1. Vendor stability: The BI software market has undergone drastic changes in the last few years thanks to several major acquisitions. Megavendors snapped up smaller companies to strengthen their presence in the BI market; Oracle acquired Siebel and Hyperion, IBM bought Cognos, and SAP purchased Business Objects. The effects of these changes are still being felt by vendor and customer alike. You need to be aware of the stability of your chosen vendor, whether that's a smaller company being eyed by a larger one or a megavendor still transitioning through an acquisition.
According to Gartner's 2010 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms report, "While Oracle, which acquired Siebel and Hyperion in 2005 and 2007 respectively, seems to be successfully exiting the back of this curve, as shown by significantly improved Magic Quadrant customer survey results this year over last, weak customer survey results for IBM and SAP suggest that they are still in the throes of this transition."
2. BI consolidation: Organizations haven't always had an enterprise-wide BI strategy in place, which often led to siloed departmental BI deployments spread across the company. This was facilitated by vendors offering specialized individual tools rather than integrated suites. According to recent research from Forrester, almost 50 percent of the companies surveyed reported using between three and five BI products throughout the enterprise, while only 20 percent said they use just one or two BI products.
Now that more BI vendors offer comprehensive BI suites with a variety of reporting and analytical tools, it may be easier for customers to consolidate BI tools to fewer vendors -- and reap benefits like volume discounts and easier integration. Wayne Eckerson, director of services and research at the Data Warehousing Institute, recommends that companies standardize their BI tools in each of four categories: query reporting and analysis, online analytical processing (OLAP), data mining, and scorecards and dashboarding. Still, don't rule out the BI technologies coming from small innovative vendors; their tools may fill an important niche in your organization.
3. User friendliness: One of the biggest changes in BI software is its increased user friendliness. BI vendors have made the UIs and reports much more user friendly for business users. According to Gartner, business users in particular like highly interactive and graphical UIs, which address their needs for ease-of-use and rapid deployment. The research firm also advises customers to look for interactive visualization tools and reports.
4. Time to deploy: It's important to also consider how long it will take to get BI software installed and generating reports useful to business. After all, most companies deploy BI software because they need information immediately. In fact, that pressure for results is one reason, Gartner found, that business users are turning to pure-play BI platforms from smaller vendors.
5. Deployment models: Enterprise users have more choices in BI software than ever before. Even though premise-based solutions remain the norm, BI vendors are starting to offer viable lower-cost options in the form of software as a service (SaaS) and even open source alternatives. SaaS and open course alternatives can be a good solution for organizations with specific requirements.