Business Intelligence & Analytics: For many, this is an area that generates a lot of hype because it involves turning data from multiple sources into powerful insights for a business’ decision-makers. However, along with the hype comes the trepidation over the associated challenges – especially those related to successfully implementing the right BI software solution for your business.
On today's market, there are a variety of BI software solutions available that provide a range of features including interactive dashboards, robust reporting functionality and game-changing insights at varying price points. Although most advertise that they provide a plug-and-play solution where users can easily integrate their data sources and produce instant and eye-opening BI dashboards, unfortunately, most users end up finding out the hard way that their BI software implementation doesn’t end up that way.
BI software is often seen as a quick, all-encompassing answer to analytics. However, when it comes to finding and implementing the optimal BI solution for your organization, the devil is truly in the details. Here are 3 main details that need to be fleshed out when choosing a BI solution:
- Implementation and Integration
- Functionality and Cost
IMPLEMENTATION & INTEGRATION
Implementation and integration are the keys to any successful BI initiative. Without them, your company can purchase the Rolls Royce of BI software and yet, never be able to move the car out of the driveway. After you’ve purchased a BI solution, your focus needs to shift to implementation and integration, which will require in-depth knowledge in order to achieve successful execution. During these stages, your data needs to be thoroughly cleansed, extracted, mapped and loaded, and your company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) need to be fully developed. Data is what fuels top performing companies – but only when implemented and integrated properly. If you don’t have the in-house expertise needed to successfully implement your BI software, it’s imperative that you find a consulting partner who does.
Additional details to consider:
- Depending on the BI software, some data sources will have pre-built APIs (Application Program Interfaces), which allow you to easily integrate data - and others will not. Remember to address custom spreadsheets, older data systems, unique proprietary data sources, and/or data systems that make data extraction difficult prior to your implementation to ensure that you can consolidate all your data the way you want to.
- In the event that a data source cannot be easily integrated, your company will need to have a data integration savvy resource on hand to tackle the data modeling and mapping necessary to integrate the specific data source and create the intended BI solution within a BI software platform. Even with a resource on hand, this task can often be time consuming, so plan accordingly.
Change is inevitable. In order to ensure on-going success, your BI software needs to operate like a living, breathing platform that possesses the ability to evolve as your business grows. Companies invest in a BI solution so they can measure company performance and take action quickly when needed. However, if you invest in a solution that isn’t able to evolve the way you need it to - your company will be left stagnant.
For simplicity’s sake, imagine working on a Mac OS. In time, you decide to change to a PC to better meet your needs, but find that a large amount of your data is not compatible with the PC system. What are your options? Unfortunately, if the data is vital to your future needs and can’t be converted, your only option is to recreate it all from scratch.
Sooner or later, your company will need to integrate a new data source (or several) into your enterprise data model and develop refreshed reports and dashboards that align with your new direction. In order to have proper on-going support for your BI solution that can efficiently adjust to changing business needs, your BI solution needs to be a flexible, scalable solution that can grow with your business needs. Your BI solution is a journey, not a destination. Making continuous enhancements to your software is a necessity, and your company must have the proper BI competence or a trusted partner to reap the full benefits of your solution.
Additional details to consider:
- In times of change, BI software can leave a company “locked in”, making future adjustments difficult. A technology agnostic BI integration framework, like Analytics Hub, can alleviate this issue by creating the backbone of an analytics solution. With such a framework in place, any BI software can be interchanged for visualizations and reporting based on the company’s evolving needs.
- What’s more, in times of growth, companies are often faced with the challenge of integrating new data sources. Having flexibility through a technology agnostic integration framework can allow for mergers, acquisitions and other new data sources to be seamlessly integrated with your BI software.
FUNCTIONALITY & COST
Functionality and cost often go hand in hand as the price point of most BI software depends on offered features and platform capabilities. That being said, a long list of features does not justify the price point unless it fits the business use case. In order to keep your BI investment in check, you should first determine the necessary functionality of your BI software and then decide which one best accommodates those needs at a reasonable cost.
In some cases, a blend of BI software can be the most viable solution. For example, while a specific division within your company may need a robust visualization tool like Tableau with a significant cost per seat/license, the remaining divisions could have their needs met with Microsoft Power BI, which is a much more economical platform. By understanding the business use and the optimum functionality, costs can be contained accordingly.
Additional details to consider:
- BI software solutions are not created equally. Understanding what tools are available on the market and how each can meet your company’s specific needs is an important aspect to achieving your desired ROI.
- Determining the functionality needed, the expected ROI of a BI & Analytics solution and then evaluating the various options on the market can be difficult, especially for stakeholders who are not experts in the BI & Analytics space. Outside resources, like Messina Group, can provide additional advisory services to help address these questions and find the most fitting solution.
All in all, attention to detail is critical when scoping out the implementation, integration, flexibility, functionality and cost of your BI solution. Properly examining these areas of significance will help to ensure the long-term success of your BI software implementation, leading to better decision making and future growth.
Messina Group is a leading consultancy passionate about delivering comprehensive Cloud services and BI solutions to our clients. With over thirty years of experience delivering value, we have been helping fast growing SMBs reach their goals, and would love to be your trusted advisor.