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Choosing the Right BI Tool, Part 2

Key pillars to consider include required capabilities, people and culture, budget

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are five pillars to consider when choosing the right BI tool to fit your organization, department, or project’s implementation needs. I’ve already covered Business Scope and Data Environment; the three additional critical pillars you should consider in your selection process are: 

1. Required BI Capabilities

There is no single tool that supports everything. Tool selection is about making educated tradeoffs across the various capabilities. This is where BI and analytic tool vendors differentiate themselves.  

BI capabilities align to the previous pillars I mentioned, and this is where selecting a tool can be paralyzing due to the array of features and capabilities that exist. You must identify and differentiate the “critical” from the “nice to haves” or “wish list” set of features and capabilities. Some capabilities you want to think about are:  

  • The styles of reporting, like: dashboards, scorecards, canned or static reports, adhoc query, and the new growth area, data visualization and exploration.
  • Also consider what types of analytics you need to incorporate, data types and their structure, what if any API Integration is needed, data security, ease of use, concurrent usage (that correlates with speed), report delivery and automation options.
This is not an exhaustive list and will change over time. Ensure your tool will grow with your organization.

2. People & Culture

Alignment of your people and organization’s culture to the tool’s use, support, and processes will make or break your BI implementation. You can have a tool that supports a wealth of capabilities but fails to align to this pillar, and your tool’s adoption and success will be impeded. This area is often overlooked, which creates a major challenge to promoting user adoption and successfully executing against the BI project.

Knowing your audience and having the right people to execute is important in many areas of business and is critical in BI. It touches on how users need to work with the data, audience levels, level of visual presentation and detail, user BI maturity (experience with BI and analytics tools), availability and willingness for training, internal support structures, decision making processes, and rate of business change, to name a few. 

3. Budget

This is a no-brainer, but often not fully factored into the equation. BI is about learning, generating insights, and evolving the business through better decision-making. It’s not something you invest in once, put on the shelf, and expect continual value over time. In fact, most BI projects in my experience start seeing adoption decline in as little as six months after the initial implementation, unless regular investments are made towards ongoing enhancements to the data, building new and enhancing existing reports, and expanding the capabilities and training used by the business to drive deeper insights.  

As I stated above, no tool will hit all the items on your needs list. As you can see, the capabilities of the tool are the not only pillars you need to focus on in your search. Throughout my career, my tool choice has changed as my needs and my organization’s needs have changed. Make the best choice you can at the time and take some time to re-evaluate your needs periodically. Your tool choice could change over time — prepare for that and expect it.