Updated: Dec 31, 2017
Choosing the right BI tool for your current needs while keeping the future in mind.
Understanding which tool is best for you, now and for at least a few years ahead can be a complicated and at times frustrating process.
Understanding the need
You wouldn’t take your Ferrari to do your groceries, on the other hand an SUV may embarrass you on the race track.
Why should I BI?
We are progressing and evolving every day into the information age. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. To put that into perspective, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. In order to place ourselves at the head of our fields, we must become smarter every moving day. This is done by analysing yesterday’s data learning about our organisation today, we can improve tomorrow, and ultimately optimise operations. BI enables us to do just this, but we must remember that this is not just a matter of crunching a few numbers and displaying a few charts.
How do I BI?
Trying to go on the path of a ‘plug-and-play’ solution without doing your homework can result in a dead-end of a BI path.
BI is an organisational state of mind, combining people, processes, data and business objectives focused on improving the learning of ourselves and ultimately improving future decision making. It is crucial to have a complete understanding of these components before reaching out to start looking for a proper tool. Many times when this process is not done as planned, it eventually seals the fate of the BI project as a failure, and can cause lost time, money and trust in the process. Trying to go on the path of a ‘plug-and-play’ solution without doing your homework can result in a dead-end of a BI path.
How to choose the right tool for me, for today, while looking forward to tomorrow?
Another very important component of BI in general is the data complexity and growth rate. It is impossible to compare the complexity of a small simple business like an online shop, to an advanced communication platform with millions of users. Also, time is of the essence, today you may have a relatively small amount of data and a non-complex business scenario, and a simple common tool such as MS Excel may be sufficient, while looking only one or two years ahead , both may grow. This means that your business’s near future plans should also be a criteria in tool selection.
Which tools are even out there and what should I expect from them?
You need not only ask yourself, how can I improve tomorrow, but also how can I improve the day after tomorrow and next year, with these plans in mind.
Today there are many off the shelf tools each suitable for a number of different functions and requirements, with widely varying parameters such as capabilities, features and price ranges. Tools such as Sisense, Looker and PowerBI have been leading the race for the ‘plug-and-play’ sector, with features and capabilities enabling people with limited tech skills to do what used to take a whole department of DBA’s a week to achieve, while providing a reasonable price range. This goes for the simple deployments, but when data and processes become a bit more sophisticated, a dedicated function should be introduced in order to take ownership over the tool and it’s deployments, either internally or externally. Regardless of the tool chosen, you will need someone working with you, either in-house or a consultancy, who understands your business, it’s objectives, operations and data in order to be able to best suit the right tool for you. This dedicated function should be responsible not only for the actual development and deployment of the tool, but also the management of the key stakeholders, their needs and a thorough understanding of the business’s strategy.
In conclusion, recognising the need for a BI tool, performing an initial market assessment and eventually the tool selection processes may at times be as complex as implementing and deploying the actual end result. A thorough investigation of your current and expected future situations, both internally and externally are crucial for being able to select the correct tool. Rest assured that all this self study and preparation will lead the way and act as a strong and steady base for your actual future implementations.