How to Decide Which B.I. Tool Is Right for You

Note: actual employees don't get this excited about whiteboarding a solution.

There are a lot of business-intelligence tools out there, and choosing between them can quickly turn into a hair-ripping job for most IT administrators and other pros. The good news is, one analyst is offering a matrix to help decide between various options.

The bad news is, that decision matrix is eight dimensions’ worth of variables.

“The old days of developers versus power users versus casual users are gone,” Brois Evelson, a Forrester analyst, wrote in a rather lengthy June 28 blog posting. “The world is way more complex these days. In order to create such a policy, you need to consider the following dimensions:”

  • With regard to report/analysis type: historical, operational, analytical, predictive, prescriptive, and exploratory.
  • In terms of interaction type: “Looking at static report output only,” “Lightly interacting with canned reports (sorting, filtering),” “fully interacting with canned reports (pivoting, drilling),” assembling data into customized dashboards, and report-authoring capabilities.
  • User types can be broken down into internal and external.
  • Data latency has three categories: real time, near-real time, and batch.
  • Report latency—which Evelson defines as—“need the report” breaks down into: now, tomorrow, in a few days, in a few weeks.
  • Decision types include strategic, tactical and operational.
  • Data sources should also be considered, Evelson continued, to take into account mixed-software environments.
  • Those companies evaluating a self-service B.I. tool versus one handled by IT should consider the following criteria: report complexity, resulting report set size, the mission importance of the report, external exposure, level of operational risk, and individual vs. workgroup vs. larger-group (i.e. enterprise) use.

Got all that? At each of the above intersections, he added, “you need to indicate first and second choice for a specific BI tool/app best fit to address each use case.”

In other words, a typical company might decide it needs a tool that can offer a predictive report for strategic decisions, with which internal users can fully interact via pivoting and drilling, with real-time data latency—a tool capable of delivering reports within a few days as opposed to right now. A limited number of tools might fit that bill, in which case the company could move on to considering metrics such as cost.

Get out the whiteboard and the pens; it could be a long night.


Image: Yuri Arcurs/