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10 things to consider when purchasing business intelligence software

Background: Business intelligence software casts a wide net. Software for site selection, customer segmentation, marketing tests, employee productivity, operational metrics, sentiment analysis, profitability sectors and mapping tools all fall in this category. 

Businesses are constantly challenged with business intelligence software questions such as:

·      Should we “Build or Buy”?

·      Should we “Retain, Upgrade, or Replace” software?

·      What value are we getting from the software?

·      What is true cost of the software?

Assuming that the decision has been made to Buy, rather than Build, business intelligence software, you should explore the software options and find the best fit for your company’s needs, capacity and budget.  

Here are 10 things you should consider when purchasing business intelligence software:

1.      Software capacity: Businesses need to ask themselves whether the software meets (or even exceeds) your business needs. Digging deeper you’ll want to find out what does this software enable you to do that you can’t already do and is it better than the competition.

2.      Integration: There are few more frustrating situations than buying software and then getting no value out of it because you couldn’t integrate it with your other software and data systems.

3.      Usability: Some software is so easy you barely need instructions while others require substantial training and sometimes even hiring specialized staff. If the software doesn’t fit well with your team’s current way of working then some changes will need to be made.

4.      Transparency: Is the software a black box that gives you no information on what it is doing, somewhat transparent or completely transparent?

5.      Interpretability: Software that gives suggestions and answers is only useful is you can interpret the output then use it to guide, prompt or drive business decisions.

6.      Industry usage: It is always important to know what is going on in the industry. Is this software on the bleeding edge, leading edge, a fast follower or an industry standard? If many competitors are using it what is your competitive advantage in using it as well? If it is not commonly used, why not?

7.      Customization: Sometimes we want the software to be able to mold to our specific business needs meaning we may need customization but not all software is customizable.

8.      Technical support: You bought it but need help! What support is available from the software vendor or broader community? How responsive are they? If there are additional costs for this support then you need to add that into your budget.

9.      Costs: We are in business! You may consider a formal cost/benefit analysis if it is known that the software options produce different expected benefits. Otherwise, examine what are the initial and ongoing costs, technical support and training, software upgrades as well as whether you need to hire additional staff or consultants to gain value from the software.

10.  Prioritize: Weight the criteria above appropriately. A scorecard can be created by selecting the criteria above that are relevant for your business and then adding the appropriate weights. Remember that it is perfectly OK to have some weights as zero.

What have you learned when purchasing BI software? Share and we can learn together.

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