Business intelligence (BI) tools allow you to analyse data for patterns, insights – and competitive advantage. At one time, dedicated BI business technology was mostly restricted to large companies who could afford the expensive, complex software required.
Today, BI tools exist that are well within the reach of small and medium-sized businesses. However, it’s important to choose the right one, because if it’s too complex or lacks the right features, it will go unused.
When choosing a business intelligence solution, here’s a checklist of features to consider.
- Data types: Chances are, you have data in multiple places. For example, you might have product data in Excel files, customer data in online applications such as Salesforce and application data in databases. Make sure that your analytics solution can handle any data source you might need to access, now and in the future.
- Data locations: Today, many companies use a mix of on-site technology (such as a physical server) with cloud solutions. Your business intelligence tool should be able to connect to data sources wherever they are.
- Data prep: Once you know what data you’re going to use, you might need to shape it before analysing it. Shaping data means transforming it, performing tasks such as renaming columns or specifying headers. If your new business intelligence software doesn’t make data preparation easy, you could invest more energy getting started than getting smarter.
- Ease of use: Many business intelligence solutions are designed to be managed and used by experts and are not very well-suited to a self-service environment. Choose a solution that is designed to make the data insight accessible to anyone in your organisation.
- Ease of sharing: A data dashboard is much more powerful when you can easily share it with others. When selecting a business intelligence tool, check that you can quickly create interactive business data dashboards so that users can explore the data on their own. The outputs should also be easy to view across a wide range of devices including tablets and smartphones.
If you’re ready to experience a business intelligence solution that can be easy enough for anyone to use, yet with the ability to meet advanced analytics needs, try Microsoft Power BI. It’s available as a standalone solution or as part of Office 365. Best of all, the basic version of Power BI is free.