We all know we live in a data driven Economy ! Every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, i.e. 90% of the world’s total data today has been created in the last two years alone.
Now without making it too dramatic, think of this data from our organization’s perspective, Today CIO’s & IT Leaders worldwide have Business Intelligence / Analytics as their top priority and why not ? As a result of global competing marketplace of immense opportunities, today businesses & governments are striving to be their best in generating more revenues, profits, cut costs & increase customer and citizen experiences.
With data being generated from multiple sources and much faster than anticipated, organizations need the tools & platforms to help find this data, combine it to generate patterns and insights for better decision taking abilities.
Every organization has similar daunting questions when they decide to deploy a Business Intelligence / Analytics Solution. For the simple fact that most of these implementations either completely or partially fail to deliver results for the following top 5 reasons:
- Wrong product / Technology selection, because of
- A very confusing product landscape
- Vendor’s with widely divergent technology and cost models
- Bloated / Hyped Solution Feature Sets (From vendors & research analyst firms)
- Deployment / Implementation Choices & Complications (Onsite, Cloud, Hybrid)
- Complexity in integrating multiple technologies in your organization
- Internal operational limitations & inefficiencies
- Lengthy & daunting process of managing system integrators around the implementation process
Perspectives & Recommendations:
- If you go back to every vendor’s history of inception into the BI market space, you will understand that each tool was built for a different & specific purpose.
No product is perfect and if there is a perfect one out there, it is not necessarily the right one for you.
There are 4 types of BI / Analytical tools utilities and it is very important for you to understand which one is the right fit for your organization? Or rather where does your problem lie and which functions are critical to your business challenges?
- Descriptive Analytics: What is happening currently or happened in the past in your organization, around information, people & processes. Focuses on a post mortem & present situation of events & occurrences.
- Diagnostic Analytics: Why did it happen? Any event or occurrences that have happened and an understanding of why these events took place, what triggered them.
- Predictive Analytics / Advanced Analytics: What will happen next, any event that can trigger other events around your organization’s people, processes and operations can be predicted from these functions.
- Prescriptive Analytics: What needs to be done? Based on the predictions from the tool, what decision needs to be made to change the course for improvement or to address challenges of the future.
Selecting the right BI solution is your organizations personal decision, don’t be bogged down by peer pressure in your industry or geography. Even organizations in the same industry have different goals, objectives, personnel & culture. So the solution has to be aligned to what your organization wants to achieve from it.
- Some vendors will try to attract you based on product features and functions, in comparison to other BI Solutions. Don’t let this be your primary or the only criteria to choose a solution and make it a feature fight internally & with the vendors.
Answer these questions to lead you into the right direction:
- What are you objectives and goals & why do you really want to invest time, capital and internal resources in the BI initiative?
- Does the BI tool offer solutions to my end users & management challenges to make better, faster and effective decisions?
- Can the tool address Problems & challenges users face from the current setup?
- As a CxO, am I falling for the trap of how many features & functions I can get for the dollar $$$ value?
- Most of the IT Leaders fall in this trap and it is very important to know that your organization / end users will only use 40%-70% of the solution features, irrespective of what solution you have chosen
- Document every aspect of the above questions in the evaluation process and communicate it as a part of your RFP. Technical & Functional requirements are very important, however project’s objectives and vision outweighs far more in terms of importance for a successful endeavor.
- If this is your CIO’s or IT Leaders first BI evaluation & implementation, don’t shy away from getting independent & unbiased external help.
- From a functional & technical standpoint your RFP should be shaped looking at the following 3 parameters:
- Enable & Use
- Production & Insight Generation
- Publishing & Consumption
Lets dig deep in further details, considering important capabilities of these solutions:
Enable & Use
User Data Mashup & Modelling: features set should have the functionality to combine data from different sources and create models based on custom user defined parameters, grouping and setting different hierarchies based on priorities, importance and urgency. Some of the advanced capabilities also include auto-discovery, intelligent joins, intelligent profiling, data blend from multiple sources which includes multi-structured data.
Integration: An easy & similar same look and feel across all platform components, so the users can have agility and less time to spend in the learning of the system.
Administration: Can provide easy administration across platforms multiple components for scalability, changing settings and ensuring it is always available for end users effortlessly, an important operating expenditure that must be addresses is the number of people required to administer the tool. These are some costs you need to keep in mind while interacting with BI tool vendors.
Metadata Management: One of the very critical requirements where the users and administrators depending on their access levels should be able to access data from systems like your ERP & other sources. Functions like searching, capturing, storing, reusing and publishing Meta data should incorporate as a part of your requirements.
Cloud Deployment: Well this one is tricky, if your organization wants to use the BI platform/ tool which should support you through the cloud model, you should state this as a part of your requirements and also consider security & uptime as key parameters in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) discussion. Many government organizations do not choose to do this, however we see private entities still moving on cloud based solutions across regions when it comes to BI Tools. It is an ongoing argument and discussion if you want your data & reports up there?
Development: The platform should provide visual and development tools which are easy to use by the administrators and quick to deploy (agility is the key), so as to mold the platform as per your organizations culture, operations and processes. Important aspect here is to know how can you quickly train your administrators and are resources abundantly available in your geography?
Production & Insight Generation
Exploration: Enables the users and the administrators to explore and discover data, working related to charts and visual aspects of the information. These tools enable users to analyze the information by interacting directly with a visual representation of it.
Dashboards: The ability to create and manipulate data and create specific dashboards and interactive content by the end users and administrators.
Technical reporting capabilities: The ability of the administrators or the IT function to create highly specific reports required by the end users and the management which requires using workflows and processes which are not mapped for a common user in the organization. These reports require certain governance and access abilities by the administrators and can contain information and insights which are very critical to the business.
Ad-hoc Reporting: Irrespective of the tool is configures, many users still like to publish and populate Ad-Hoc reports which can make their work life easy and can help them generate their own insights being creative.
Publishing & Consumption
Mobility: Validate with the vendor on how the product / tool will publish information and insights on mobile devices and tablets, especially for employees on the go. One of the important aspects is to understand how these functions get affected when the mobile operating systems change and are upgraded in your organization or by the operating system providers.
Social & collaboration: Many organizations use collaboration tools and social platforms internally and externally for their partners, distributors and customers. The tool should be able to share analysis and use the inbuilt functions of social platforms to create discussions and generate insights on real time basis from integrating with social platforms which are important your organization depending on the activities and industry vertical you are serving into.
Open Standards & API’s: We have seen many organizations using these capabilities so they can connect and share insights using SDK’s & API’s for open standards. This applies majorly to large enterprises who have the deep technical knowhow and resources to use these functions in a BI tool / platform. Important aspect to consider is the seamless flow around different systems which can be connected without making the users work more tedious.
A final recommendation would be that as a client organization, you should be in the driving seat while selecting & deploying a solutions rather than a vendor or system integrator taking a lead in your implementation of the BI Tool, Why? Because the project matters more for your organization compared to everyone else.