Sounds provocative coming from a BI vendor, right?
arcplan is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so it’s safe to say we’ve seen it all. We’ve competed for business against every mega vendor and every niche BI vendor out there and we’ve seen companies get burned by vendors who promise more than they can deliver. Of course it hurts to lose a deal, but since our passion is helping companies get better insights and make better decisions, it’s doubly awful to see companies get duped.
So what can you do to ensure you’ll get what’s promised from BI vendor?
1) Ask questions.
The evaluation process is your time to ask questions of the BI vendors on your shortlist. You’ll be able to do this on discovery calls and during demos, and of course if you choose to go through an RFP process, you can demand answers to every esoteric question you can dream of.
Ask about the requirements specific to your business processes. Initial questions we’ve been asked include:
- Does arcplan allow export to Excel? (Yes, users can export to Excel as well as PowerPoint and PDF. With our Excel add-in, users can also work in Excel while remaining connected to the data source.)
- Does arcplan offer write-back? (Yes, write-back is standard and is based on the security rights you’ve set up in your systems.)
- How easy is it to learn arcplan? (Like any product there’s a learning curve, but arcplan is intuitive for users and simple for developers with our drag-and-drop, programming-free interface.)
Here are some additional questions to consider asking…
Data Management & the Continued Use of Excel
Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t able to afford business intelligence software platforms that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, that’s no longer an obstacle with the rise of affordable, easy to use BI tools like arcplan. Once you’ve decided that you need better, faster answers to your business questions, you start to get into the nitty gritty details of what a BI deployment means and how you need to prepare your data. Let’s continue with our series on the most frequently asked questions SMBs have when it comes to BI. This time I’ll address questions about data management and spreadsheets.
5) How much data do we need?
The #1 technology challenge for SMBs is getting insight from the data they already have. The average SMB has over 27 unique data sources according to research conducted by The Aberdeen Group – from ERP systems and General Ledgers to CRM tools, social media and more. Your company should carefully consider the amount, type, and “freshness” of data that your organization requires for its reporting.
- How many data sources are really critical to our decision-making?
- Do we need real-time data access or will daily or weekly updates do the job?
- How far back do we need to go? Do we need 5-year-old data or is only recent data important?
Cloud BI vs. SaaS
Continuing with our series on frequently asked questions by small and medium-sized businesses about business intelligence, today I’ll address cloud BI and SaaS BI. They’re not actually the same thing, though some of their characteristics overlap.
3) Should we choose an on-premise BI solution or one hosted in the cloud?
This can be an important distinction when choosing your shortlist of vendors; however more and more are offering both on-premise and cloud deployment models, including arcplan. If you’re unsure, shortlisting vendors that offer both is a good plan. That way, you can choose the deployment model after deciding that the product’s features match your needs.
Choosing whether or not to deploy BI in the cloud brings up some special considerations – how concerned about data security you are, where your data will be stored, and whether you have the resources in-house to manage the hardware necessary for your BI deployment.
If data security is a major concern, there are ways to store your corporate data securely behind a firewall and broadcast queries to your cloud BI system. As we often say at arcplan, you don’t necessarily have to move your data to the cloud in order for your BI to be there. That may seem confusing, so let me clarify…