Definition of strategy and setting goals
A project team should define clear business goals in the initial phase of the selection process. This will ensure the level of success or failure of the project can be properly measured.
Software selection projects are complex and usually involve two separate dialogs; technical and business. Defining a successful business intelligence strategy and related project goals should comprise specification of the technical, business and organizational aspects of the project.
Defining a Business Intelligence strategy
Define your goals, discuss the technical, business and organizational aspects of your business intelligence strategy and assess the market. It will take time, and company politics may make the process even more difficult, but the effort is well worth it.
Identifying requirements is a key stage in the software selection process. A list of criteria is one of the main outputs of the project. Defining and working with the criteria is a good way of involving key players in the process and improving their acceptance of the final product selection.
The process of defining criteria can often simplify projects, reducing the cost and increasing the chances of success. It also identifies just who is backing the project, and concentrates their minds if they know that the effects will be measured and not just assumed.
List of criteria
The list of criteria when selecting BI software should include criteria relating to architecture, data sources, administration, information delivery, user interface, report development, performance, user-defined content, analysis and planning. When defining the requirements of a project, individuals and departments should weight the criteria according to their needs.
When creating a catalog of requirements, technical, business and organizational goals and requirements should all be considered carefully.
The whole project team should be involved in the process, which must be documented to ensure that nothing is missed. Where possible, decisions on the criteria should be approved by everyone on the team.
Once the basic requirements and criteria of the project have been established, ‘must-have’ features should be identified and prioritized over ‘nice-to-have’ features before creating a final requirements list.
As the project progresses the criteria may change. This can be problematic if the implementation has already begun; in fact changing criteria can cause a project to fail.
But it is not necessarily a bad thing if changes arise during the software evaluation process. As project members become more familiar with the products on the shortlist, their attitude and understanding of their own requirements may very well change.
Defining requirements is a key step to helping the project team develop a deeper understanding of project needs and goals. Engaging all relevant team members and stakeholders at this stage is essential to the project’s success.
The output of this process is a weighted list of criteria that allows the project team to reduce the number of vendors to a shortlist for final tool selection.
Software Evaluation – Analyzing the market and making a shortlist
Once project goals have been defined and requirements identified and weighted, the actual evaluation of the product can begin.
The BI software market is complex, with several hundred vendors to choose from and new vendors continually appearing with new solutions. On average, each vendor has 2-3 products in their portfolio.
The market is characterized by the big international players but also by a multitude of smaller players, often focusing on specific geographical regions or specializing in certain application areas.
The software evaluation process has three different steps. Initially, a general screening of the market will identify possible suitable vendors before these contenders are narrowed down to a shortlist of 3-5 products. In the final step the selection can then be made from this shortlist.
Steps for a software evaluation
In each step, the level of detailed analysis increases but the number of software products reduces, as shown above.
The first step in the product selection process is a wide-ranging market analysis providing an overview of the market.
At this stage, the market analysis should already be focused on the type of application required (eg. analysis, reporting, planning etc.). The goal of this step is to identify products that look like a reasonable fit against criteria defined by users.
Our consultants find many BI evaluations end up comparing apples with oranges because the selection team has created a shortlist too quickly without first understanding the business issues.
In particular, buyers often allow vendors to educate them about the market; a dangerous route to follow as vendors will invariably have their own interests at heart.
The most common problem during software selection is a poorly defined shortlist.
Our peer groups should help you ensure that the products on your list are comparable. It is also worth exploring independent sources of market information such as our Vendor Performance Summaries of each of the business intelligence products featured in The BI Survey, which provide an unbiased and insightful source of information underpinned by expert analysis.
In our peer groups, business intelligence products are grouped according to their functionality and regional focus. The following tabs show how business intelligence products in The BI Survey 16 were divided and allocated into peer groups.
Includes products that focus on self-service reporting and ad hoc analysis.
BI & Analytics specialists are software vendors who focus solely on BI and/or analytics. Often, they have just one product in their portfolio.
Business software generalists have a broad product portfolio that is not limited to BI and analytics, including most (or all) types of enterprise software for a variety of business requirements (e.g., ERP).
Products that focus on creating advanced and highly sophisticated dashboards.
Includes reporting and analytics products that can be embedded in other business applications.
Includes products that provide integrated functionality for BI and performance management, especially planning and budgeting.
Includes products from companies with annual revenues of $200m+ and a truly international reach (partner ecosystem, on-site locations, global installations and revenues).
Products in this peer group are typically (but not exclusively) used in large scenarios and/or enterprise-wide implementations with a large number of users and data volumes.
Includes products used in the largest deployments (median of at least 120 users and a majority of installations in large companies with more than 2,500 employees in the last four editions of this survey). Products must be equipped with functionality for enterprise deployments and serve a broad range of BI and analytics use cases.
Products in this peer group are typically (but not exclusively) used in small and midsize scenarios and/or departmental implementations with a moderate number of users and data volumes.
Includes products that focus on visual data discovery and advanced data visualization.
Focus the first step of your market analysis on finding and matching your requirements with general software segments in the BI market. This stage typically produces a list of 20-30 products.
In step two
, narrow your list down to 3-5 tools
by concentrating on ‘must-have’ and key criteria.
Evaluate these remaining tools in detail against all criteria and test them in a proof of concept.