A Business Intelligence and reporting tool must provide valuable management information to support your business, the information needs to be relevant, up-to-date and correct and the tool must be easy to access and to use. That makes sense. In the wide range of BI & reporting tools, almost every popular solution meets these requirements. But there are a few other things you might not have thought about that are very important to keep in mind when selecting a BI tool:
1. Thoroughly think of, in advance, which information is important to you
This seems like an open door, but this step is often forgotten. Even at some large organizations, the belief prevails that the BI tool should solve all problems out of the blue. But it is not that easy. You need to have a vision of what information is important for the successful management of the organization. What is important for you to keep track of? Which KPIs are crucial? Which periodic reports do you need? Who needs what kind of information at what time? These are all questions you will have to answer yourself.
2. Make sure you have arranged the back-end properly
Everything falls or stands with structure. To benefit from your BI tool, the data must be well organized. Make sure you have control over your data warehouses and that you can organize the extensive 'spaghetti' of information in a structured way in so-called data cubes. This gives you the opportunity to subsequently put almost every front-end BI tool to work and present the most beautiful and valuable KPIs. Moreover, this enables you to remain in line with new developments; in the world of BI, new developments are introduced at a high pace and with the back-end well organized you have the flexibility to always connect the best front-end BI-tool to this.
3. Select a solution that gathers all business information centrally
Business information is stored at multiple sites, in multiple systems, on paper and in the heads of your staff. A Business Intelligence solution only becomes valuable when it collects ALL corporate information centrally. Make sure all important data is digitized and that the BI tool processes data from all your different information sources.
4. Select a tool that not only works for you right now, but also in the future
When selecting a BI & reporting tool, you tend to focus solely on the present; what is the best solution right now? But it is important to take the future into account. Will the platform you select continue to be supported in the future? Will the supplier/partner you work with still exist in 5 or 10 years? And how will changes in legislation, your industry or your company impact your needs regarding BI? These questions are difficult to answer, but if possible, do take these factors into account.
5. Choose simplicity and ease of use over design and features
Having more features is not necessarily a good thing. With endless possibilities, you run the risk that end users perceive the solution to be too complex and unclear. While you aim to work with an accessible and user-friendly system. Design may not have top priority as well. Although it is nice to work with a beautifully designed system, this is of course not what ultimately yields value for your organization.
Most of all, select a BI tool TOGETHER. These tips demonstrate you need to gather the opinions of IT specialists, management, administration and end users before taking a decision.
Bjorn Schouten is Business Intelligence Consultant at Dysel and helps customers to turn data into valuable management information.