Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Finding the Right Analytics Engine For Your Business


luxurycar_BIAs we usher in the warm summer months, I can't help but notice people taking their high performance convertibles out of the garage for a spin. Upon leaving the infamous King of Prussia mall last weekend, I saw a Mercedes SL550 Roadster and an Audi R8 in the parking lot. That's when I learned an important lesson: people actually drive cars that are over $100k. No but seriously, while these sports cars are great for feeding your occasional need for speed or making a bold statement about personal taste, they are not meant for everyday use. For most of us, a comfortable, mid-range vehicle that won't empty your bank account works just fine. The same is true when selecting an analytic tool for your businesses. Business analytics solutions are set to reach 50% of potential users by 2014 according to Gartner, but maybe your organization is a bit behind. Choosing an analytic tool can be a bumpy road, so let's discuss some things you should think about when choosing the right solution for your company's needs:

Balanced and smooth
When purchasing a vehicle, most buyers will select one that's reliable, safe, and will hold its value over time. When purchasing a business intelligence solution to meet everyday analytic needs, you should think about similar qualities: you want a BI tool that reliably helps you address specific business problems, is user-friendly for users of all skill levels (especially if you're shooting for that 50% adoption rate), and holds its value over time – also known as a return on investment.  "Balanced and smooth" BI solutions – those that offer a good deal of options but are easy to install and work with – are great for organizations just getting their feet wet with BI technology. Perhaps you're realizing that Excel alone isn't cutting it. You may want a solution that offers traditional reporting along with the ability to build scorecards and dashboards, enabling users to explore data without overburdening them with a tool that's difficult to use or requires a lot of training. At arcplan, we work with a lot of SMBs who are moving from Excel to BI software. Even some "enterprise" vendors like us offer lower-priced, less tricked-out versions of their BI software for companies just looking for the basics.

Sleek and agile
Some luxury vehicles do well in the market because they're affordable (read: not over $100k), yet add some extra spice to your everyday commute – an appealing combination for many drivers. Analytic tools in this category include all the amenities found in your standard solution, along with extra perks like the ability to also do budgeting and planning, advanced visualization, ad-hoc analysis, and mobile BI. These are big contributors to making an organization agile. Integrated planning, found in arcplan's platform, enables short- and long-term financial planning and forecasting and gives everyone a truly holistic view of performance. Advanced visualization means your reports and dashboards offer real-time data you can interact with – for example, in some cases you can literally move lines on a chart to re-run the query with different parameters. It's a sleek bell-and-whistle that doesn't come with every standard BI tool. Ad-hoc reporting enables users to run their own queries to answer business questions quickly, and mobile BI means users can make informed decisions anywhere, anytime. Are these important features for your company?

High performance
Is your data high-maintenance? And do you have a sizable budget and the human resources to treat it well? Like those exorbitantly-priced sports cars, high performance analytic tools – otherwise known as big data tools – are feasible for a select group of organizations. Big data solutions are suited for companies with large amounts of structured and unstructured data, collected at frequent intervals, that needs to be analyzed within a very short time-frame. High performance analytics can be used to improve security (facial recognition at the security checkpoint at an airport), and customer intimacy, a popular tactic with retail and entertainment businesses that recommend books, movies or songs based on previous purchases. Many companies have, and will, be lured by high performance analytic tools because of the competitive advantages they offer. But companies caught up in the hype alone may bite off more than they can chew, and end up wasting time and resources that could have been channeled more productively. If I sound skeptical, it's because I am. For the vast majority of companies, plain vanilla data analysis is adequate. Back to our analogy of high performance vehicles: don't be the person who has to return the Bentley because he can't afford the maintenance. Especially because the investment you make in big data isn't reversible.

The right analytic engine can work wonders for your organization, unearthing insights that change the way you do business. In order to be successful, start out by identifying the reporting and analytic needs of your organization up-front. Once you've whittled your list down to a few select vendors, ask questions, talk to references, and do all the research you can...lest you end up with a lemon!

Monique Morgan

About Monique Morgan

I'm the Marketing Project Manager at arcplan and work out of our Wayne, PA office. I'm originally from Jamaica but came to the US for college and I've been here ever since. I'm the voice behind a lot of arcplan's videos on YouTube - check them out here:
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