7 important questions to ask yourself before buying a BI solution

Published October 1, 2015   |   

Every industry is unique and has its share of complexities and challenges. Their customers are unique, they have different marketing methods, they have various services and products, different budgets and goals. Thus, the data being generated by every industry is unique. This data consists the jewels of information about various business processes and customers and is available in abundance in every sector. We live in the era of petabytes and Exabyte of data, and an enormous amount of data is created every day. It is not rocket science to understand that a company’s’ success is highly dependent on the appropriate utilization of the data they have.
A smart business intelligence solution that can quickly transform volumes of data into easily understandable graphical charts in real time is always a sound investment. Successful companies are already using such smart solutions, and many other businesses have joined this bandwagon. The issue is how to select a smart solution. The decision to buy a smart business intelligence solution highly depends on the limited budget and company’s’ goals and vision.
As you start looking for the best business intelligence solution, you will be met with various confusing terms that include data analytics, data mining, predictive modeling, clustering, and visualization. So to reap value out of this effort, you must first know what you want. It can be a whole package that encompasses all of the terms mentioned above or just parts of it depending on your company’s need.
Below are the seven important questions you should ask before selecting a business intelligence solution.

1. What kind of data do I have and what do I want to analyze?

These may look like two different questions, but we need to take them as one. Because they co-exist and ignoring any one of them can result in a massive business failure. It’s a good practice to do data profiling before starting the BI project. It is advisable to have data cleaned and arranged as any shortfall in data can lead to the incorrect information thus jeopardizing the whole BI effort.
A smart business intelligence solution can help in improved sales and marketing efforts. Also, it can be used to identify cost-cutting opportunities and forecast costs and profits. For this to materialize, a company should have the appropriate data and a clear idea of what they want out of their business intelligence project.

2. Who are the users of Business Intelligence solution in my company? Technical or non-technical?

Business intelligence industry is swiftly moving towards self-service BI. Companies are more inclined to put business owners in charge of data rather than having an IT person handle it for them as this mode of working provide autonomy and ensures quick actions in any situation. Over past couple of years, many BI companies have put non-technical users in charge of BI solutions and enabled them to create and access BI reports, queries, and analytics themselves without the need for IT resources.

3. If only Dashboard, then do I need a pre-built application playbook or do I need to build one from scratch?

Pre-built applications playbooks are made differently for every industry keeping in mind their specific requirements in terms of metrics and KPIs. These are off the shelf products that are ready to use and requires 60% less time to be deployed compared to building a dashboard from scratch. Also, it’s pretty easy to add on additional dashboards on a pre-built dashboard environment. However pre-built applications have its limitations, as they may not be able to cover all the KPIs. In such cases, it is advisable to have a solution built from scratch to fit the company’s requirements. Companies such as QlikView, EzDataMunch, Domo, and Tableau are the pioneers in providing pre-built applications and customized dashboards.

4. Should I go with a cloud solution or on-premise solution?

Cloud computing is the buzzword in every CIO meeting as more and more companies are opting for cloud-based services so how can BI stay away from this clot. There is a significant distinction between Cloud-based model and on-premise licensing model. The essential difference is that cloud BI solution takes less time to implement. It is highly scalable, cost-efficient and can be accessed from anywhere in the world by just logging in to the web portal. Whereas on-premise license based solution involves a high upfront cost for infrastructure and then yearly maintenance also the implementation period can take a lot of time and money. It entirely depends on a company’s perspective of what suits them best.

5. Do I need a whole BI stack or a Dashboard tool will work for me?

Business intelligence solution has multiple categories. Many solutions come in the form of completely built BI platform offering Data integration, data storage, data modeling and even mobile application development tools. Your company may not need all of them, as you must be having few of them in place already. So, all you may need is a comprehensive and easily customizable presentation layer like a dashboard or reporting tool. Many companies specialize in providing dashboard tools. It all depends on the kind of value you see in this investment, your perception of the solution and your goals.

6. Should I be using Big Data?

Top big data sources are: Hadoop Map Reduce application results, Public data, Social influencers, Social network profiles, Cloud applications, Activity generated data, Data warehouse appliances, Network and in-stream monitoring technologies and legacy data. A company may not have all of these sources. However, there are some nuggets in the pile, and any data is good data thus Big Data should not be discounted.

7. What size of the company I need to work with?

The answer to this question largely depends on company’s vision and budget. It is said that 50 to 70% of IT budget is spent on maintaining existing technology platforms. This leaves very less room in any company to go for substantial investment. However, there are many vendors out there ranging from large conglomerates to small vendors. There are also young, small and aggressive companies with a fresh perspective that might bring a new mindset to the table.