Business intelligence (BI) has transformed from data collecting into a more advanced discipline. Today, people use BI solutions to draw insights from their business’ data. These insights, or actionable pieces of information, help make informed decisions to improve your business processes. Since BI tools are numerous and variable in both cost and features, they can be difficult to evaluate. But doing so properly can be one of the best investments of time a business can make.
The evaluation process starts by gathering a ranked list of requirements. These requirements determine what you need to look for in a vendor. During the selection process, you’ll find that not all vendors include the same features. Without a pre-made list of requirements, it’s easy to choose the wrong vendor because one may have a shiny new feature that the others don’t. But if that vendor doesn’t have a feature you need, then it’s a waste of your investment. When you gather a list of requirements, you can properly assess the vendors you’re looking at. And by ranking your list, you can skip vendors from the get-go if they don’t offer one of your top requirements.
So if you’re a business intelligence analyst or software buyer, what kinds of business requirements should you use? First, let’s see what your fellow buyers look for. We wanted to find out what the BI buyer of today requires from their BI tool. So, we conducted a survey over the last 5 months to find out what their requirements are. The survey included companies of all sizes and industries, though it trended slightly towards larger companies. Here are the top requirements our survey found:
What are Today’s BI Buyers Actually Looking For?
According to the survey, today’s BI buyers look for reporting capabilities more than anything else. At 69%, a healthy majority of respondents identified this popular feature. One of the core features of a business intelligence system, reporting provides decision makers with insights. These insights are what lead to well-informed decisions, and can be crucial when evaluating your business processes.
With 51% of respondents identifying visualizations, this core feature was the second-most popular requirement. Put simply, visual data is the best data. Strategic decision-making is simpler when reports are presented visually. It’s easy to understand, so everyone from your CTO to your teenager can discern what the data shows. Visualization also extends to dashboards, which we’ll discuss in a bit.
Online analytical processing (OLAP) tied for third, at 38%, with dashboards. OLAP makes everyone feel like a business intelligence analyst. You can use OLAP features to analyze data multi-dimensionally; that is, from multiple viewpoints. You can get some of the clearest insights of your customers and business by using OLAP capabilities.
Dashboards help BI users get both at-a-glance and in-depth views of their KPIs. Most BI systems allow you to create custom dashboards, so you can view all of and only what you want to see. Dashboards show real-time data, giving users an updated view of the business. It gives you the freedom to both check in periodically for a glimpse of the day, and look at longer-term trends.
With 16% of respondents identifying on-premise deployment as a requirement, we were initially surprised. Compared to our other software buyer surveys, this was by far the highest preference for on-premise. Today’s software is increasingly moving to the cloud, but data security concerns continue to be a hot topic. This was the main restriction for the buyers that preferred on-premise. For security reasons, several companies choose to go on-premise with their most important data. This data usually comes from BI, which explains the higher number of on-premise preferences. So if your company has concerns about data security, or if your clients do, you may want to avoid the cloud (for now, at least).
Other notable requirements include data mining (33%), 3rd party integration (26%) and predictive analytics (16%).
Now that you know what today’s buyers look for, let’s look at some requirements you may not have thought of. We asked our experts about what businesses may not think about when making their requirements list. So, let’s make that requirements list even more thorough with 10 you may not have thought of:
10 Business Intelligence Requirements You May Not Have Thought Of
Anything that doesn’t evolve becomes outdated quickly. Therefore, your BI system should be capable of expanding and accommodating changes. A decent BI solution releases timely updates aimed at enhancing current capabilities.
2. Open architecture
Comparing BI tools reveal the vendors who limit their software to proprietary architecture. However, the best BI software is built on open architecture. This makes integration with other software applications a simple process.
3. Support multiple data sources BI
Top BI tools don’t limit their support to one particular database. Ideally, the best applications permit access to a variety of data sources. These data sources should include data warehouses, data marts, SQL servers and more.
4. Allow access to real-time data / Agile self-service BI
Business analytics tools help make informed decisions, and sometimes those decisions need to be made quickly. A good BI solution must deliver fresh, self-service data in order to be considered productive.
5. Capacity to import applications
Your BI tool also must allow users to merge data from various applications. For instance, graphs and charts are integral to BI visualization tools and must integrate into reports. Application importing saves end users the time it takes to recreate these features multiple times.
6. Multiple-device support
Almost every device can access the internet nowadays, from your phone to your fridge. Today’s business intelligence software needs to reflect that. Providing a good user experience across those devices is crucial to maintain efficiency.
7. Compound reporting options
Look for a solution that facilitates compound reporting options and tools. The most useful of these tools include interactive reporting and what-if analysis. With these features, you don’t need to worry about integrating with third-party reporting tools.
8. Mapping applications
Geographical data can be some of the most important data you collect. Mapping applications provide this data in an easy-to-interpret, at-a-glance way. Assessing your business’ performance doesn’t get any easier than that.
As we touched on earlier, security is one of the bigger issues in software, especially when deployed on the cloud. Therefore, a user privilege parameter is an essential feature for a BI solution. This parameter lets you set limits on who can access, export and edit your files, spreadsheets and graphs. Basically, you’re making sure that nobody can touch your information unless they’re authorized.
10. Intelligent alerts
This feature is geared to alert you, via modern messaging tools, about the crucial aspects of your business. For example, it can alert you if a long-time active client becomes dormant.
Get a professional Business Intelligence requirement gathering template
Our list of requirements include general capabilities to keep in mind while searching for a BI solution. All of these requirements and more can be found on our thorough (but free!) BI requirement gathering template. This template is broken down into 5 major BI criteria containing 21 sub-groups and more than 90 total requirements.
Whether evaluating functional or non-functional requirements for business intelligence software, using a requirement gathering template can help you choose the right BI solution. They can also help you learn everything you need to accelerate your purchase and avoid needless spend.
If you want to take your selection project a step further, use the SelectHub platform to manage your requirements. You can import the 90+ BI requirements to our platform, along with your own custom set. Our selection management technology offers the ability to collaborate throughout the entire process. And best of all: it’s free.