Choosing BI Tools

The range of BI offerings available can be bewildering. Take the example of a major international bank that made the decision to move into BI tools. They had the experience in-house to understand multi-dimensional databases, slice and dice, OLAP as well as how to apply these to their business. So they approached a number of vendors.

After an evaluation period comprising largely of evaluating the vendors as opposed to the tools, the business were in a position to make a decision about which vendor they would choose. That decision was that only one vendor understood the business issues, and only that vendor took the time to build a relationship that the business felt comfortable with. The comment from the business was that if they were going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, they expected the vendors would put more effort into understanding their business and actively trying to win the deal.

The business eventually settled on a tool, but the point is that the tool was secondary to them. There was a core set of functions that every tool offered, and the business were looking beyond those functions into relationship building, stability of both the vendor and the tool, and a simple, yet functional front end.

If there was ever a message for vendors, this bank provided it. The vendor that just supplied glossies and dictated to the company when he could visit had lost any chance no matter what tool he was offering, probably before the business ever met him. The vendor who brought his technical people to the first meeting and bombarded the business people with the intricacies of the software probably lost his chances early on also. The vendor who came to the business with his CEO, introduced the CEO so that the business could get a feeling that the vendor was interested from the top down, and then listened over a period of several days to what the business wanted, and then discussed futures of the product, his companies growth strategy, and presented a number of success stories in the same business area, had his foot in the door well before the software was ever installed for evaluation. He established a level of confidence in the business that his software company was a good business partner.

Moral: The success of BI products is more to do with understanding the business to which they are put rather than understanding the technology of the products themselves.