Choosing the right Business Intelligence (BI) system for your business needs is difficult and often very stressful.
Throw in the burden of a system's cost, pressure from above in your company, and frustrations of your teams that will actually have to use a system every day, and you have yourself a headache.
Consider this BI Analyzer Tool article a metaphorical dose of headache pills and a cool glass of water. Take a moment. Breathe. Now read how to cut through the sales blurb and lofty promises to get to the details – what things mean and what you really need.
Download the BI Analyzer Tool now:
BI Analyzer Tool – Find The Right Solution For Your Business System.
Tiers Of User Access.
Do your shortlisted systems have varied levels of access available to you? This would work to streamline the use of a system for different teams, minimize data overload and restrict access to sensitive information.
Hosted In The Cloud.
Does your system need to be installed on hardware on-site or accessed via the Internet?
Software that is installed and held within your computers will be static and require manual updates which may come at an additional cost.
Systems hosted in the Cloud are often updated continually so that all your team have the latest version of the software to use. This also means that users will be able to use the system (provided they have the correct permissions) to access the programme from any device and any location.
Not sure which is best for you? Read our explainer article.
This is usually a yes or no answer to say if the data in the system is updated constantly. Depending upon the importance to you, a system that updates every 15 mins or even overnight may be sufficient.
Having a system with dynamic data means that different dashboard elements are responsive to each other. For example, if your dashboard has snapshot totals or graphs for the current month when you change the time period you want to see the totals and graphs would automatically update to give you the answers you need faster.
Data Update Cycle.
This relates to how often the system updates the data that the Business Intelligence software is working from. This source may be your CRM, ERP, accounting package etc. Does the software update overnight or at set periods throughout the workday?
Self-service in this situation relates to how much you as a user can do to set up reports, searches, alerts and more without the direct assistance of the BI provider. To do this there is an assumption of a basic level of understanding of the product and ability to use it.
Offline Device Access.
If the system is Cloud-based, can you use the product when not connected to the Internet? There may be different levels of usage for different products.
Is the system capable of processing and reporting in more than one language? Can you select these, or do you need to have this done at installation? Are the languages you need available?
Is the system capable of processing and reporting in more than one currency? Can you select these, or do you need to have this done at installation? Are the currencies you need available?
Ease Of Use.
Simply, is it simple? Is the system intuitive? Can you get the information you want out of the system without needing to be a computer expert? The speed and simplicity of a system will be a major factor in the uptake and ongoing use of a product.
Combine Multiple Data Sources.
Can a product connect with your other systems such as an existing CRM or financial system, draw on that information and give you an overall view of your business data?
Data Filters And Drilldown.
How specific can you make your searches and how does the system allow you to do this? Does this make sense to you and your team? Is this the best solution for the way in which you currently search or want to search in future?
The dashboard is usually the home screen of the BI system. Is what you see when you log into the system what you need to see at a quick glance? Can you personalize, or configure this to your business?
Specific Time Ranges For Data Search.
When searching for information from the system, can you select the time periods you need? This could be monthly, weekly or a rolling time period. Are you able to compare date ranges to give you direct comparisons and trends?
Can the system send alerts to you (by email, SMS, pop-ups, push notifications) based on your requirements without you having to log in and run a search?
Can you set targets for financial, sales quantities and margins for your users to work towards? Can you do these as a user or do you need to ask the BI provider to set these up? How important is it for you to set them up yourself?
This is used when current data is available to use to look ahead and predict sales, income, stock changes and market trends so that you can be prepared for upcoming challenges and opportunities.
Gap Analysis Reports.
This is a specific data report to identify customers that have stopped buying or items that have stopped being purchased in relation to previous trends. It is very helpful to spot when customers may be moving away from buying a product from you and switching to another supplier even if they remain a customer of yours overall.
Sales Leakage Reports.
A leakage report will not only identify customers that have stopped buying from you (as with the gap analysis report) but also highlight customers at risk by picking up on drops in orders, quantities within orders and order frequency.
These allow for a much wider view of the data. Within a Matrix report, you can choose the headers and rows within a report you create. This means that you can compare infinite selections against one another. An example of this is a report that compares sales reps against a specific product to get an insight into their differing results.
How easy is it to set up, run and export a report from the system? Can you save these reports either in the system or onto your hard drive? You may also have specific needs regarding what formats you can export data in such as .csv files or direct to .pdf. More advanced reporting options can include assigning a report to the system's user so that they can be alerted to the report or create an action required for a user based on the report’s findings.
Product Industry Specific.
Many products have been created to serve niche industries. Whilst many have branched out and diversified they may remain limited for use by a different industry due to the foundations of the system. A more independent and universal product may be better suited for long-term business development depending upon your company’s requirements.
Can you export reports and easily share these with your team through email or other communications systems?
Metrics relate to all the different ways you can interrogate data. These typically include percentages, averages, count and profit margins. So, if your company needs to run reports and do analysis on specific metrics then finding out if you can do this and how easily you can do it will be very important to finding the right system for you.
Does the Business Intelligence system have the ability to create efficient ordering of sales calls/visits by mapping out the best routes for users to take to reach customers (based on the addresses held in the system)?
Mobile Device Access.
Are the products you have shortlisted available for use via mobile devices? If so, are they suitable for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets with the same capabilities across both platforms?
Do you need mobile access? Read why you do, here.
Can a system show your data in pictorial forms such as graphs, bars and pie charts? These are a much quicker way to digest findings and a great way to show business statistics internally and externally to customers.
To learn more about data visualization read our explainer article.
Audio To Text Notes.
Especially important when used in the field, this is the ability for a product to record audio from users and turn this into text notes in the system. This saves time spent updating records in between meetings or at the end of the day by allowing a user to record notes on the move.
Works with existing CRM.
Does the proposed Business Intelligence system integrate with your existing CRM system? Will the transition of data be swift and problem free? Is there a native integration or is additional development work required through API (mentioned below)?
Works With Existing ERP.
Does the proposed Business Intelligence system integrate with your existing ERP? Can your ERP data be exported in the correct format? Will you need to go through your ERP provider to gain this data extract?
API stands for Application Program Interface. An API is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols and tools for building software. In non-tech talk, it’s how different parts of software talk to one another. Although there are plenty of ways to work around issues between contrasting APIs, it would be easier to ascertain at the beginning of your set-up if the APIs of each product will work smoothly.
Integration With Microsoft Office.
The standard Microsoft Office package includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Office, Access and OneDrive. Advanced packages include Exchange, SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Outlook and Skype for Business. Integration would mean that you can load data into the new BI system from Microsoft Office files. It also means that you can export data from the BI system into Microsoft Office files that you can use, edit and share.
Integration with Email/Calendar.
This means you can share files via email directly from the BI system. For example. When you run a report, it is created, and you have options to download, open, save and share via your email from the BI platform. This means you do not have to save the file, go to your email, upload the file and send it in the usual manner.
Native Integration With Third Party (eg: Mailchimp).
No longer is a business run purely from a single system. Your marketing team may continue to use email software such as Mailchimp or your customer success team may use Freshdesk. Either way, your Bi system will need to be able to integrate with these so that you get a full picture of business activity and all systems data is up to date.
How will the installation of the new BI product be carried out? What is the timeframe, required man-hours, cost to your company in additional hardware and so on? Will the implementation period mean an interruption to your business, the project leaders' schedule and any impact on any key upcoming dates for your business?
Complexity Of Implementation.
If the implementation requires expertise to be carried out within your company do you have that resource (person or team) in place? The complexity may involve hardware, technical knowledge and specific requirements for your existing data setup for integration with the new system.
Cost of Implementation.
How much will the porting of your CRM/ERP data cost for the initial setup to get your systems linked? Will there be additional costs for the company such as upgrading hardware, new mobile phones/tablets for users and upgrade options for software support that you need to factor into your budget?
When you sign on the dotted line how long is the initial contract for? Is the initial contract a longer length than subsequent contracts or will there be a rolling subscription after?
How much is the cost of the product? Is this a monthly, quarterly or yearly payment? Does this payment include anything in addition to the use of the product such as training?
Up-front Costs For On-boarding.
Is there an initial cost for integrating systems and mapping data across from your existing systems into the new BI tool?
Is the data transfer and storage in the new BI system GDPR compliant if you hold contact data for Europe?
The data you already hold in your CRM/ERP must remain protected during the connection, transfer and updates between systems. You will need to ensure that the BI tool has the required security certificates to protect your data. Does the data connection need to be two-way or one-way (read-only)?
Read more about why data security is so important here.
Is there sufficient support for your users provided by the BI system provider? What is the average waiting time to get help online and by phone? Are the helplines open when your business is?
As with all new pieces of technology, to get the most out of it, you need all your users to know how to use it correctly. Depending on the levels of user access and how simple the system is to use, will you be provided with sufficient training on the product? Will this be on-site or at a training centre? Will your preferred option be an additional cost?
On-going Training Resources.
Does the BI system have additional training for advanced users, ongoing learning documents and online learning resource centres? Is there a procedure for inducting new employees, refresher courses and new feature training?
This is not an exhaustive list of features and options, but it highlights the ones we consider to be key to you getting what you really need to boost your business.
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Please note: These scoring points and the weighting given in the downloadable Excel document are based on feedback from our customers, prospect interactions and industry expertise. You can of course adapt these to your business.
Need more help than our BI Analyzer Tool for choosing a Business Intelligence system? Speak to a sales-i representative who would be happy to help.