The 5 biggest BI buying mistakes and how to avoid them

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“Ok, so we bought this excellent BI tool to visualize our data"

Good job! Now, what?

What I mean is: "What do I do now? How do I use it? I want an Income Statement, and a Cash Flow, and Production reports that let me drill to actionable detail. And what about the future? How do I forecast now based on these actuals?”

These are the kind of questions a new customer of mine asked his new BI team recently. They had invested in a great visualization BI tool with excellent looking charts that move, give historical trend information and are super easy to build. But the CFO, CEO and other executives were not engaged or impressed. They didn’t just want to drill down on charts. They will never build a report. They want self-service BI for an executive (that means everything pre-built and at their fingertips). Simply having visualization BI wasn’t for them.

Here are 5 things to consider when buying a BI tool:

1. Don’t get sucked into “how easy” it all is

Try it out for yourself in a practical yet small project but with REAL data and REAL data volume. Tools often come unstuck in real life.

2. Scratch the surface

Some products just don’t have any depth. For example, the tool might look great, but when you want a real report to send to investors or the management team, it needs to look exactly how you want it to. Many products just can't do this. The last thing you want to do is put up with inferior report formats!

3. Planning is more important than you realize

All too often investment is made in a reporting only tool that has no integrated planning. Most people still don’t consider this. What is the one thing you need to do immediately after reviewing actuals? What is the forecast? Oh, let’s use Excel for that. Let’s extract the data out of this great reporting system into Excel and do a budgeting/forecast. Really? Surely planning should just follow-on naturally from there.

4. Engage with the consultant(s) you will be working with

The consultant implements the tools in your environment, should understand the nuances of your implementation and any associated issues. It’s their job to 'tell it as it is' to clients and deliver. If the BI tools sales person is driving the conversation - beware.  Often the sales person believes it can be implemented faster or with seemingly impossible outcomes. Talk to the consultant - about what's really possible in their eyes. Get a good sense of what's really possible from them, and you will also get to know the person you're working with and decide if they are a good fit for you.

5. Reference checks

Many people don’t do this, but it’s important. Talk to organizations who have used the product before. Share a little about your company and what you’re planning to do and they will give you ideas and insight but with a bias toward the product they chose, so keep that in mind too.

Don’t get caught up in the thrill of new dials and charts. All products can do that; it’s sales candy! You need to make sure you’re going to get BI 'meat and potatoes' too.

If you have any questions or want more information, email me –

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