Business Tips | iDashboards Products

If you’re in the business of business intelligence (BI), your main task may be finding the right BI tool to meet the needs of your organization. With so many self-service BI tools on the market, this might feel like a daunting proposition. There are big-name players full of fancy features and functionality, but options like these can leave some organizations struggling to justify the cost and straining to find use for all the bells and whistles. Self-service BI should be an asset, not a burden. When it comes to picking the right tool for your company, the first thing you need to do is organize and evaluate your requirements – then compare them to available tools that meet your price point.

What’s on Your BI Wish List?

Evaluate BI Tools

The right self-service BI tool should offer the right amount of flexibility, integrate with your data sources seamlessly, and scale to meet your company’s growth rate. Start by gathering with your stakeholders. These are the people who will be using the BI tool on a regular basis, both on the back end and the user end. You want to learn what each person and perspective needs from the software. Then, divide your requirements into three categories: non-negotiables, nice-to-have, and expendable.  When evaluating specific tools, ask the following questions:

  • Does it have the right ETL capabilities?
  • Will it integrate with your current data sources?
  • How long will it take to train your team to use it?
  • Is it within your budget?
  • Will it grow as your organization grows?
  • What kind of support team will you need to keep it running?
  • Does it offer the right amount of customizability?

Simply put, the “non-negotiables” on your requirements list are any aspects of the tool you absolutely need. If a given self-service BI tool doesn’t have the items on your non-negotiable list, you can easily eliminate it from your list. Similarly, the things on your “nice-to-have” list are items that could benefit your company but won’t make or break the success of the tool or your buying decision. If you’ve narrowed your choices to just a few options, the items on your nice-to-have list will probably tip the scale one direction or another.

Keep in mind that many BI tools come with a laundry list of features – some that you probably won’t use. While it might not seem beneficial to include things you don’t want or need on your wish list, these features can help you eliminate tools that come with too much clutter. The goal is to find something that aligns with your needs, which means avoiding features that aren’t helpful and will end up collecting dust in the long run.

The Need to Scale in Business Intelligence

BI self service tools

The right self-service BI tool will serve your company in the future just as well as it does now. Take factors like company growth (how many people will use the tool), maintenance (how many employees you’ll need to keep the tool running smoothly), and cost (how many fully licensed users you’ll need to support) into account when you are evaluating BI tools. Getting a new tool up and running takes careful planning – not to mention time. By finding one that will serve your company in the future just as well as it does today, you can avoid the less productive “ramping up” period that comes with switching tools completely.

Read next: Top 10 Dashboard Mistakes to Avoid

Making the Right Connections with BI

Making the Connection - BI Tools

One of the main roles your BI software has is connecting to your data. Identify where your data currently lives and what sources you would need to sync. If all of your data exists in Excel spreadsheets, for example, you will have a lot of options for your BI tools. If your data situation is more complicated, you may have to be more discerning. Can the BI tool in question blend SQL database data with Google Analytics? What direct connections can you make, so that you query the most recent and up-to-date metrics? Once you’ve identified your needs, it’s easier to evaluate BI tools and find one that fits the bill.

Templated Vs. Custom BI – Which One Is Right for Your Organization?

Templated or Custom BI Tool

Self-service BI tools can be simple or complex. Before you choose one for your company, figure out whether a custom or templated approach is best. If speed and simplicity are important, consider using a tool that kick starts your projects with pre-set templates for data and data visualizations. Options like this can even come with pre-built KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and dashboards. If flexibility is more important, consider an option that allows you to fully customize your data presentation.

What’s on your BI tool wish list? iDashboards wants to hear from you! Drop us a line on social media to share your thoughts, or start a free, 30-day trial today to see if iDashboards is the right fit for you.

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Jennifer Horne Sr. Digital Marketing Coordinator @iDashboards

Jennifer Horne handles SEO, PPC, content and digital marketing for iDashboards. She has won multiple 30 Rock trivia competitions, makes a mean green curry, and loves living in Detroit.


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