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2019 Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide

Business Intelligence (BI) solutions offer a centralized system for storing, organizing, and analyzing all the vital data that shapes your business decisions helps you drive your business forward.

You can use BI tools to pull regular reports, access real-time sales data, and analyze past and present data to create predictions about how your company will scale or perform in the future. Deeper analysis can also unveil important data correlations or trends that would likely not be visible through more manual data management and analysis and give your business strong competitive edge through data-driven decisions. 

This guide will provide insight and tools you need to select the best Business Intelligence solution for your company.

BI Benefits and Features

While BI needs will vary by company (and by industry), there are certain features that will benefit all businesses, including:

  • Real-Time Data and Analytics
  • Prescriptive Analytics
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Big Data Analytics
  • Customer Profiling
  • Data Visualization Tools and Graphics
  • OLAP Integrations
  • Data Mining
  • Ad-Hoc Reports
  • Intuitive Dashboards and Reporting Tools
  • Mobile BI Tools

Implementing a Business Intelligence solution in your business can generate many key benefits for your business, including:

  • Increased Data Accuracy and Relevance
  • Expedited, Data-Driven Decision-Making
  • Increased Adaptability
  • Improved Processes through Auomation
  • Enhanced Competitive Edge
  • Improved Insight Into Developing Trends 

Business Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2019

Business trends and software trends have a symbiotic relationship much of the time, innovation in one area always drives change in the other. To stay current and competitive in your industry by embracing all the best tools for your business, you should regularly study trends surrounding the software solutions you use in your company. Here’s a closer look at some of the trends driving BI this year.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

As AI continues to improve, more business benefits of this technology are being realized, and he implications of AI in business are ever increasing to new height. As this technology makes its way into modern software programs like BI, companies are positioned to experience tremendous growth in innovation and automation. AI is becoming central to key areas of Business Intelligence, including:

  • Process Automation and Internal Organization
  • Communication Improvements Due to Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Real-Time Language Translations
  • Pattern, Voice, Speech, Facial, and Biometric Recognition and Analysis
  • Data Mining and Customer Profiling

Data-Driven Personalization

BI congregates all your important business data in one system and has powerful predictive analysis features in place that can help you identify trends, spot areas of growth or concern with customers, and make accurate forecasts for the future performance of your company.

This level of detail, all in one place, makes it possible for you to really see where you have the biggest opportunities with your customers through more personalized sales processes. This year, more and more businesses are leveraging BI to personalize their marketing efforts with rich, in-depth data.

Choosing Your Perfect Business Intelligence Software Solution

Conduct a Business Review

Before you select your Business Intelligence solution, it is a great idea to make a list of the specific business needs that are driving your decision to implement a new system or upgrade your existing one. Thinking about the manual data barriers or customer-related issues that may be holding your business back will help you gain insight into just how different Business Intelligence solutions will best fulfill your needs and help you meet your goals.

Many companies find it helpful to include company leaders and key partners in their decision-making process of choosing a Business Intelligence solution. You can include key people in your business (from executives to support managers and agents) in your selection and planning process to make sure that all of your important needs are accounted for and your solution contains all the features and tools you must have.

Questions to Ask to Guide Your Review

  • Are you having difficulty meeting your growth targets or other customer-centric goals in your business?
  • Are your existing reporting and analytics processes, tools, and systems outdated and cumbersome for employees?
  • What tools and features are must-haves for our company? Which features aren’t as vital?
  • How tech savvy are the employees who will use the system most?
  • What deployment method makes the most sense for our business and budget?
  • How many people will use your Business Intelligence system?

Build Your Business Intelligence Budget

After you’ve conducted a complete review of your business needs and have a strong understanding of your BI requirements, it is important to figure out the budget you can allocate toward purchasing or upgrading your system.

Using the list you prepared while reviewing your business needs, you can determine how much value will be created by your Business Intelligence system, and prepare your budget accordingly. 

Need help building your budget? Get pricing from leading Business Intelligence vendors now!

Determine Which Type of BI Technology Will Best Suit Your Needs

Business Intelligence vendors typically offer an array of different technologies and deployment methods to best meet the size, budget, and needs of your company. While cloud solutions are swiftly gaining popularity, particularly among small and medium companies, larger business still often choose to go with an on-site solution, so they can create a more customized and proprietary system. Here’s a closer look at the main BI technology options available on the market:

Cloud
Cloud-based technology is becoming increasingly popular for all types of business software, and Business Intelligence is no exception. Cloud technology functions through a third-party platform that is powered by the internet, which supports business mobility and remote system access that a flourishing company needs. Cloud Business Intelligence systems are also more affordable, which gives more companies the opportunity to embrace a solution earlier in their business.


On-Site
On-premise, or on-site Business Intelligence solutions are systems that are built on-site in an office building or other physical location. On-premise solutions require hardware and ongoing updates and maintenance, which makes implementation more expensive than cloud solutions.

Not sure what technology or deployment is for you? We can help!

Think About the People in Your Company Who will be Using Your BI System

For your Business Intelligence solution to be a success in your business, your employees will need to embrace it and use it to its full potential. If your system is cumbersome or confusing, many employees may become frustrated and not use it as much as they should. This can hinder your growth, so it’s important to pick a Business Intelligence software that suits the needs of everyone who will using it.

As you think about the users in your company, think over these questions to find the best fit for your teams:

  • How many employees will be using the Business Intelligence system?
  • What data sources need to be integrated with this system? Will it interrupt day to day business for my teams?
  • What technical expertise levels exist in your users? (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • What are the needs of each group of users?
  • What type of support will users need as they learn and use and maximize the potential in your Business Intelligence?
  • What training will employees need?

Know What to Look for in Your Perfect Business Intelligence Provider

As you meet with various Business Intelligence vendors that you’re interested in working with, you should do some due diligence in researching their reputation before you commit to purchasing their services. Some of the key things you should look for in your perfect BI vendor are prominence, reviews, and support.

Industry prominence and popularity
While you should not choose a vendor based on popularity alone, a vendor’s standing in the industry can signal what you can expect from their services. Make sure that the provider you select has prominence in the industry and is popular among other companies with similar needs as yours.

Reviews from current or past system users
One of the best ways you can easily research a BI vendor you’re considering is to look for reviews given by current or past users. Reviews from current companies using the software can give you great insight into how the provider treats customers and how companies value their services and features. Past reviews can establish a history of service values and give you a snapshot into how the provider handles business over time as well.

System Support Offered
Support is a vital component that all vendors will offer. However, the types and degree of support will vary from provider to provider, so make sure you know what level of support your team will need, and then ensure your selected vendor can easily fulfil those support needs.

Plan Your Integration and Customizations

Choose a time when integration will not impact your core business hours or seasons, if possible. During your integration, some data sources or systems may not be accessible for short periods of time, or may not contain complete data for analysis. Choosing a time when your company is not as busy can help you avoid the negative impacts of the system downtime that is part of switching to a new Business Intelligence software.

Understand Hardware Needs of Your BI System

If you choose to implement a cloud-based or hosted BI system, then you will not require any hardware to get your software up and running quickly. However, if you’re going to be implementing a solution on site, you’ll need to plan on investing upfront for hardware, installation, and ongoing maintenance on your system.

Research and Compare Multiple BI Vendors

Once you have a firm grasp on all the things you need and want from your Business Intelligence solution, and understand what you must invest, then you can begin researching and comparing vendors.

There are many excellent BI vendors on the market, and you’ll undoubtedly be able to find your perfect system if you take a bit of time to really look into what each vendor offers and compare your top choices against one another to determine which is best for you and your business. As you compare your options, make sure to keep your list of key business needs and required features handy so you can reference them and keep yourself on track as you absorb all of the information and create a short list of viable options.

Set up Demos and Get Pricing from BI Vendors on Your Short List

Once you’ve created a short list of three to five Business Intelligence solutions that you’re interested in implementing, it’s important to take your preparation and research one step further and get in touch with each vendor. Most providers will happily set up meetings to discuss your needs and requirements and can demonstrate all the key features for you.

Before you participate in a meeting or demo with vendor, make sure that you refresh your memory on all your business and feature needs. It is also a great idea to provide your lists to the vendor prior to meeting, so they can put together the custom options and pricing they have available that will meet your needs. This will make your time much more efficient, and also give the vendor a clear understanding of exactly what you require.