Business Intelligence Software: How to Avoid Purchasing Shelfware
By: Steve Dine
A colleague of mine recently asked me to chime in on discussion thread about some business intelligence software, and specifically, ETL tools. Like many discussion board threads, it had drifted significantly from the original topic. As a general rule, I tend to spend little time on these boards, not because I don't think that they have value, but between Twitter, Blogs and instant messaging, I can't seem to find much time left for additional on-line interaction. I read through the thread and was immediately struck by the number of comments about the business intelligence software that were phrased as facts but were either based on outdated information, innuendo or rumor.
Only a few days after my discussion board experience, a client of ours asked me to read an evaluation they had purchased on some business intelligence software, specifically ETL tools. I read through the report and many of their scores didn't seem to parallel my experience with the tools. I found the likely reason in the fine print. The report publisher had been kind enough to explain that their scores were derived, not from a hands-on evaluation, but by meetings with business intelligence software vendors and consulting partners. I was perplexed, but not surprised. The customer had purchased the report because it was relatively inexpensive compared to other more reputable sources.
I'm often asked how companies end up with shelfware (business intelligence software purchased but not used). In my experience, the tool selection process, or lack thereof, is often to blame. Purchasing business intelligence software is usually the second most expensive capital cost of a BI project (often after consulting). Utilizing a process that consists of:
* Internal requirements analysis
* Thorough vendor research
* Formation of an internal selection team
* Pre-RFI vendor interviews
* A request for information (RFI) sent to the vendors
* Vendor demos (onsite or offsite)
* A comprehensive scoring spreadsheet (including weightings)
* Vendor reference calls
* A proof-of-concept (POC)
* A formal selection meeting
All vendors should be provided with the same amount of information and if your utilizing a consulting company to help with the selection process, you should ask about their vendor partnerships and relationships. If time is constrained, you can limit the number of vendor demos, parallelize many of the activities and leverage some of the vendor-neutral software analysis that is available. Just remember to read the fine print.
Datasource Consulting is a vendor agnostic BI consulting firm. If you'd like a real analysis of the different Business Intelligence Software on the market that fit your project, contact us.
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