In today’s world, you have a lot of Business Intelligence (BI) tools to pick from. Some are free and are open source others can cost you thousands of dollars per month. Some have automatically created dashboards while others require hours of set-up and know how to get started. If you are looking to implement a BI tool in your company or department here are some questions to ask/consider when making your decision:
Choosing the best BI tool for your business
Before going out to shop for your tool, consider all sources of data that you would like to display. For example, if you are a marketing agency, you want to ensure all social media and digital marketing platforms that you use, can be integrated.
The chances of you finding a tool that has all of your data sources in one tool is slim. Therefore, you should ensure that for the sources where API connections are not available, you are able to export reports automatically and have them uploaded to the tool via FTP, email, Google Drive and similar storage tools.
Most BI tools are priced on a monthly basis but consider other costs that are associated with the cost of implementing and managing your tool. On top of the basic cost what is the cost associated with adding additional dashboards, rows of data or sources. Simply put, you need to know all the costs associated with the tool.
Once you have estimated the cost of running the tool, it is advisable to project your needs for the next few years to get a better idea of the total cost. Considering the long term will ensure that you are getting a tool not just for the short term but something that will serve you for a long term which will decrease the set-up and implementation costs in the future.
Start by identifying use cases for your dashboards. If they are client facing, you may want to ensure that the tool you chose, has colors and fonts that you can utilize to customize and match your client’s branding.
If its internal, the look and feel may not be as important. However, you may require certain functionality.
Another important aspect of customization is attribute/dimensions and measurements, that are key to almost all businesses. For example, you may want to calculate year over year growth using custom dates to match your year end, special ROI calculations using custom fields or have a completely custom metric or KPIs that you want to calculate that does not come out of the box.
Finally, make sure you can combine different data sources to get a new metric. For example, you may want to see your total social media followers by combining Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers into one number.
It goes without saying that any tool that you use, should be secure. After all, most data in your business is confidential and you would not want your tool to expose your data to the competitors. Therefore, make sure you verify the security protocol that the BI tool providers use to ensure that your data is safe.
Another point is data storage, make sure you understand what happens if you delete your data. Do they have a way to retrieve it or do they keep it in the recycle box for a few weeks in case you delete the data by mistake.
5. Support/Customer Service
It goes without saying that Open source free BI tools will have zero support. But what about the paid tools?
Make sure you get an answer for any issues you may experience. Some companies charge for professional services should you require support setting up something.
6. Export and Share capabilities
Any analyst knows that sometimes it is helpful to export your data and play with it in excel to really dive deep into the data sets. Most dashboards allow you to export data as a PDF or save a chart as an image, but a really important capability for some organizations, is to export the raw numbers into csv or excel formats.
For other customers, it is critical to be able to email the report on a monthly basis or be able to play with data in real time. Whatever your needs are, make sure the tool that you choose can accompany it.
You are acquiring the dashboard to save time and resource from your team to run your weekly or monthly reports manually. Therefore, make sure that the dashboard that you acquire does not do the opposite!
Your dashboard should be automated with minimum intervention on an ongoing basis. While not everything can be automated, the majority should. If you are spending more time trying to display data on the dashboard than you do analyzing your business’s results, you got the wrong tool.
These are just some aspects of a BI tool that you should examine prior to making a commitment to one of the tools. Other aspects include: ease of use, look and feel of the platform, speed, mobile display, industry specific customization and so on.
Some popular BI Tools include: Tableau, Domo, Datorama, Google’s Data Studio, Sisense, Oracle’s BI, Power BI, QlikView, Rapid insight and DashThis. Here is a comparision on Tableau vs Qlikview and another one on Tableau vs PowerBI.
As long as you’re making a list of your requirements prior to doing the research, you won’t go wrong in choosing the tool that is right for you.