Many businesses understand the importance of data. However, with the sheer amount of data flowing in, how do companies make better sense of this information? Without the correct Business Intelligence tool, businesses will have a difficult time finding a usable piece of data. To enhance your prospects of extracting useful information from large chunks of data it is imperative to select a Business Intelligence solution that fits the existing and emerging needs of your business.
With this in mind, we’ve done the hard work for you and collated a useful checklist to help you choose a data analytics or BI tool as well as a few features to look for when deciding to invest in a Business Intelligence tool.
1. Integration with current systems
Choosing a BI tool that supports seamless integration with existing reporting processes will be extremely beneficial. This allows businesses to retrieve and sort data that may be in multiple locations and sources, as well as letting business users to explore the data. This includes the BI tool supporting different data sources such as spreadsheets, ERP, CRM for example.
2. Clearly establish your business criteria
You should have a clearly defined strategy. Once that is sorted, it’s time to hone in on the business-critical selection criteria. For example, if your team wishes to track history, they require a BI tool that offers standard support for growing dimensions that may need to be customisable.
3. Ensure the BI tool is easy to use and intuitive
Selecting a BI tool should be capable of guiding users who may not be the most technologically savvy through the whole model creation process. At the same time, they should offer up a rich, rewarding contextual experience. The other side of the same coin is catering for your more proficient users like business analysts who pay attention to certain features, such as flexibility, in the software. So, the features they value above all else may include for example, model creation, user interfaces, and defining workflows.
4. Data drilling and filtering functions
The BI tool that you select for your business should have capabilities such as an easy way to navigate around the system, including but not limited to search functions and filters so that users can easily look up the information they’re trying to find. The system should also cater for users who want to view the highest-level overview regarding performance for example, right down to the most comprehensive and detailed granular view, or raw data.
Businesses need to protect their most critical data that is often confidential. BI can help here. Better BI tools will ensure strong encryption and protection – especially if cloud-based. To further strengthen control of data protection, it is vital to have mechanisms for managing the internal security by assigning access controls and user permissions.
6. Ranking reports or similar
Ranking reports help your business gauge areas where it’s doing well and identifying areas for improvement, so you can gain more insight into the inner workings of your company. Better BI tools will cater to this capability.
A BI solution that supports different platforms will benefit businesses whose key decision-makers are constantly on the go and who want the ability to access graphs, charts and patterns anytime, anywhere for convenience. Cloud-based software offer the best experience for businesses who want to be able to work on the go.
8. Evaluate your own processes first and then do your due diligence
While a BI tool can help a company create a competitive advantage, it’s imperative to remember that a BI tool is only as good as the data it accesses. If data retrieval is erroneous or slow, then even the best business intelligence tool wouldn’t help. To get the most out of your data, you need to ensure its accuracy, validity, and completeness before you move onto choosing the right BI tool for your company. Look at the different tools on the menu in the industry and make an informed decision, considering the pros and cons of each business intelligence tool along with how well it aligns with the needs and requirements of your business.
9. Evaluate BI tools
At this point you will have a sound understanding for how your organisation uses analytics and how your colleagues want to use BI tools going forward. Now it is time to create a list of criteria on which to evaluate each BI platform specific to your business. Take the list and divide your criteria into two groups: must have and nice to have.
10. Conduct hands-on evaluations
Instead of committing to a BI tool straight away, trial it out with your data first. Most product demos look good, but you can only really know how well the tool performs in practice once you try it. Additional things to look out for are things such as tech support availability, and whether it costs extra. Conduct your own hands-on testing so you can really be sure about how a BI solution will work for your business. Once satisfied with your BI investment option you are ready to fully commit!
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.