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How Much Should Business Intelligence Cost?

This article was originally published here and has been republished with permission.

With the new year just around the corner, it’s time to start preparing for a productive year--which for many businesses means confronting their big and scary data. In fact, “organizing scattered and large data sets” is one of the top business challenges that companies are desperate to resolve in the upcoming year.

Problem is: while businesses have become pros at collecting data, taking the plunge and investing in the proper BI and data analytics solution to make meaning of all the data is often put on the back-burner. The reason? Usually, it’s as simple as trying to fit BI into an approved budget.

The good news is you can stop procrastinating and start doing: We have teamed up with VentureBeat to create a decisive guide on how to build business intelligence into your 2016 budget, which serves as a springboard for businesses eager to face data challenges head on and make major waves in the new year.

Getting Started: Establish the Scope of a BI Project

Can you manage without business intelligence a little longer? Though this question is often asked by companies who are on the fence about a BI investment, after some honest “self-reflection”, their need for a data analytics tool becomes even more glaring. Here are the most common indicators companies see (and struggle with) before establishing a need for an investment in BI:

  • Reporting needs to be done manually using Excel or custom scripting--consuming time and resources
  • Difficulty pulling and joining data from multiple data sources
  • Existing tools struggle to handle larger datasets
  • Inability to access and utilize the data collected to see insights
  • Need for visualization of data in real-time

There aren't many sophisticated businesses today that don’t need business intelligence to understand their data and gain a competitive edge. Who is still using Excel to crunch their large, scattered and usually unstructured data sets anyways? So 2005. No one has a week to kill making data speak the same language. And if you’re living in 2016, there is ALWAYS data to be had that can offer an eye-opening look at your company's performance.

Outline Your BI Project to Form a Budget

The more time you spend on upfront planning, the less time you’ll waste stressing if your project will be in budget. Ask very specific questions like: How quickly do you need the project completed? Do you want every department to have access to BI and dashboards? Should clients also have access to your generated reports? The breadth of your BI project will most likely reflect what your needs are and actually lay out a budget for you.

Decide on Project Roll-Out

There’s more than one way to approach a BI roll-out and employee/company involvement, and each of the different alternative will incur separate costs and services. Make sure to identify which approach your company wants to take and then create a short list of BI vendors based on that decision. Here are some of the common ways companies go about it:

  • The Phase Approach: BI systems are launched within your company, department by department, until the entire company has access. This may extend to client access as well.
  • Immediate Implementation: Your company is in dire need of BI and wants to implement an effective business intelligence solution immediately.
  • Executive Dashboards: The BI project is limited to those at the C-level to offer a real-time and big-picture look at how the company is performing.
  • OEM, Embedding and White-labeling: BI is added to a current software choice within your company to expand functionality.
  • Clients Only: Only end users are provided with BI tools to perform self-service reporting and provide your business the opportunity to illustrate KPIs and individual successes to clients.

Consider Both Present and Future Needs

It’s essential that the scope of your BI project be broad enough to help you achieve all of your goals — fully. The scope should offer real solutions that can “adapt” to your current business need which include considerations like:

  • Data size, complexity and amount of originating sources
  • The number of people running queries at the same time
  • The number of licenses
  • Amount of IT resources required to deploy and maintain the system
  • Usability and level of ease of software (can business users generate their own reports?)

Scalability and flexibility of a software determines the longevity of the software. Opt for a scope that is too narrow, and you could see your BI strategy hit a roadblock a just few years (or even months) as data sources grow and your company requirements change. Start out by considering how much data you'll have in 3 years. Remember, scalable is better.

Discover How Much BI Should Cost You

An often disregarded factor which tends to increase the total cost of ownership (TCO) of business intelligence tools is the fact that many of them do not actually offer a holistic solution for data preparation, querying and visualization - each of which is an essential part of the data analysis process. For example, you might discover that a fancy new BI tool is great at creating eye-popping visual reports, but when the data you work with is complex, the accuracy of these reports can no longer be trusted and you need additional data transformation \ ETL tools, or in severe cases - a data warehouse.

Hence it is important to understand that not all BI tools are created equal. Software that comes with a lower sticker price is often only useful for basic use cases, and to understand your TCO you need to first understand how many BI tools you will actually need. Try to identify your needs in advance to understand whether you should be looking for a front-end, full-stack or Single-Stack™ solution.

Cost Factors and Budgeting

Read about costs in our free guide: "How to Build BI Into Your 2016 Budget" which outlines:

  • 4 costs of business intelligence
  • Typical BI project timeline
  • Project roll-out approaches
  • Launch a BI project in days

Download now

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