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Tip for Selecting Business Intelligence Tools

In an infinite universe of business intelligence tools, selecting one that fits your organization can be overwhelming and extremely time-consuming. Whether it’s an enterprise relationship management system or a database management solution, there seems to be something, or ten, for every business need.

As part of our company’s strategic initiative, our team spent a quarter in 2017 researching customer relationship management (CRM) tools to help our marketing and business development teams work more effectively. With the right team, research, and plan, we were able to make an informed decision, and secure a tool that would propel our business forward.

Determine Your Wants and Needs

First things first, decide what functionalities you need from your prospective business solution. Meet with your leadership team to help determine what kind of outcomes and expectations they have from the solution. Knowing what you need before you start your search will help save time in the long run. You’ll be able to eliminate solutions before even putting them on your list. Physically document all of your wants and needs in an Excel or Google spreadsheet.

Don’t be alarmed – your wants and needs will more than likely change as you go through the process. In our CRM research, we knew reporting was listed as a need and marketing automation was a want. As we began demos, the team noticed that marketing automation was what we needed. You’ll learn more about functionality as you go!

Research the Possible Universe, Scrub Your List, and Eliminate “No-Go’s”

As mentioned before, there are countless solutions out there for whatever you may be looking for. Compile a decent-sized list. Take the time to look for referrals from colleagues. Ask on your social networks, such as LinkedIn, what other people in your industry are using. Put them all in the same aforementioned spreadsheet, except in a new tab.

Next, scrub that list down to about 10 or so selections that best fit your wants and needs and fall within your budget. Make a chart with your wants and needs, listed to the left, and the name of each tool along the top. Go through and document each feature that a solution offers – oftentimes the business tool has a white paper on their website that lists these out. You’ll find that some solutions are industry-specific, like real estate or manufacturing, and can easily be removed from your list without further evaluation. Select your top five solutions with the most features. See chart below for reference on how to set up your research documents.

Schedule Demos

You’ve established what you need from a solution. You’ve done the research on your possible universe. Now for the fun part!

Schedule and facilitate a first run of demonstrations with your top five choices. Use this first demo to get an overview of the system. Be prepared to ask questions. Keep your list of wants and needs with you – check off and make notes when a solution fits – and doesn’t fit or at least doesn’t perform in the way you expected – your criteria.

Summarize Your Findings

Once you’ve completed your first round of demos, compare your prospective tools side by side. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Did this fit the majority of my criteria?
  • How is the functionality of the tool?
  • Is the tool intuitive to use?
  • Does this tool work with our existing infrastructure?
  • Can I see myself using this?
  • What are its downfalls?
  • Will my team adopt this?
  • What kind of support can the solution offer?

Put all of your findings into your document in a way that makes sense – typically in order of your first, second, and third choice. You’ll be surprised to find that some of the solutions that you thought might have ended in your final three don’t make the cut.

Make an Informed Decision

All the information you need to make a decision is documented – or is it?

You’ll probably want to schedule a deeper dive into your top solutions. Sometimes, important information is missed in the first round of demos. Take some time to think of items you might have missed; ask the solutions company those questions. Then, come back to your document. It’s decision time.

More than likely, you’ll be presenting to a team. Compile your research and process in a way that makes sense for outsiders (you could even use this layout for reference). Know costs, highlighted features, etc., that might be beneficial for decision makers to know. If you’ve made it this far, typically you’ll have a good sense on what vendor you’re selecting and what your next steps – like implementation – look like.

What does your criteria for appropriate business tools look like? Comment below!

Article written by:

McKenzie Decker

Marketing Manager

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