Several years ago, talking to small and mid-sized organizations* was met with a lot of frustration on the side of organizations looking for solutions. With many solutions out of reach due to cost and infrastructure requirements, successful adoption was prohibitive.
As time went on, cloud, open source, database flexibility, self-service, diverse licensing options and mobile flexibility supported a natural shift in the business intelligence landscape, making it easier for small and mid-market businesses to adopt a broader range of BI offerings.
Within the past few years, many solution providers have developed both mid-market strategies and software offerings. The benefits of which provide the mid-market with quick deployment times and flexible pricing. Others offer analytics access without the need of much technical expertise, while some enable self-service interactivity. Overall, the solutions that now exist within the marketplace for all organizations offers a breadth and depth the likes of which have never been seen before. In essence, it can be said that technology has finally caught up with the demands of businesses.
With all of these changes, one of the things that I continuously encounter, are organizations ignorant of the solutions available and which options will best meet the business and technical requirements of the organization. In many cases, businesses focus on vendor marketing hype and overlook the need to conduct an in-depth evaluation of which technologies and product offerings provide the best fit for both current and future business intelligence needs. Here are some of the takeaways I’ve gathered over the years of research and consulting that can support BI project success.
Do not overlook the value of due diligence
Many organizations want the quick fix. A product that is downloadable and provides out of the box general dashboards can have a team up and running quite quickly, but might not provide the ability to meet broader needs or scale. Although great in theory, the reality remains that front end analytics still need to pull data and require extensibility over time. Selecting the right offering requires these insights.
Understand corporate culture, business needs, and technical environment
A combination of people, processes, and technology are what make business intelligence truly successful. Getting there requires insight to these three areas to ensure that all three are taken into account. For instance, a data-driven organization will value their data assets and want to create an environment that supports their strategic goals. However, an organization with data silos will look at what works for individual teams and may create an environment that doesn’t provide insight into the data complexities or broader business challenges.
Look at the broader BI market
Understanding technology and vendor offerings requires a mix of business and technology savvy stakeholders. Some organizations prefer a cloud-based or Software as a Service solution, while others need to deliver analytical insights to their mobile workforce. The types of data required and how it is delivered might mean wildly different solutions for different organizations.
Consider mid-market strategy and industry expertise
Organizations need to weigh the value of customizable horizontal solutions versus ones that target their specific industry requirements. Generally, the key differences involve native connectivity and time to implementation. At the same time, mid-sized organizations face an added challenge. This is due to the fact that several organizations offer mid-market offerings in addition to their enterprise offerings. In some cases, these offerings are based on need and in others they are a subset of the broader solution set. Knowing the difference gives organizations the upper hand by giving them the knowledge they require to make the best software selection.
The mid-market has benefited from technology advancements and self-service BI access. The challenge is that many, if not most, vendors will say they offer it all. And although many offer what they say they do, the reality is that self-service can mean different things to different user groups, and not all data processing or analytics access are the same. Arming your organization with knowledge and an understanding of the market place, including what is specifically marketed to small and mid-sized businesses, can give you the upper hand in negotiations and selecting the right solutions for your organization.
*At EMA, the mid-market is defined as organizations those with 500 employees or less.