“What is the best business intelligence tool?” Over the years, I’ve been asked this question over and over again. Knowing a salesperson would align to software with the greatest commission, the consultant must have the impartial view – and the silver bullet solution to answer all business questions. Well, I do have the answer for you, but maybe not one you are expecting: your question is flawed and likely complicating your decision.
First, we must recognize that business intelligence tools come in all shapes and sizes. Success with a tool often creates favoritism and with it, the illusion that one is better than all others. If we were to think this way with shoes, we’d think there is a perfect shoe that everyone else should wear. But to think this way, we would disregard that each person has different preferences, challenges and surrounding environment. What shoes should I wear for working out? Well, are you running or weight lifting? Will the workout be inside or outside? Do your feet have high arches or low arches? What is your size? To truly satisfy the perfect shoe for you, we must understand your uniqueness and align them to the shoe options. Seeing that business intelligence tools have just as much variety, why would we expect one-size to fit all?
Our question now becomes: “What is the best business intelligence tool… for me?” To answer this question we’ll need to understand your unique use case. The tool selection process should not be a difficult one, but becomes one as conflicting opinions, assumptions and favoritism get in the way. If we are to drop these barriers we can ask directed questions that point the way for us, such as:
- What perspective of time are you looking at? (Historical tracking, real-time operations, predictive/scenarios)
- What specific questions are you satisfying? (If you say “everything” you are setting yourself up for a headache. Remember how many shoes fit every occasion: none!)
- How do you want to communicate the information? (Multi-layered visualizations, simple charts, numbers, story form)
- How do you want to invest? (Free open source, personal license, enterprise license, rent hosted solution)
- Who is the audience? (Number of people, types of users/perspectives, frequency of use)
- What questions can be separated into other use cases? (What tools are better fits for those?)
- Why? ( Always question this to remain effective and keep effort in perspective)
By reframing our question, we can cut through the buzzwords and opinions. We begin to focus on what actually matters and drastically reduce our time to decision. Given the variety of options in today’s business intelligence market, there likely is a right fit for you. You can find your “silver bullet,” for the business question at hand. If you need help, ask someone with an impartial opinion on software and a direct focus on solutions.
Eventually, you’ll find businesses require several pairs of shoes for different circumstances – just think: how many pairs do you have? Also, the tool is never the answer to the business question; it is merely a conduit to data perspectives that are locked away. Lastly, don’t spin in circles convincing yourself once you’ve found it: if the shoe fits, wear it.