Business Intelligence Checklist: How to Choose the Right Tool

Written by
Start a trial of Unleashed software
Written by
6 Minute Read
Share Blog:

This article has been updated in March 2023 to reflect new information and current trends.

With the sheer amount of data flowing in, it can be tough sorting the helpful from the not-so-helpful.

With this in mind, we’ve collated a useful business intelligence checklist to help you choose a data analytics or BI tool that’s right for you.

What is business intelligence?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a combination of tools, technologies and applications that help organisations to collect, integrate, analyse and present raw business data into easy to understand, insightful and actionable business information. These BI tools are made up of data mining capabilities, analytical processing, querying and reporting functionalities that help to optimise internal business processes, improve operational efficiency and identify market trends.

Business intelligence in action: Check out how the interface of Unleashed’s BI vision assists business owners

Choosing the right BI tools

To reap the greatest benefits from business intelligence you need to ensure you are investing in the BI tools that are right for your business.

The business intelligence tool you choose should provide your organisation with:

  • The agility to process data in a way that helps users to understand exactly what is happening in the business and help managers define strategies for future growth.
  • Cost-benefits that sit in the context of what the company can afford but that also has the features and functionality the business needs.
  • Usability through the seamless use of the BI tool, the system must be simple to use and easily accessed so no time is wasted performing the various functions.

The BI checklist below is designed to help you choose a system that will automatically analyse both the content and the context of data collected.

Business intelligence checklist: Must-haves for your next tool

Business intelligence tools help interpret and simplify data so you can make well-informed decisions.

Let’s take a look at a the most important features of a BI dashboard 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.

Business intelligence checklist

Refer to this business intelligence checklist as a guide for selecting the best BI tools for your business.

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.

5. Security

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.

7. Easy access

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

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.

BI tool checklist

A good business intelligence tool is one that connects all of the data from various areas of your business into one visual location.

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.

Finding the BI tool that is right for you

With all the various business intelligent tools on the market, it can be challenging trying to determine which is the right system for your specific business needs. To aid this decision, companies should undertake the following three steps:

1. Identify how data is used

The first step is to identify how your organisation uses its data.

Ask questions about the who, what, why and how information is utilised.

Who works with data and who is responsible for data transformations? The information about who uses analytical data will help you compile your evaluation criteria for testing potential products.

What questions do you need answering? Do you need operational reports, analysis of customer buying habits, snapshots of sales history or trends?

Start with the needs of your business rather than the product’s capabilities because some of the features offered may not be of use to your organisation.

2. Create a criteria

The second task is to create a scorecard to determine the company-specific requirements for implementing BI tools. A performance scorecard will help determine what are the critical functions and features required from your BI software.

Create a rubric for each criterion so that everyone involved in the evaluation process understands what they are evaluating to ensure the BI tool is selected.

The scorecard will also serve as documentation key personnel not involved in the evaluation process.

3. Evaluate different options

Thirdly you should perform evaluations by selecting the top contenders and testing them with your data to determine how well the different BI tools perform in practice.

For example, test how easy the BI tool is to use, if it is adaptive across different devices and how much time it takes to build and run reports.

What are the systems analytical capabilities, reporting and data visualisation capabilities and how can this information be used and shared? Ensure the interface is intuitive and has the features valued by users such as flexibility, model creation, user interfaces, and workflow definition.

More about the author:
Share Blog:
Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

More posts like this
Subscribe to receive the latest blog updates