Today, businesses of every size are investing heavily to ensure sure their data reaches its full potential. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as just cutting a check for the latest BI software to hit the market. With so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the best business intelligence tool for your data, but with a little strategic thinking, it’s not impossible.

Traditional Tools and Hybrid Configurations

For those new to BI, it can be tempting to choose a tool that the world’s biggest corporations use with the assumption they must be using the best instrument available. While this is a poor strategy for several reasons, most notably it will lead small to mid-sized organizations to choosing a big data tool made for vast amounts of information instead of a traditional BI tool that would more appropriate for their amount of data. In fact, those larger organizations will often implement traditional BI tools into smaller, separate business units or departments to best harness the power of their data.

When first considering which BI tool to choose, business leaders will often have the mentality that they are searching for one solution. However, this limits flexibility as one tool may not hold all the answers for that organization. Many have found success by using a hybrid setup of two tools, where one BI analytics tool is focused on the back end and another BI reporting tool is dedicated to the front end. Such a configuration is like having a specialist on either end, and can provide the best of both worlds.

Narrowing Down Your Options

To effectively narrow down the best business intelligence tool for your data, begin with two questions: What kind of data are we collecting? and What are we trying to do with or learn from that data? For example, one organization may have data surrounding sales transactions over the last year that contains dates, dollar figures, and other information specific to their sales process. Let’s say they want to spot a pattern, determine any weak points in their process, and on top of that, use predictive modeling to estimate sales for the next year. To do this most effectively, they may require two BI tools.

Understanding the type of data coming into your organization will help determine which back-end analytics tool will appropriately explore and build upon that information. Then, knowing what decisions you intend to make based upon that data’s insights will determine which front-end reporting tool is right for you. With that in mind, let’s look at some popular options in the marketplace:

IBM Cognos – Industry powerhouse IBM offers a vast array of BI products accessible through a web-based user interface. Their Report Studio is a popular option for generating insights on the front end.

Microsoft Power BI – Microsoft offers a suite of BI tools with many strengths. It’s user friendly, mobile friendly, and connects to hundreds of popular data sources with more added monthly. Best of all, the basic version is free.

Pentaho – Now with real-time data processing, Pentaho can be a great choice as an analytics tool for the back end. Standing out as an open-source tool, it can provide great flexibility and was very recently rolled into a new business venture that could produce even more robust solutions.

TIBCO Spotfire – A versatile BI tool, Spotfire can fulfill several BI analytics or reporting needs and has an active online community. It’s been known to perform well for businesses looking to gain insight into sales processes and the customer experience.

Other Notable Tools – Examining every business intelligence tool would fill volumes. At CyberSearch, we’ve helped clients achieve great success with many more tools, including Tableau, Ab Initio, Azure Analysis Services, Oracle Analytics, SAP BusinessObjects, MicroStrategy, and more.

Selecting the Best Business Intelligence Tool

With so many options to choose from, selecting a great BI tool for your organization can be a difficult decision. Ultimately, determining your data needs in the beginning will help steer the decision and define which tools can accomplish your goals. But the job isn’t done there, because business intelligence tools don’t magically work on their own. Expertise is needed to apply a BI tool to your business, and skills in data security, data management, cloud system management, data mining, scorecards, ETL, and data warehouse design are necessary. Combine great BI talent with an effective BI tool and the rest will be history.