Business Intelligence tools have become the go-to solution when urgent decision-making is required thanks to their ability to provide in-depth data analysis quickly and in a consumable format. As the amount of business data continues to multiply and the pace of business seems only to increase, the need to manipulate and analyze data in an easy-to-use tool is undeniable. Fortunately, self-service BI tools enable users throughout the business to create unique dashboards and run their own reports whenever the need arises.
According to a Capterra, the most common features used by the majority of businesses include data analysis, data visualization, ad hoc analysis, dashboards, ad hoc query tools, ad hoc reports, KPIs and performance metrics. However, your business needs will vary. When searching for the right solution, it’s critical to know your goals and objectives from the beginning. BI solutions range widely in regard to the specific functionalities they provide. Maintaining clear objectives will enable you to narrow your search more quickly.
Top 5 Tips When Choosing a BI Solution
Data management is at the core of everything you want to accomplish with a BI tool, and there are many variables to consider when thinking about data and a BI solution. Be sure that the tool you choose supports access to multiple data sources, including data warehouses, internal databases, the cloud and data marts. Depending on the disparate sources you are using, your tool may also need to cleanse and transform the data for proper use within its system.
Find out whether the platform must import data into its own store before processing it, or if it can process data queries on the fly. The answer to this question could have a significant impact on the speed at which you can access your data. Ensure that the tool enables data manipulation once imported and find out what the limitations are on data capacity, so you can make an informed decision about whether the solution will work for you.
Data visualization is what makes your analyses come to life. Be sure dashboards are configurable and incorporate dynamic, real-time information. Some tools provide multiple graphical options and interactivity such as drill-down capabilities. You will want the ability to demonstrate points of impact visually. Look for flexibility in presentation options and engaging graphic visualization capabilities including heat maps, geographical mapping and multiple chart styles.
Reporting is one of the most used BI features. The ability to share output in a useful format is critical, so confirm there is a high level of design appeal within reports as well as in dashboards. Intelligent data visualization with machine learning capabilities is an added value as it will save you time on frequently run reports. Choose BI tools that are not dependent on your IT department and that makes it easy to customize reporting for different viewers.
Usability and adoption rate are critical success factors that often don’t get the consideration they deserve. While ease-of-use, visual appeal, and intuitiveness may seem like nice-to-haves vs. need-to-haves, those user experience nuances can make the difference between successful user adoption and a refusal by employees to use the new system. Check with the vendor on the availability of product training.
Vendors focused on high-quality performance will deliver frequent updates to their platform so check their recent history of releases, new features and enhancements. Be sure integration with other applications is easy to implement and seamless for your users. Open APIs are ideal.
Access & Security is non-negotiable for today’s mobile workforce and should provide a high speed of access and real-time updates. Full functionality and a mobile-friendly design are needed for users to reap the full benefit of the tool. Ensure your tool offers portability and accessibility across all necessary devices.
Security features are related primarily to internal security concerns such as access credentials. Ensure there are flexible options for department leaders to set permissions necessary for protecting sensitive or proprietary information. These credentialing capabilities ensure that secure data cannot be accessed, transmitted or modified by unauthorized users.
Pricing options play a huge role in purchasing decisions. Fortunately, there are various pricing models available. Research your options and be clear on the lifetime cost of a subscription service vs. a licensing model. Think about your ability to pay high upfront costs or ongoing maintenance. Your deployment model will affect your overall cost depending on whether you choose an on-premises or cloud-based solution. An on-premises solution will generate added costs such as physical space and additional human resources to manage and maintain operations.
There are many other factors to consider that will be specific to your business requirements. Performing your own evaluation based on your unique needs is crucial. Your BI tool should be flexible enough to handle your changing flow of business needs. Choose a solution that is scalable and will last at least ten years.
Take a deep dive into more detailed considerations and read recommendations for specific questions to ask when evaluating BI tools. Download SelectHub’s Free Buyer’s Guide, “How to Buy Business Intelligence Software.”
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