Today’s business world continues to evolve into hyper competitive environments that require immediate responses from customers, suppliers and employees. The business professional is constantly being voice mailed and e-mailed with “urgent” and “immediate” responses required. Less time is available, but more time is required regarding business analytics because of how quickly the market place can change and the massive amount of information that must be analyzed to make an informed business decision. Business Intelligence is quickly becoming more of a necessity then a luxury.
When considering BI solutions, the following questions should be asked to perspective vendors and within your organization:
What will the Business Intelligence solution provide to the enterprise? This seems like an obvious factor, but I am always surprised that during initial kick off sessions with new clients it becomes very clear that they do not know what they want their solution to provide them with. More often than not, I find that customers know what they don’t want not what they want. Make sure your organization has a clear understanding of what it wants from the solution, it will save time and money.
Chose a user friendly system. The BI solution is much different than an accounting software or and ERP system in that a significant number of people use everyday. While you may look at the results or information that a BI solution is providing in the form of a dashboard, the analytical side of the program is usually not used on a daily basis by everyone, as you would for an accounting program. The easier the program is to uses the better, if people forget how to use software – they just will not use it.
Mapping – Business Intelligence solutions can typically be attached to a number of databases or ERP systems, once the vendor understands were the data exists. In order to save time and money, find out up front if your vendor has the mapping for your system and is familiar with the data location of your existing accounting or ERP system. The more familiar they are with the architecture of your existing system, the less it should cost you in consulting or implementation fees.
Who will use the Business Intelligence solution? Senior management must be fully on board in implementing a Business Intelligence solution. If senior managers are not using the analytical tools provided, mid and lower mangers will follow suit. Including one individual from each department will also insure that the organization gains the greatest benefit from the solution.
Test Drive the Business Intelligence solution. Many different types of solutions exist in the market with slick interfaces and great looking dashboards. But a solution has to be matched for needs of a specific company which can vary greatly between companies and industries. Ask for prototypes with your company’s data and trial periods so that your company can validate that this is the correct solution for your enterprise.
How long is the implementation time line? – Again, this may seem obvious, but many Business Intelligence solutions are very powerful but can be difficult to implement and / or attach to certain databases, account programs or ERP systems. The cost of the software may be just the tip of the iceberg. Talk with existing customers and ask how long the implementation stage was?
Designate an internal project manager for the Business Intelligence implementation. When companies implement new accounting systems or ERP systems they typically identify a project manager – one person that is managing the process and keeping a close eye on implementation deadlines. Business Intelligence solutions typically lack this type of internal resource allocation which can result in missed deadlines or unclear communication between the vendor and the company. Allocate an internal manager; it is an important step that will increase the chances of a successful implementation
The following seven issues are typically the areas that can cause significant delays or failures in implementations. Be sure to discuss all of these issues in detail with your potential vendors and you will be significantly increasing the chances that you will pick the correct BI solution and will gain all the benefits from a properly matched and implemented solution for your enterprise.