How to Get the Best from Business Intelligence – Part One: Selecting the Right BI Technology

BI Technology

Following on from the success of our 4dBI blog series, we’ve developed this new series of articles full of practical advice to help you achieve business intelligence (BI) success.


We believe that BI success is not about the technology you have, but rather how you use it. Before spending out on additional tools, you first need to work out what BI capabilities you need by focusing on your business goals, and how BI must support the people and processes behind meeting them.

Once you’ve done that, you then need to decide what BI technology best fits the bill. Our expertise helps organisations do they best they can with the software they already have but we know that, sometimes, the only answer is to buy new tools.

So, if you find yourself searching for new BI technology, here’s how you go about it in three simple steps:


Step One: Focus on What You Need

If our decades of experience have taught us anything it’s that true BI value is a result of your people knowing what information is needed, and how it should be interpreted and applied, to achieve your objectives. The key is aligning your people, processes and technology to get the right information and to use it the right way.

Begin by defining the non-technical capabilities you require. That’s right, to select the right technology, you have to start by looking away from the technology. Once you know what your goals are, engineering a clear, strategic process that puts your people on the path towards achieving them is much easier. Every part of the process must be designed to help you meet your objectives. You should answer the two following questions:


  •        What BI do you need? ­
  •        Who needs to use it, and how?


Companies that use analytics well are five times more likely to make faster decisions than their competition. Answering those two key questions will allow you to work out the list of BI technical capabilities you need to turn data into actionable insights, streamline business operations and improve productivity. These will include:

  • Connectivity requirements
  • Analysis capabilities
  • Reporting capabilities
  • Access and delivery capabilities
  • Security capabilities

(We always recommend categorising your capabilities into ‘must haves’, ‘nice to haves’ and ‘won’t haves’ – it prevents uncertainty later if there isn’t a perfect fit for your needs).


Step Two: Add in Constraints

Now you know what BI capabilities you need, it’s equally as important to know what constraints may influence your final decision on the new BI technology you choose.

The most expensive solution doesn’t automatically equally true value, so think about the software that is going to bring the most benefit to your business without causing a negative impact in other areas.

Common constraints to consider include:

  • Cost – what is your budget now and what will it be in the future? How scalable does the solution need to be to match your cost model?
  • IT involvement – Do you want to be predominantly self-serve? What about supporting the solution?
  • Development resource – How much do you have for building your BI?
  • Demonstrating ROI – What else will affect how quickly you need to deliver the solution?
  • Existing enterprise – Does the technology need to coincide with the current architecture?


Step Three: Make Your Selection

After (and only after) you’ve followed the two above steps, it’s time to pick the BI solution that best fits your needs. With so many tools and capabilities available, it’s crucial you weigh up your options to make an informed choice.

When working with one of the world’s largest media and entertainment organisations, we ensured that the people who would be using the BI software could confidently get the right information as and when they needed it. Our client was already a Microsoft customer, meaning their team had some prior knowledge on how best to use the dashboards to their advantage. We implemented Power BI and Azure solutions to deliver the right capabilities, at the right cost. Take a look at their case study here.

There’s some excellent software out there and being technology-neutral, our advice is always impartial. When looking at software, we’re happy to provide honest advice or you can invite vendors to respond to an information request. Once you’ve whittled down to a shortlist, try to get demos of each solution. Nowadays most BI tools are likely to be capable of meeting your needs, so often it’s the look, feel and usability that becomes a key deciding factor.

The BI technology you choose must be scalable. This is especially relevant as next year, GDPR will introduce legislation and notable changes to the way data is managed – failure to comply with the new laws will result in tough penalties. What’s more, research by Forbes found that 78% are planning to increase the use of cloud for BI and data management in the next year. As an ever-increasing number of organisations want an agile approach to BI that delivers value sooner, more low-cost cloud-based solutions appear that adapt to meet your plans for growth.

Our partner, Grey Matter, know all about BI technology. If you need help making the right BI technology choices, we’ll establish the BI capabilities you need, and they’ll work out what solution best fits your needs and budget. If an organisation that’s advising you doesn’t also have BI expertise, isn’t technology-neutral, and doesn’t work with you to look at what BI capabilities you need, they can’t claim they’ve found the ‘best’ solution for you.


We’re here to help you achieve lasting, high-value BI. Whether it’s your current solution, strategy or software, our expertise will enable you to optimise your organisation for maximum BI success.

To find out more, please give us a call us on 44 (0)20 3824 2338 or 01392 241 214, send us an email or tweet us!


Part two of our new series will be published soon!