Accompanying the rise of big data and cloud environments, business intelligence (BI) software is becoming more critical to most organizations. This sweeping term encompasses everything dealing with data from mining and processing to analysis, usage, and reporting. The purpose is to enable business leaders to make decisions based on the most relevant and complete information available. Small to medium businesses (SMBs) can enjoy great benefit from these tools, but may have difficulty implementing BI suites. Following are some useful tips for those considering a BI deploy.
Determine the Intended Audience
A key phrase — “self-service” — is often used in the business intelligence world that may be confusing to end users, as it can mean one of two things. In BI sales, it could mean that the product is easy and friendly to use (i.e., good for novice users). On the other hand, this term may also mean that the program is designed for expert-level analysts. In that case, “self-service” could mean that the program does the heavy mathematical lifting for the expert.
The difference between the two definitions is vast and often translates into additional cost when purchasing the software. Further, the SMB may not be staffed for the latter type of self-service. Ask questions about any unclear terms and be sure of what is being sold.
BI software license formats vary by vendor. Some offer a one-time, fixed fee subscription based on the number of users. For others, the purchase price varies based on the products and services included. There also may be multiple services offered in bundles, so it’s important to know the company’s requirements and select the most appropriate subscription — not the one the vendor is pushing the hardest.
BI packages also vary in the data integration models that are possible with each. Since data integration feeds directly into the company’s data warehouse, it’s important to choose the model that will work with existing data management or generation systems. A few common data models are:
- Centralized system
The differences between each are significant, so ask all potential vendors about their data architecture and integration style to be sure that the correct selection is made.
Big data has a natural home in the (private) cloud. With such large data sets, cloud more easily flexes and scales to accommodate these massive stores, and also provides nearly instant accessibility. Some companies have regulatory requirements or security concerns that have led them to stick with a traditional data storage architecture that does not involve the cloud. The BI package must work with whichever scenario exists. Some BI packages will be Software as a Service or cloud based; others are more physically oriented and will mesh with the traditional approach. The requirement for equipment and investment will vary substantially between the two approaches.
Effective BI software makes the most of the myriad of data collected today. As a result, organizations can tell when a misstep has occurred, if a trend is changing the landscape, and how they compare to the competition. This education generates timely and more informed decision making, leading to positive results. For more information on implementing an effective business intelligence program, contact Copper State today.