Many companies are currently searching for dashboard and reporting solutions, but the market has become pretty crowded. Though most BI vendors have similar core functionalities, not all solutions are created equally. That’s why we’ve put together our list of the top 10 features your BI solution should definitely have, and one feature you didn’t know you needed.
Web-based. No one is tied to their desktop these days which means you need to find a BI solution that has a native web-based interface, and doesn’t require Adobe Flash or other plugins.
Mobile-ready. Your users are on-the-go and need to be able to access reports and dashboards on their mobile devices, versus being limited to desktop access.
Access to live data. The power of BI revolves around the urgency and speed of actionable data, and companies shouldn’t be confined to looking at stale data. Though not all dashboards and reports must be comprised of live data, it’s important that your BI solution can deliver and support data in real-time.
Easy to use. If the BI solution isn’t easy to use, your users will not adopt the product. The BI solution you purchase should be intuitive and blend into the end users’ workflow versus disrupting it.
Features a powerful builder. BI solutions typically fall on one side of the spectrum: They are either very powerful, but very complex (e.g. Business Objects or Cognos), or they’re easy to use but not very powerful and provide reports that are simply “eye candy.” You must find a solution that’s a nice blend of both, where the product is easy to use. but is not limited and allows you to run complex reports.
Interactivity. Within a BI solution, you must be able to interact with the data through filtering and manipulation. If a BI solution only provides a static view of your data, it’s not going to meet your dynamic reporting and data needs very well.
Features the right outputs. It’s important to define your outputs, whether those are dashboards, reports, GIS mapping, scatter plots, and more. Once you have defined your outputs, you can ensure that the BI solution you purchase supports those outputs.
Security. Though security may not be a primary concern when you’re starting out with BI, as you begin to do more with BI and share reports with different audiences, security becomes incredibly important.
Report embedding. This is another feature that may not be a top concern when you’re beginning BI, but as you expand your BI usage you will want the ability to share reports and dashboards in the environments in which your users are working via embedded reports. This includes locations such as employee applications or as secure links.
Auditing. This is the feature you didn’t know you needed, until now. Auditing capabilities within your BI product allow you to see who is and isn’t using the BI solution and what they’re doing. This information will help you drive user adoption as you identify and fix user usage problems. If your BI solution doesn’t have auditing capabilities, you’re left to rely on user feedback to determine the level of user usage and identify issues that users are experiencing.
The Bottom Line
The above technical features are must-haves in any BI solution you purchase. It is also critical that your BI vendor offers excellent technical support and that your vendor will act as your BI partner. Additionally, you will want to find a product that is affordable. Many products that offer the above features are incredibly expensive, and you must make sure that your investment in BI isn’t of a higher dollar value than the problem you’re solving with BI.
If you have any questions about what else to consider when purchasing a BI solution, check out our eBook or give us a call. Also, feel free to leave comments about your BI purchasing experiences below!