Modern Business Intelligence platforms offer an expansive list of features that are aimed at providing users with the tools they need to produce actionable insights. Data has become vital to the business model in many ways, and as a result, organizations are digging deeper into their data than ever before. Vendors have taken this to heart, developing a slew of new capabilities and feature enhancements to try and market their software. An analytics solution is simply a means to an end, and that end is the production of noteworthy findings that give you an edge over the competition.
With this in mind, we outline the top questions you need to ask yourself before beginning your search for the tool that best fits your organization’s needs:
1. what do I have for data and what do I want to analyze?
Two questions that really need to be asked as one. Without a genuine understanding of each, you can expect a BI project to fail. Before implementation it is a good idea to do data profiling. Is your data structured or unstructured? Think about your primary data sources. Do you mainly pull data from a data warehouse, or does data stream into your company in real-time via social media channels and customer engagement? Big Data is no longer the exception, it’s the rule, so taking into account exactly the kinds of data that need analyzing is the key to selection.
2. Do I care about Big Data?
According to industry experts, there are 10 top sources of Big Data: Social network profiles, Social influencers, Activity-generated data, Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud applications, Public Data, Hadoop MapReduce application results, Data warehouse appliances, Columnar/NoSQL data sources, Network and in-stream monitoring technologies, and Legacy documents. While maybe not all relevant, there are certainly some nuggets in this pile that can be put to good use with the right BI solution. Don’t discount the Big Data hype.
3. Who will my Business Intelligence users be? Do they need to be a technical resource?
One of the many trends emerging in the Business Intelligence sector is the move toward self-service. Over the past 10 years some of the leading Software-as-a-Service players like Salesforce.com have empowered non-technical users with a wide-range of reporting tools. Similarly, many of the BI solutions in this buyers guide present the very compelling functionality of providing almost anyone the ability to create and access BI reports, queries, and analytics themselves—without the need for IT resources.
4. What size company do I want to work with?
The following list of business intelligence solution providers contains some of the largest technology companies in the world. It also contains young, small and aggressive companies that may bring a very different sales and service mindset to the table. Have an idea going into the buying cycle, which type of vendor you are interested in working with. Remember, the vendors you pick today, may be the partners you can’t live without in a few short years.
5. Do I want just a dashboard tool, or do I want a whole BI platform?
The category of Business Intelligence is evolving rapidly. Many solutions are now presenting full BI platforms offering everything from Data Integration, Database Storage and Data Modeling to even Mobile Application Development tools. Your organization may already have many of those elements already in place and you need a more basic presentation layer like a reporting/dashboard tool. There are lots of solutions for that as well. That said the value of a fully integrated platform that replaces all of those individually acquired data elements may be well worth evaluating during this buying cycle.
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