Birst, a San Fransisco-based business intelligence (BI) software provider recently published an insightful white paper entitled “The 11 Key Questions to Ask of a BI Solution,” and we love it. It makes the case that too many BI solutions make extravagant promises about the impact they can bring to an organization, while in reality, they are expensive and complicated in both use and implementation, and don’t bring your team valuable insights based on a wide variety of factors. There are certainly numerous elements to consider when shopping for a BI solution, but let’s focus on some high-level key questions to ask of a BI solution.

Does it offer a strong feature set at a clear, affordable price? Some BI solutions cram in extra features that you don’t need, which drives up the price and often eliminates the opportunity to leverage the features that are actually useful. Alternatively, they’ll sell you the base product, but force you to buy add-ons in order to get full functionality out of the product. Make sure you’re crystal-clear on what the short- and long-term costs will be. Check out our sliding pricing scale here!

How quickly can you begin to get value out of it? If you don’t get an answer that is 90 days or less, it should raise some red flags. Traditionally, BI deployments can take 6-12 months to demonstrate ROI, but time is money, and traits like SaaS models, process automation, and template reporting speak to a BI solution that is focused on making an impact immediately. With envVisual, we typically get you up and running in one month, so you can start getting value out of it quickly.

How readily-available is your data, and how secure is it? If your data isn’t secure, your investment might be more of a liability than a benefit. And if you can’t access it when you need to, then it really serves no purpose. envVisual is built for mobile business intelligence, which means you can access any of your data anywhere, especially in the field, where the rubber meets the road.

Can you implement the solution without draining all of your IT resources? BI solutions are often IT-intensive, but that doesn’t mean that you should devote your entire IT department to the deployment. After all, your business has to continue to function, even when you’re implementing a BI system. Further, it shouldn’t demand restructuring of current IT protocols and systems. BI solutions should work from your processes, not the other way around.

Does it avoid risky integrations? Many vendors will sell you on the functionality of their solution, but charge extra for integrations into your system or others that facilitate the goals you set out to accomplish. Plus, you want to have all your data in one place, as a failure in a system outside your control can leave you without the BI you need to succeed. envVisual can integrate with your systems or act as a stand-alone, but either way, you always know what you’re getting and we’ll never loop in an unfamiliar integration which could compromise your success.

Perhaps one of the most important questions is whether you can get a comprehensive view of your business with the solution. Does your BI solution give you the right data and insights to understand what is working and what isn’t? Does it integrate with the 3rd party systems you currently use to track activity in your organization? Adaptability to your organization’s structure and processes is essential for any BI solution, and answering this general question is central to gauging whether you’re implementing a BI solution (or eventual problem).

This is part 1 of our series on questions to ask before deploying a BI solution. Tune in tomorrow to learn the rest of the questions you should be asking.

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