15 guidelines for selecting retail analytics and business intelligence (BI) tools.
The analytics and business intelligence landscape is very crowded. There are, for example, as many as 273 vendors providing solutions in just the ‘data visualisation’ space!
So, to help you select your retail analytics and business intelligence (BI) software, and prune down the numerous options to a credible list of possible vendors, we have prepared a check-list of the key questions you need to ask when evaluating the BI tools for your organisation.
- Are the tools intuitive and easy to use, with a drag and drop user interface that removes the need for any coding (or scripting)?
- Do the tools allow you to put the data into the hands of line of business with your organisation, without needing to employ an army of data scientists?
- Are the tools easy to implement, with no changes required to existing IT infrastructure?
- Do the tools offer full connectivity to all necessary internal and external data sources (be they structured, semi-structured or unstructured in format)?
- Do the tools allow data connections to cleanse and prepare data ‘in system’, removing the need to change the raw underlying data?
- Do the tools connect to other systems as standard?
4. Power and speed
- Do the tools possess fast processing capabilities with no restrictions on data volumes? (Make sure these attributes are tested and demonstrated to your satisfaction – ideally using your own big data.)
- How well do the tools perform using a desktop versus a server resource?
- Do the tools offer the flexibility to deliver many tasks across multiple departments such as marketing, finance, property, operations, ecommerce, and operations?
- Do the tools offer interoperability – adding value into existing specialist software tools you have deployed within functional departments? (It could even allow you to migrate away from a range of specialist legacy products (e.g. GIS, web analytics, price optimisation, financial reporting, property management, functional dashboards etc.), with the potential to save you significant costs along the way.)
6. Advanced analytics
- Do the tools offer the necessary flexibility, such as a wide range of advanced statistics and analysis tools, from regression to AB testing, and from clustering to predictive analytics?
- Can the tools deliver a flexible range of interactive outputs (including graphs, maps, tables, text) with results that can be scheduled with automated delivery to key stakeholders?
- Can the tools support interactive dashboards that bring data to life through the intuitive deployment of visualisations, which use colour shape, size and filtering to add context to data, allow the key patterns to jump out at you and allow you to be inquisitive and exploratory?
- Can the tools be deployed in an appropriate way for both desktop power users and the wider stakeholders across the enterprise, who need to ‘consume’ the analytic insights?
- Can the tools offer appropriate data security and user access protocols?
- Are the tools compatible across a range of platforms (desktops, laptops, tablets and smart-phones) to allow 24/7 self-service analytics when needed on the go?
- Do the tools have a strong client base of relevant cohorts for your business and in your region?
- Do these case studies match your analytic requirements? If not, will the vendor explore a relevant Proof of Concept with you?
- Does the vendor have an active user community offering and the ability to share ideas and learnings?
- Do the tools offer a simple, transparent and cost-effective pricing model?
- Are there any ‘hidden’ add-ons?
- Can the commercial relationship scale to reflect your evolving BI requirements?
- Critically, can you deliver ‘time to value’ from the platform in less than 90 days?
- Do the tools have a proven record of R&D and regular enhancement?
- What does the vendor’s current roadmap for evolution look like? Will it match your own evolving business requirements?
- Are software releases configured to ensure easy migration from older versions of the software to the latest environment?
- What level of user support is provided around version release?
- Do the tools fit with your standards for user access control, system monitoring, backup and recovery?
- Is the training provided tailored to your organisation? Or will it be generic, leaving you with the job of applying what you learn in a training environment back to your own day job?
15. Reseller/partner quality
- If the BI tool is sold through a reseller (VAR), how deeply do they know the tool?
- What value has the reseller added to other clients where the software has been deployed?
- Can the reseller provide training, ongoing technical support and ad hoc consulting support when you need it?
- If the vendor sells direct, do they have the necessary skills and experience in your business sector to provide the value-added support you may need?
So, as you can see, there are a wide range of factors to take into consideration. We will delve into some of these areas in greater depth in future blogs, but for now we recommend that defining your minimum requirements under each of these headings will help give you a clear framework to navigate effectively through the forest of BI software options.