Buying business intelligence (BI) software can be a complicated process, which is why at 5000fish, we work to educate our customers as much as possible before they enter a relationship with us. One mistake we often see among BI buyers is that many of them fail to develop a usage profile for their BI solution. A usage profile outlines how your users will need to access and use data to meet the goals of your company’s use cases.
By defining your usage profile, you will be able to distinguish quickly whether a BI vendor’s product will meet your company’s needs. Below are six criteria you should use to create your usage profile:
Report Types. BI report types will fall under one of two categories: Ad-hoc or static. The report criteria within ad-hoc reports change frequently, whereas the criteria for static reports does not. An example of an ad-hoc report would be a helpdesk report that is run at different times for different reasons. An example of a static report would be a financial report that pulls the same data each quarter. In order to determine whether you need ad-hoc or static reports, ask yourself or your team, “How often will report needs change?” or “How well-defined are my use cases?” If the scope of the use case is very limited or very well-defined, and the expectation is that the scope of the use case will not change, your usage profile will require static reports. If the report criteria will change frequently, you will require ad-hoc reports.
Time Sensitivity. When defining your BI usage profile, it’s important to know the time sensitivity of the data you’re pulling. You can determine your data’s time sensitivity by asking, “Do I need to pull real-time data or historical data?” You may need to pull one or the other, or both. This is an important requirement to define because many BI solutions do not provide access to real-time data, but rather an archived or cached set of data.
Data Security. Next, you must determine the importance of data security when purchasing a BI solution. If your data is sensitive or you operate within a highly regulated industry, you will need a solution with robust, multi-level security. If your data is not sensitive, robust security may not be a primary concern.
Report Formatting. Report formatting requirements are often an afterthought for companies when purchasing BI solutions and developing usage profiles, but for some organizations report formatting is very important. Formatting becomes important if reports are public-facing, or if the reports need to be formatted according to your company’s brand guidelines. Additionally, if reports will be given to company executives, they should be well-polished. If any of these scenarios apply, report formatting is something you should consider. On the other hand, if the reports will primarily be used internally, the report appearance is not as important.
User Access. Another question to ask that will help define your usage profile is, “How will users need to access reports?” Will users only need desktop access of their reports, or will they need mobile access as well? BI software that includes mobile access is often more expensive, therefore you should answer this question based upon user needs, not wants.
Output Types. The final aspect of your usage profile will define the report outputs your company requires. These outputs include dashboards, charts and graphics, spreadsheets, web accessible reports, embedded reports, and so on. When defining your company’s necessary outputs, try to be as specific as possible and limit your outputs to exactly what your users need (not what they may need in the future for a different use case).
Once you have put together your BI usage profile, you will be better equipped to determine the best BI solution for your company. Want more tips for purchasing BI software? Check out our newest eBook, Business Intelligence Buyer’s Guide, Part 1.