and support the tool. It is also important to go for a tool that uses common technologies such as SQL instead of the vendor’s proprietary language.

9. Advanced Capabilities

For many SMBs, getting good interactive reports and dashboards with the ability to drill down are good enough features which they can utilize effectively for their business. However, with the advancement of technology and wide adoption of the cloud, even SMBs can take the benefit of artificial intelligence for predictive analysis as well as natural language queries, which can help you get results without writing a single line of code.

10. Pricing

If you are a small organization with a limited number of users, going with a per-user license can be beneficial, however as you grow, going for bulk pricing can be cost-effective. You would want to check with the vendor what pricing plans they have, to accommodate your future growth and requirement of additional licenses.

Before doing this, one should very diligently identify usage patterns in the organization. E.g., who would be the creators of most of the reports (IT/ Data Analyst etc.), who would need the ability to build their own reports (Power Users) for ad-hoc analysis, and who would just consume canned reports and dashboards. This would help you ask for role-specific pricing, which can differ significantly.

We hope this helps you in narrowing down on a selection of Business Intelligence & Analytics tool for your organization.

Image source: Freepik

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