ROI, Customization, and Mobility
In my series so far, I’ve tackled questions about buying criteria, cloud BI vs. SaaS BI, and data management. Today is the last installment and tackles the remaining most common questions we hear from SMBs about business intelligence. This series is all about expediting and simplifying BI by dispelling myths and providing practical advice for moving beyond manual processes to automated reporting, dashboards and advanced analysis.
8) What’s the ROI for business intelligence?
This is a question we’re asked more often all the time, as SMBs know they need BI but struggle to justify the investment. BI vendors need to understand that SMBs can’t invest in solutions that don’t quickly generate returns.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of BI projects fail to meet the businesses’ objectives. I don’t bring that up to scare you away from BI, but instead to encourage you to ask the vendors on your shortlist for proof of their ROI. It’s part of your due diligence when it comes to selecting the right vendor. First, ask them about their success rate. Do they have happy and long-term customers? As an example, the average tenure of arcplan’s customers is more than 7 years, the longest of any vendor included in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence – an indicator of long-term customer satisfaction. How do the vendors on your short-list stack up?
The next step is to ask your vendor to estimate the ROI you should expect…
In my last post, I put to rest some myths about BI software customization. Today I’d like to continue rooting for configurable business intelligence by explaining the benefits you can look forward to with a custom solution.
1) You’ll get a BI solution that fits your needs , without compromise.
The most successful BI solution is one that fits your business requirements like a glove. Since each organization has unique business processes, these requirements will differ from one organization to the next. With a custom BI solution, finance teams for instance can take advantage of a personalized planning tool that reflects their existing process. Some of the planning vendors arcplan encounters offer an out-of-the-box solution that forces customers to mold to a specific process, instead of the other way around. This lengthens the adoption process, causes disruptive process changes, and adds training costs. When your BI software forces you to compromise on features, you won’t end up with an ideal end result. With a custom solution, you can get all of the unique features your organization needs – and as I said previously, it doesn’t need to take years and or demolish your budget.
2) You’ll enjoy a gradual learning curve.
In your fast-paced business environment, you need to spend time doing the work that brings in revenue and less time learning complicated technology. A custom BI solution can be tailored to how your team currently works, and a product like arcplan can ease the transition by enabling users to work in their most familiar interface – Excel. Because our solutions are customized, you might choose an Excel-like web interface, or want to work directly in Excel while having access to live data, which is something a lot of our customers like. This kind of solution helps users learn the technology very quickly and seamlessly transition to their new BI solution.
3) Configuration and project rollout can be done in phases.
I’ve heard two schools of thought on the subject of whether customization of BI software is a good or bad thing. The first says that customizing a solution essentially leaves you with custom code that requires hours of development, high-priced consultants, and difficulty upgrading in the future. The second says that all BI software is customized to a certain extent, so why not make it exactly what you need and turn your BI solution into a competitive advantage for your company?
You want and need BI software that’s going to solve your problems, connect your data, give you visibility, and yield a decent ROI. Howard Dresner’s 2012 Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study revealed that users want a BI solution “that’s going to help them right now…something that is very usable, very intuitive,” and they don’t want to “wait for lengthy projects that are expensive to conclude before they get any value.” You may think the fastest route to this kind of intuitive solution is one that’s out-of-the-box – or purports to be – even if it doesn’t meet your business requirements 100%. It’s the classic “build vs. buy” conundrum.
I have seen some buyers literally cringe at the word “customizable” because of its negative connotations. It’s associated with off-putting outcomes like lengthy implementation times and high costs. But I’d like to debunk the myths about customizable BI solutions and offer some reasons why a configurable solution can actually work to your advantage.
Myth #1: Customization is limited to custom reports.