A Google search will quickly reveal the 50 best business intelligence (BI) tools. However, finding and selecting the right tool is not as simple as selecting one straight from the list. Every organization is unique and should be treated as such. While a hospital may be focused on sharing data insights and keeping medical data secure, a modern retailer may prioritize an integration with Google Analytics and social media platforms.
Prior to purchasing a BI tool, organizations should take factors into consideration such as functionality, resources required to support the tool, security, and more. Organizations can use the following considerations as a starting point to narrow the search for the best tool to meet its needs:
The primary purpose of a BI tool is to visualize trends and patterns in data. First, organizations should determine what visual features are important. As an example, when comparing a measure to a target goal, a bar graph with a line graph overlay may be important. When comparing market trends, users will want an interactive choropleth. Organizations should determine what features are important and verify the tool supports them in a way that is easy to interpret.
In newer BI tools, a common component is the inclusion of sophisticated features for combining and analyzing data. If organizations have a need to combine data sets and analyze them on demand, this is an important feature. Alternatively, organizations may opt to join and perform calculations before loading data into the tool, eliminating the need for this functionality. Opting for the latter, organizations ought to ensure they have the resources on staff to perform the calculations.
A critical component to consider is the usability of the tool. This factor varies significantly across modern BI tools. Some tools take a ridged, pragmatic approach intended for use by developers. Other tools function without the need for technical expertise. Determine who will be using the tool and then rank them accordingly.
The majority of BI tools will connect to Excel (.xlsx) and Comma Separated Value (.csv) formats. Newer tools will additionally offer a wide array of options providing organizations with the ability to connect to accounting systems, a CRM, cloud-based data, or local data mart. Determine in advance what connections are important for the organization to ensure they are supported by the tool.
Permissions are an important consideration when purchasing a BI tool. BI tools typically divide users into two groups – viewers (authors) and developers (creators). Viewers are users who can see the visuals created by the tool but do not have permission to modify or design new visuals. How a BI tool defines these roles can have a significant impact on how much the tool will cost.
Another consideration to take into account is how groups will modify and consume dashboards. Is the ability to create smaller groups of users to share dashboards with important? An organization should consider if it wants to share a new dashboard with leadership or the entire company.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but organizations should consider the level of support it has experienced with the development company before deciding on a tool. A BI tool is meant to assist with decision making and shouldn’t be a burden. Because significant effort is required to implement the tool, it is important the right commitment is made.
The level of security required is largely dependent on the sensitivity of the data used in an organization’s reports. Some organizations decide to setup independent, secure servers to host the BI tool and related data. Other organizations are comfortable uploading reports to the cloud. Organizations should carefully evaluate its security needs.
There are many factors to take into consideration when selecting a BI tool. Finding the proper BI tool is a process – one that should not be undertaken in haste. When selecting a tool, it is easy to become caught up with current needs and fail to focus on long-term goals. Many organizations consult a partner to act as a guide and provide a fresh perspective through the selection process.
Resultant has helped clients select and implement BI tools that effectively meet their needs. For assistance, contact our business intelligence team.