What is the best BI tool? That is a question I now and then run into when browsing the internet. A legitimate question that should be easy to answer. But is it?
A person that has not been engaged with BI on a regular basis could be asked by his organization to look for a (new) BI-tool. And then one finds out the there is a huge choice out there! And like buying a new photo camera, you start looking at reviews and other people’s experiences.
So, the question looks obvious. But soon you will find out that the answers to it often come from sales people promoting their own products. So, in order to get a more objective opinion, one could look at the Gartner Magic Quadrant, and pick the top one there. And then the question is easy to answer: Tableau is the best! Or IBM is the best. Or…
Admitted, Gartner displays an adequate, two dimensional overview of the BI landscape. And yes, no-one will get fired for choosing the best according to Gartner. But there must be a reason why there are also other players surviving in this arena.
So there must be more factors that make up the best choice for your organization. Let me give you some examples:
- What is your organization really looking for? What are you going to do with your brand new BI tool? Do you need to automate the monthly report that now takes two days to construct in Excel? Or are you sitting on a huge pile of data that has never been analyzed before? Or is it both?
- Will this tool be used by 1,000nds of colleagues, or just by a couple of analysts? How scalable do you need the tool to be? Does your organization have the people to build and maintain the environment(s)? Or will you be relying on a third party to help you here?
- What does your environment look like? Are you planning on integrating multiple sources, is your company a dedicated SAP, Oracle, Microsoft shop? Where does your new BI tool fit in?
These examples point out that there are many influencing factors that make up the environment for a proper decision on BI tooling. In fact, possibly you are looking for an answer to the wrong question. It is not (solely) the right tool that brings the best solution to your requirements.
A good camera or good pictures?
Of course, when your company has a BI competence center that has been around for 10 years and is now looking for new tooling to bring them into the next decade, your organization might be well equipped to make the right choice. But more and more we see “smaller”, less equipped, less BI-ready companies looking for a way to change their data into information. Then looking for the best BI tool is not enough, and indeed is not the right question. In my analogy of buying a new camera; am I looking for a camera, of for good pictures? Buying a good camera does not guarantee good quality pictures. Hiring a skilled photographer, or take a photography class, will likely get me a better result, even with a mediocre camera.
The complete package
Like in this example, the same applies to implementing a Business Intelligence solution. Here too, you would want to look for the best partner you can get. A partner that speaks your “language”. Has technically skilled people around to install the tool and business consultants that can easily learn to understand your business, know best practices and can help you implement the right way of thinking into your BI environment. All of a sudden you are no longer looking for software, you are now looking for a complete package, not just tools, but more importantly, knowledge!