Don't rely on help from Google when you're choosing an analytics solution. You'll find 109,000,000. That's the number of search results Google returns from a simple search of "Business Analytics Tools."
Needless to say, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of BA tools available. Given this wide range of options, it makes the task of selecting the right tool that best suits the organization's needs even more critical.
However, the process of evaluating an analytics tool, or an analytics vendor, is not rocket science. Here are a few key points that organizations should consider:
Speed of implementation
When it comes to evaluating speed of implementation of a solution, companies need to consider the total time of the project, which also includes the time spent in user training. In other words, the implementation time starts from gathering the first requirement to the user being able to perform a complete analysis using the solution.
In many cases, particularly when the implementation is composed of several modules, it may be useful to track the time between the start of the project and the implementation of the first module. This may reveal how long it will be before returns on the project can be expected.
Some analytics solutions consist of pre-built modules that can be integrated together in a short time. The speed of implementation can be higher with these types of solutions. However, because of the pre-built nature, they offer lower customization and flexibility. This indicates that speed of implementation should not be considered in isolation: Other factors need to be looked at alongside it.
According to a survey, 75 percent of all analytics solutions need to be modified within six months of their implementation. Hence, your dream of attaining a perfect, one-time analytics deployment is highly likely to remain a dream. As an organization, you should be ready to make changes in your analytics solution as and when needed; and this is where flexibility of the solution is important.
One aspect of flexibility is the ease at which the solution can be modified. This would include the effort that needs to be put behind making a change and the range of modules that are affected by the change. Also, the time taken for the development, testing, and roll-out of the change needs to be considered. Once the change is incorporated, the degree to which stability of other modules and the overall system are affected, or even compromised, is another factor to take into account.
In a typical analytics deployment, three levels of users are generally defined. First are the normal users, who use the tool to perform analysis and generate reports on a day-to-day basis. Second are the power users, who use the tool to create new interfaces and applications for normal users to use. Third are the IT support staff, who resolve hardware/software related issues related to the solution.
For each of these types of users it's important to know about the average time it will take for the user to learn the tool and master their roles.
While many users may consider analytics to be all about numbers, the real goal of an analytics tool is to aid in decision making. Hence, the use of visual aids can be very important in an analytics solution. If the tool is offering a useful collection of visual aids as part of its interface to complement the numbers, the solution should get more points for user-friendliness.
Total cost of ownership
In evaluating any project, it's crucial, of course, to take into account the cost aspect. For an analytics project, the cost should be evaluated in terms of the total cost of ownership (TCO).
The TCO includes all costs that will be incurred during the lifetime of the analytics project. This includes not only the cost involved in purchasing and deploying but also the operating and maintenance costs that companies will incur over the life of the project. These operating and maintenance costs cover not only the cost associated directly with the solution but also additional costs that the company will have to bear, such as energy/fuel costs, infrastructure support costs, and even environmental impact costs if you're an eco-friendly organization.
As for the lifetime of the project, companies should look to incorporate the complete time period during which the solution will continue to serve the organization.
—¯ Taimoor Zubair works as a software engineer at a leading BPO solutions company in Pakistan.