Nine Questions to Ask a Rep Before You Buy a Business Intelligence System

Nine Questions to Ask a Rep Before You Buy a Business Intelligence System

Nine Questions to Ask a Rep Before You Buy a Business Intelligence System 

Business intelligence software can help you understand your business like never before. With access to all data related to business, business intelligence software is able to identify, develop, and create new strategic business opportunities. Using ‘big data’ has never been easier thanks to business intelligence solutions. 

Let’s explore the must-ask questions before you consult with business intelligence vendors. 

1. What impact will the system have on my business?

This is the greatest and most important question to get your Rep to help you brainstorm what's possible with business intelligence software and the potential ROI of the system. While they may not be able to answer with specific amounts, they may have some good ideas on how to achieve the level of impact you're looking for. Beware of vendors who draw a blank at this stage or are unable to point you to current customers who have achieved something similar. Here are some details you can use to help prompt the Rep:

  • How long does deployment take?
  • How many net new customers will we acquire by having the new or updated system that we wouldn't otherwise have, and
  • what's the average lifetime revenue per customer?
  • How many more products or services can we sell?
  • Will the system let me improve my prices or price/volume mix?
  • Will the system help improve my margins…measurably?
  • Will the system increase the velocity of cash flow?
  • Can I improve cross-sell & up-sell opportunities?
  • Will the system make me more efficient and produce more with fewer resources (measurable productivity)?
  • Is there a direct headcount reduction associated with this initiative?
  • Can I reduce inventory costs? Raw material costs? Transportation and storage costs?
  • Will it reduce my selling, general, and administrative expenses?
  • Can it reduce debt and/or improve our cost of capital?

2. What features/functionality (that are important to my business) do you have, including:

  • Support for self-service BI solutions (meaning end-users can create their own experience with the system)
  • Ad-hoc query & reporting capabilities
  • Predicative Analytics
  • Ranking, sorting, filtering
  • Visualization (graphs, charts, drill-down, pivot)
  • Exception & stop-lighting reporting
  • Real-time monitoring and alerting
  • Multidimensionality support (for example, looking at sales figures by rep, by product, by geography, by month, by customer type, etc.)
  • Support for various kinds of data (internal, external, structured, unstructured - like a text from customer support logs or social media data, financial, operational, historic, actual, forecast)
  • Support for mobile devices (iPads, iPhone apps, Android, Blackberry)

3. Consolidation of data

Will your system helps us ‘bring it all together and replace disparate tools. Will you help simplify our IT portfolio and information architecture? If we gave you a list of our tools, can you show exactly how you would replace them?

4. What's the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the business intelligence System? Including:

  • the cost to build or acquire the system (hardware, software, network costs)
  • the third-party software license costs to the above (for example a system may require an add-on license for an RDBMs or middleware)
  • the cost to operate, maintain and upgrade
  • the training costs (administrators & users)
  • the cost to install and implement the system (this is a significant question to ask, there can be many surprises here!)
  • the cost to upgrade or troubleshoot and fix any impact the system will have on other existing systems
  • the potential consulting cost to re-engineer processes that are being automated
  • the cost to temporarily back-fill any headcount that has been ‘seconded' for this initiative
  • the labor components of all of the above (procurement staff, IT staff, new-hire administrators, trainers, consultants, and so on).

5. How will we handle data and system integration?

For example, with our ERP system, CRM system, budgeting & planning systems, and existing data warehouses, with external data.

A good business intelligence software should also be able to source data from files, cloud storage drives, REST APIs, and any other source of company information to help truly understand everything about your company. 

All such data can be displayed on a convenient dashboard to analyze critical data with ease.  

6. User Permissions and Authentication

Since different types of users (analysts, managers, executives) interact with information differently, do you support role-based front-end tools?

This would allow only certain users to have permission to access different types of data and each user would have to go through an authorization step to access such data. Most BI software vendors allow both column-level and row-level security access features. 

7. Do you run on-premise or as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application or both?

Having a BI system in the cloud will reduce much of your IT overhead expense, and you have to be comfortable trusting your company data to a third party. If you are looking at a SaaS solution, some follow-on questions include:

  • How do you charge (by the user, by volume, by feature)?
  • What security, integrity, redundancy, and backup guarantees are in place?
  • What service-level agreement (SLA) do you have in place for performance (response times, support times)?
  • How do I get at my data should something go wrong? 

8. How do I get support when I need it, and what kinds of support do you have?

For example, directly from your company, through consultants, user groups, and online resources?

Vendor reputation is important when deciding on BI software. The best business intelligence software vendors provide ample support from a community of developers. Always consider business intelligence reviews to help you decide on the best BI provider for your company. 

How many references can you give me for current customers in the same industry as mine, with similar data sources, similar needs, and ideally with some third-party validated ROI success stories?

9. What other advanced capabilities does your product have?

Does the product also support predictive analysis, natural language queries, and any other advanced features to help improve my business?

If you need more help deciding on a reputable business intelligence software vendor, we can help by letting you consult with our business intelligence buyer’s guide and also helping you compare business intelligence with ease through