Evaluate & Choose the Right BI Analytics Tool(s) for your Project – Part 1

Last updated on December 14th, 2021 at 8:26 am by Lin Zhu


A Few Things to Consider When Choosing A BI Analytics Tool(s)

In today’s competitive environment proper BI (Business Intelligence) analytics tools are a necessity for a successful company. They assist in effective decision making, automate previously manual processes, and allow the company to focus on analyzing data and defining KPIs to improve business results. This will identify ways to increase operation efficiency and drive revenues.

BI tools also assist companies in early identification of business trends and threats, allowing them to respond quickly to the rapidly changing competitive environment and consumer behaviors.

Choosing your Business Intelligence Analytics tool can be a lengthy process – there are many tools to choose from that all seem to offer similar features. How do you choose the right one for your company’s needs and unique situation?  Below are some of the things to consider when choosing the BI analytics tool(s).

Understand Your Business Needs

Often there is pressure to deploy a new tool as soon as possible, leading to one of the most frequent and impactful mistakes: Getting a tool without carefully analyzing what the specific needs are. The result is significant resources wasted on a tool that doesn’t fulfill your company’s needs. In addition, you still won’t have a tool that works for you!

Business intelligence tools combine a broad set of data analysis applications, including ad hoc analysis, data discovery, enterprise reporting and dashboard functionality, mobile BI, cloud analytics, etc. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.  Keeping that in mind, you should ask yourself: What does the company plan to accomplish with the new BI tool? What features are required; can a standard tool be modified to fit the specific needs of the company?

The needs of the company and the business requirements should be clearly defined and communicated with the vendors who offer the tools. Does a given tool offer the flexibility and functionality needed? If not, is there any workaround? Is it a “must-have” feature of the tool? If the functionality is not available right away, is the provider/developer willing to update the tool to implement those features? Run through different use-case scenarios with the vendor’s tool to ensure the functionality you need is there.

Know Your Target Audience and Get User Buy-In for the BI Tools

IT departments can have a tendency to purchase BI tools without first getting buy-in from the employees who are ultimately going to use them.  It is a mistake to assume employees will use the new BI tool(s) just because the company is implementing them. Adoption is critical: the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not utilized, and no amount of training and promotion will convince people to use them if they don’t feel they can get results using the tools.

Understand the end user’s needs and expectations of the tool(s). Explain practical constraints related to the decision, e.g. cost and scalability, and involve them in the decision making of the tool selection. Listen to their feedback. Instead of telling employees they have to use something, help them understand how it will enable them to do their job better. Clearly articulate the value proposition. This will increase the adoption rates.

Understand the type of audience to which the use cases apply and how that influences the choice. Different departments and users from a variety of backgrounds may have differing needs and may require a different approach to “sell” the new tool to them; as mentioned earlier, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Integration

Before selecting your BI tool, you also need to take integration challenges into consideration. This is one of the biggest challenges when implementing a new BI tool. It requires careful planning and thorough testing. This aspect is often underestimated and can lead to total failure. If the new BI tool is not compatible with your internal systems, or it doesn’t get the data from the systems the way it’s supposed to, the whole BI tool can become an expensive mistake. Frequent downtime due to errors, problems with data synchronization, etc. can bring your company to a screeching halt.

An integrated solution can be accessed and viewed through existing applications, websites, and services within the company. A successful integration allows you to put the benefits of BI directly into applications/devices that the users already use and are familiar with such as Excel, enterprise portal, mobile devices and business systems like an ERP.

Understand how the use case is applied in the current environment. Is there an existing process? If any reports already exist, look at these reports and see how they are being used. Understand data requirements for the reports and how they are being supported by the back-end.

Mobility

Mobility features are an important feature nowadays. Off-site employees, executive leadership, etc. need access to company data at any time anywhere in order to be effective and informed. You need to determine what you need from your mobile BI application. Do your users need to simply view dashboards and reports, or do they need the ability to create and edit them on-the-go? Mobility has come far in the BI space, and more and more BI tools are offering mobile features. You need to make sure it can be incorporated into your company’s overall mobility strategy.

Training

Many companies exhaust their BI budgets on software licenses and implementation, and training is often overlooked and undervalued. Any BI tool requires some level of product training. This is all a part of the necessary investments you need to make in order to reap the full benefits of any BI solution. If your employees don’t know how to properly use the tool they won’t use it at all or will not use it correctly, causing unnecessary errors and downtime. Ongoing training is necessary so that users become familiar and comfortable with the system and learn about new features that might get added.

Decide early on how much time and resources are needed to train your users on the BI tool(s). Can you conduct the training internally, or do external consultants/trainers have to conduct it? Do you need to train casual users, advanced business and technical users? Does the tool offer robust features but has a steep learning curve? There is always a learning curve associated with a new software implementation but if the learning curve is too steep it may have a negative impact on adoption rates.

Conclusion

A good BI tool can improve your company’s operations, support analytic needs, and decision-making. Addressing the key points above will help you to choose the right BI tool for your company and ensure a successful implementation.

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