Business Intelligence tools have not matured, and consequently there are still many gaps that exist between functionality and customer need. Finding a single tool to meet all your BI needs might seems reasonable, but that may be asking too much of the current market.
So how do you go about choosing a product that you know can't possibly meet all your requirements? Well that answer lies, as it always does, in a gray area between flexibility and affordability.
Primarily, and this seems to involve any BI endeavor, you need to start with a project that has been mapped out. Once the particulars of the project have been settled, then you can begin to narrow the BI tool choices. Let the project and your enterprise's information steer you toward a suitable BI tool rather than the other way around. Attempting to use a BI tool's features without first having a solid set of business requirements can lead to ineffective use of your knowledge base, a useless piece of BI software and possibly a failed BI project.
Since most BI tools will lack some feature that your enterprise requires, finding a BI tool that integrates with other software and platforms is essential. You have most likely already made an investment in platforms and enterprise software. A BI tool that integrates with your current systems will decrease the pressure on IT, and a tool that has some flexibility should be able to integrate with any other BI tools you may need to fill in the gaps.
Vendors may be able to impress you with their products' various bells and whistles, but be careful of products that contain many complicated features. Often times these features are designed for more advanced users. Keep in mind who will be using this software. If many of these features are beyond the grasp of the common user they may be wasted.
To sum up these few points:
- Have a plan of attack - the project should always come before the tool.
- Choose based on adaptability - if one tool is not going to meet your needs be sure that it can be integrated with other tools.
- Pass on the undercoating - don't pay for what you don't need, or what your users won't use.