How to Choose the Right Business Intelligence Tools for Your Business

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Business intelligence tools (BI tools) help companies to extract important facts from a huge amount of unstructured data. Transforming this rich data into actionable resources to help those organisations to achieve business goals and targets by guiding timely strategic decisions.

BI tools help optimise operational processes, inventory control and the overall productivity and efficiency of your organisation. BI software can help to monitor a company’s processes, assist in forecasting market trends which in turn aids decision-making, sales, marketing and inventory control activities.

Establish clear business criteria

Prior to the implementation of any business intelligence tool it is necessary for companies to establish a clearly defined strategy to determine business-critical selection criteria. This can be as general or specific as you like.

Some criteria might include the need for the BI tool to access specific data sources and to integrate data from these multiple databases, or to facilitate customised reports with specific visuals such as graphs and scatter charts.

Do you require a system that provides users with both a high-level overview of performance and a comprehensive, detailed granular view? It makes sense that you would want any business analytics tool to be user-friendly even for those employees with zero clue about technology so ease of use should be included in the criteria.

An important consideration for most businesses is data security. Particularly their most critical data such as confidential client and employee information and pricing. When security is a vital criterion, ensure that you purchase a BI tool with a strong encryption mechanism and the functionality to manage internal security by assigning user permissions and access controls.

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.

Why is this information needed? Talk to employees who create reports to understand how they use data and what their needs are. Why do they require this data, is it for reporting purposes, collaboration with other stakeholders or to monitor KPIs?

How will you use the information, how will the data be leveraged? Will it be used to drive marketing activities and optimise inventory control to make more meaningful and informed decisions?

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.

The business intelligence tool that you do choose should come with basic features such as drop-down menus, search functions and filters that enable users to quickly and easily look up the information they are trying to find.

Cloud-based BI tools

When looking to implement BI tools into your organisation it is important to do your research. Look at the different tools available and make an informed decision that considers the pros and cons of each BI tool and how well they serve the specific needs of your business.

If working on the go and having multiple users on the software is important to your business, you should select a BI tool that is supported across different devices to support managers and employees on the move and who need to access data and information from anywhere at any time.

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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.

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