9 Questions to Ask Before Picking a BI or Data Analytics Tool

How do companies make sense of the enormous amounts of data they accumulate? How can they leverage that data to make better business decisions?

They employ Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics products – which are used to uncover actionable insights using data visualization.

Data visualization can be thought of as a visual interpreter for data. This class of products can be used for descriptive analytics (what has happened) or, when combined with machine learning models, they can be used for predictive analytics (what might happen).

But how do you determine which BI tool is right for your firm? Anna Lynch, Senior Architect at Saxony Partners, has compiled a list of nine questions that will help guide the selection of a BI product:

1. How big is your company? Is there a need for centralized control (IT security, for example) to access data sources?

Small companies likely do not need a high degree of control for deployments and implementations, whereas large companies, where a high degree of control is necessary. Some vendors have a better strategy and tools for centralized, highly controlled deployments and implementations.

2. How much data do you have? Is this data structured, unstructured, or a combination of both?

Knowing how much data you have helps you ascertain the need for modern BI architecture (such as a data lake), or whether a traditional BI architecture suffice. Make sure the product you select is aligned with expected usage.

3. Are there security considerations for whether the data can live on an employee’s desktop (e.g., in order to publish data or to develop an application/dashboard/report)? Or, should the data only be accessible via a web (publish and author on web, not desktop)?

If there’s a high concern about the possibility of an employee losing a laptop and potentially exposing data, then there are products that should probably be eliminated from consideration.

4. Are there considerations that include or exclude on-premise or cloud implementations?

Companies with a small IT staff will have an easier time managing a cloud-based environment. Whereas companies with certain security or contract limitations may have a need for an on-premise solution.

5. Do you have a specific software stack in place? If so, are you looking to stick with that stack?

If a company is heavily invested in a software stack (and happy with it), then it may make sense to give preference to complimentary products. Some products will require additional skillsets, changes in technology, or big changes in infrastructure.

6. How many people will have access to analytics and reporting capability?

This question helps determine the licensing costs that will be incurred in order to provide the solution.

7. Will people perform self-service? Or, will there be a standard set of dashboards, analytical displays and reports? Or, will there be a combination of generation methods?

This question helps determine the need for a team of people to provide dashboards and reports for business units. It also shapes any training plans that need to be undertaken.

8. What type of dashboards and reporting are needed?

This question helps as you try and understand the degree of accuracy needed. Are you looking for reports and dashboards that are simply “directionally correct,” so you can make better business decisions? Or, are you looking for Board of Directors/C-suite/Wall Street-level reporting?

9. Is there a data governance team and process in place?

A mature organization will have at least some governance and stricter expectations for a single source of the truth. These organizations will likely also have process for requesting and providing access.

Using these questions as a guide, you and your firm should have a better understanding of your data and BI needs, which will make it easier to select the tool that’s right for you. The team at Saxony Partners can help you make this decision as well. Reach out to us on our website or via LinkedIn and let us know how we can help you Do More With Your Data™.