How to Choose the Right Business Intelligence (BI) Software Tool

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    There’s not much debate that Business Intelligence (BI) tools have a profound effect on the way businesses analyze data and make decisions.

    The value of reviewing consolidated information from all systems company-wide provides a more accurate picture of the health of an organization rather than looking at siloed informatioxn one piece at a time. Essentially you have no way to ‘see the forest through the trees’ with that approach. So then the question becomes, “How do I identify which BI tool will be most useful and cost-effective, as well as easy to implement, customize, and maintain?”

    If you are currently researching BI tools, the best first step is to determine specific requirements for your company. Once you have those well documented, then it’s useful to take advantage of free trials, schedule proof of concept calls and research tool reviews on trusted sites, (e.g. Capterra, G2 Crowd, etc.).

    It’s important to keep in mind that your needs may evolve in the future, so flexibility of the tool may be on your priority list, along with how adept the company’s customer service and technical support capabilities will be to support your immediate and future needs.

    Priorities to Consider Adding to Your Requirements Short List

    Integration options should be at the crux of your decision-making process. The true value of BI relies entirely on getting disparate data currently housed in multiple systems into the new BI tool. If there are limitations or heavy development work is required, either at the get-go, down the line as you add more data from more systems, or worse… both – that will slow return on your investment and hinder value and results. Look for tools that have at least 100+ connectors, that are continually adding more with popular systems, and that are as close to ‘click to connect’ as possible.

    Be sure to look for solutions that enable APIs to gather data in real-time. Having the benefit of up-to-the-minute information is far more effective than looking at data that is out of date, if only by a day. You will want an automated data refresh capability that empowers you to customize and set the dashboard publication schedule.

    Your dashboards should be collaborative and easily accessed from any browser in any operating system via laptop, tablet or mobile phone. The tool should enable you to create groups of users and share your dashboards and reports based on assigned parameters. In the ClicData interface, for example, you can easily do this by publishing dashboards and embedding them in other websites or web applications.

    Ease of use is a strong indicator of how quickly and how systematically a new solution will be adopted into your organization, thus determining your ROI. Drag-and-drop interfaces are instantly understood by users and provide a simple method for connecting to data located both on-premise and in the cloud.

    Customizing dashboards to suit specific requirements is also critical. Look for tools that provide easy customization of your various dashboard needs. In ClicData, for example, you have access to more than 50 visualization widgets that empower your users to customize dashboards for different areas of the business or client needs.

    Global companies may even want to consider the need to select the location of your data center. This option is necessary if you want to host your data overseas, for example.

    Understand pricing models and commitments. Some vendors offer flexible subscription-based pricing while others may require annual licenses based on number of admin and general user seats. Be diligent about uncovering details of required add-on work such as integrations, customizations, additional hardware requirements, etc.

    Plan ahead for potential use cases you may want to implement in months or years to come. Sure, that requires maybe a little more foresight than you truly have, but still try to generalize needs and growth over the next 12 to 24 months as best possible. Find a tool that works with key functional areas such as marketing, financial, HR, sales/CRM, logistics and other departments, which will give you room to evolve as your needs change. Take a look at some great examples here.

    Keep in mind, one critical, overarching consideration is the time, skill and effort needed to implement, customize, train and utilize the solution you choose. Simplicity is key in helping you achieve quicker results without spending unexpected dollars on development work or professional services. Nothing kills your forward progress, adoption and ROI more than a long-drawn-out implementation of a solution that never ends up meeting 100% any single department’s reporting needs, let alone the entire organization.

    Finding a solution that originated as a cloud-based, multi-tenant solution accessible from any device and network is a great start. That means your implementation time, cost structure, reporting accessibility and API / connectivity options will be exactly what’s needed to get going quickly and begin seeing almost immediate value. A fast implementation timeline without the need for a professional services team, plus the ability to integrate with nearly any system should be two of the most critical priorities no matter what your business. For a make-sense option, be sure see ClicData it in action and leverage the free trial. Oh… and happy dashboarding!