Overcoming BI hurdles can be difficult, but not impossible. Pic: Pixabay

How to overcome the toughest business intelligence challenges

BUSINESS intelligence (BI) is a must-have for every company. Data-driven insights empower organizations to increase productivity, enhance the decision-making process and even make strategic adjustments to ensure goals are being met.

BI and analytics allow you to learn more about key areas of your business, your competitors’ businesses, your industry and your audience. These provide better visibility into whether the entire organization’s operational processes are performing correctly. If you find anything amiss, you can then adjust strategies accordingly.

However, choosing the right platform can be tough, and so is finding the right to work with your BI solution. There are a number of options, and it can be overwhelming to find the best solution for your business.

For many businesses, cost is a concern. After all, even with the benefits, if ROI is a bit far off, then deploying a BI tool may not be viable. For most organizations, a complex analytics solution might just be too out-of-reach, and these cannot be brought to full potential without the necessary manpower and resources.

The experience of getting on board with a BI solution must be smooth – if the platform is too difficult or too time-consuming, no one will learn it. While every company needs BI data solutions, not everyone with access to it should have to be an IT expert. To find the right balance between BI power and accessibility, you’ll need to source the right tools.

Let’s look at some of the most challenging aspects of choosing and getting started with BI platforms.

Challenge 1: Complexity of additional data

More data = more sources. It can be difficult to sort out the information and decipher what will be most helpful. A recent study from Aberdeen Research found that the average BI user regularly works with no fewer than 30 distinct data sources. Some 40 percent of BI-sourcing companies, moreover, need platforms to analyze unstructured data.

SEE ALSO: Three trends that make business intelligence easier for smaller enterprises

To answer the question of why there would be so many sources, take social media for example: social media can provide totally different insights about your customers than data from web analytics. There are lots of social media platforms, which mean multiple sources – same goes for web analytics.

The more data sources you have, the more insights you can glean. But adding more and more data also makes it harder to manage – unless you have a platform that can handle it all for you.

When complex data is handled the right way, it delivers significant value. Developing a way to make use of the data and providing multiple departments easy access is pivotal for data-driven decision making.

Challenge 2: Time-consuming setup

Many BI solutions on the market require what feels like countless hours to set up. This is usually due to the fact there are so many hardware and software components necessary to provide the right features. The process can often take months and place major strains on your budget.

Today’s corporate BI solutions often use Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) technology. The problem with this approach is that it requires proprietary hardware, which means investing in expensive hardware that takes weeks to receive, set up and implement.

To avoid this, opt for a single-stack BI platform. This means you don’t need additional tools and resources to analyze the data. A single tool collects the data, analyzes, and visualizes it, so reporting is faster and easier. Toronto-based Dundas BI’s platform is highly regarded in this context.

The Aberdeen Research study cited above shows that the top performing organizations opt for the single-stack platform because it keeps the entire process simple. As a result, users are more satisfied with the tool, and on average, those companies report twice as many users compared to companies using more complex solutions.

Challenge 3: Too much training

Along with complex solutions comes the added component of training staff on how to use them. This training takes time away from other important business tasks, thus decreasing overall productivity.

It can be difficult to know what to train who, and overall, users aren’t likely to enjoy a system that calls for so much specialized education.

And unless your BI system is handling analysis for you, your team will also have to learn complex code so they can set up queries, process the data and arrive at the insights you need.

Microsoft Business Intelligence offers a compelling hybrid solution that allows businesses to store data on on-premises servers, as well as on the cloud. While a platform like this does add some flexibility, it can be a burden too. Unless you have a team of people already well-versed in SQL and know how to use code to gather the insights they need, you’re looking at a difficult platform to use and to train your staff on.

SEE ALSO: How outsourcing to freelancers can work wonders for small businesses

The takeaway

If you’ve avoided taking the plunge into BI tools, you could be missing out. Instead of spending countless hours collecting data and analyzing it on your own, it’s much simpler funneling it into one platform that can handle all the necessary processes for you. It’s just a matter of choosing the right one.