Turn Data into Action with the Right Business Intelligence Platform

You have multiple analytics tools, ads data, databases, and more. But are those data sources really telling you the full story?

Companies need to turn raw data into actionable, relevant, easily understood narratives that inspire better decision-making. Business Intelligence (BI) software-as-a-service products let analysts translate, interpret, illustrate, and share data across divisions and management levels, empowering leaders to make more strategically sound, data-informed decisions. 

The right data visualization tool can answer business-critical questions in critical areas by representing disparate but related data sources in one place.

Previously, BI managers relied on the limited capabilities of spreadsheet software, writing their own formulas, producing their own charts, and relying on IT to run more complicated reports. Today’s BI tools do this much more efficiently, extracting data from multiple sources to create useful visual representations like maps, graphs, pie charts, scorecards, scatter charts, and other types of user-friendly display.

4 Ways to Determine Which BI Tool is Right for You

There are a number of competing BI tools on the market, ranging in price from the low thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why it’s worth spending time to choose the right BI tool because it has such significant business implications. You don’t want to invest in a program that generates reports executives don’t use, understand, or trust.

1) Figure out the must-haves 

Inventory the ways data is currently collected and used in the organization, and identify future needs to create a list of essential features. These might include:

  • Functionality — filters, calculated metrics, sharing, exporting, annotation and collaboration, flexible user access
  • Usability — navigation, ease of use, mobile access, intuitiveness
  • Technical considerations — integration with key data sources, data blending, alerts, the processing speed for larger datasets
  • Vendor viability — global support, implementation partners, proven client base, market expertise

2) Create user stories

Interview internal or external clients to understand how they need and want to see data. What’s the overall culture toward data in your company? Do people trust and value data? If not, you need a tool that helps them do so.

Catalog what users want the BI platform to do — “As a user, I want to be able to be able to filter by country, prevent X users from seeing Y data, visualize data in a time series graph”.

This process prevents you from making assumptions; the CEO with the 60,000-foot corporate overview might actually want highly detailed reports, while the CFO may want to see scatter charts and pie charts in lieu of the spreadsheets she looks at all day.

3) Conduct proofs of concept

Put the tools through their paces to see how they function. It’s easy for vendors to claim that a tool can do something, but actually testing it with your data will save you tons of time in the future. Some vendors allow you to set up a trial account, upload your own data, and run reports; they even provide customer support to help you do so. Others let you interact with case studies featuring fictional data.

4) Create a scorecard

Unfortunately, no single tool is going to give you everything you want unless you build your own in-house capability. To facilitate decision-making, plug in all your requisites and your user stories, review the capabilities of each tool you’re considering and assign scores. The aggregate top score can guide your selection. If your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to evaluate BI solutions, interview users, and create the scorecard, an analytics consultant can be a valuable partner in the selection process.

Make strategically sound, data-informed decisions

To determine which BI tool is right for you, spend the time to figure out the must-haves, how your users intend to use the tool, actually put the vendor through the wringer, and score capabilities against your needs. This process can be time-consuming, but well worth the effort for a tool that you may use for many years to come. We at Empirical Path have helped numerous organizations through the vendor selection process, and launching various tools from integrations to dashboard builds. Contact us to see how we can help.

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