Investing in business intelligence is a costly affair. Even for larger enterprises, it is not something that is entered into lightly, and before doing so, there are a number of issues that need to be considered before any decision is made. A recent white paper from Birst Software looks at those issues and what business intelligence vendors should be offering.
According to Gartner research cited in the paper from business intelligence vendors Birst, and entitled "11 Key Questions to Ask of a BI Solution," only 20% of employees were using business intelligence as of the end of last year.
Before investing, enterprises should know what they are looking for. According to this paper, there are four basic requirements that need to be fulfilled before even starting to consider the finer points.
Four Basic Requirements
1. Historical analysis
Your business intelligence deployment should give you insight into not only performance, but also what is driving performance. Your system should be able to map data over a number of years.
2. Future projections
It should be possible to take that historical information gathered in the first step and project it into the future. This enables enterprises to align business goals according to key areas of success as well as understand why some business areas preformed less well than others.
3. Integrate information
Your deployment should be able to take information from your other business applications and integrate them so as to take meaning from across the enterprise.
4. Easily explored reports
It is pointless having reports about different areas of business if it can’t be explored horizontally and vertically. As a result, your system should have drill-down and drill-across capabilities to see information from every perspective.
11 Key BI Questions
These four capabilities are the absolute basics; if your vendor cannot provide these, then it’s probably a good time to move on. If they are present, then you have only reached the beginning of the process, as there are a lot more questions that you should be asking before proceeding. In this paper, those considerations are divided into 11 issues as follows:
1. Business views
To answer even basic business questions such as the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, your system is going to have to take information from dozens of places including third parties or partner sources.
Traditional BI solutions can do that, but often require long and difficult implementations using complex connections to data sources that bring data into one physical database. As a result your system should be:
- Able to have access to multiple data assets
- Able to analyze all kinds of data assets
- Access secured databases
- Manage the metadata of data assets.
2. Provides full features
The growing interest in business intelligence from the SMB market has seen a considerable number of solutions enter the market to cater for them price-wise.
However, companies need to ensure that they get full functionality, even if the price is lower than the larger systems. There is no point in investing in something that only gives half a product. Your solution should provide:
- A full BI solution: The license should provide everything including ETL, database management, OLAP slice-and-dice query generation, banded reporting and visual dashboards.
- Easy-to-understand pricing: Traditional solutions have many cost components including hardware, software, consultants, in-house IT support and ongoing maintenance, all of which can be difficult to track. SaaS solutions are increasingly popular as all these issues are covered by the vendor.
With traditional BI solutions, it can take as long as 18 months to see what the ROI is as a result of up front capital expenditure, IT resource requirements and development schedules. With SaaS, the time to use can be as low as a few weeks with ROI seen within 90 days. Ways to reduce the time to ROI include:
- Automation of standard processes
- Templates for typical reporting requirements
- Using existing data warehousing investments
- SaaS delivery models.
4. Data availability, security
Security and availability are two of the biggest considerations around business intelligence whether your deployment is on-premises or a SaaS. As data is coming from many systems and as your data is your competitive edge, it is essential that it is secure. As a result, your BI system should: