Thirty Questions for Establishing Embedded BI Requirements

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Click to learn more about author Mike Brody.

For the uninitiated, finding the right embedded business intelligence solution can feel a bit like ordering food from an international restaurant. The question isn’t what you’re in the mood for – it’s what’s on the menu that you’re in the mood for. That’s a difficult question for someone who cannot even pronounce the names of the options. This is usually where your server steps in with some recommendations, and you order whatever he or she suggests (even if it’s a bit pricey) because what else are you going to do?

It’s okay to let others take the lead in low-stakes situations like lunch, but BI isn’t lunch. You can’t decide mid-contract that an analytics solution has failed to meet your standards and send it back like an undercooked fillet.

Finding the right embedded BI solution for your Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), hosted, or on-premises application is too important a decision to leave to a third party. So, come to product demos and evaluations armed with some basic knowledge of your requirements.

Here are 30 questions to help you start mapping your product needs to what the embedded analytics market has to offer. If you come across an unfamiliar concept or term, don’t skip it – dig in to see if it’s relevant to you. The more clearly you understand your requirements, the easier a solution will be to evaluate.

Architecture

1. What data sources must I be able to connect to?

2. With what other business applications will the BI solution need to interface?

3. What platform is my application built on?

4. What kind(s) of hosting do I use or want to use?

5. What server language(s) must be supported?

6. What kind of data security do I have in place, and what kind of permissioning will I require?

7. How easy is my data to report off of? Will it need to be warehoused?

8. How would I like my BI to scale – horizontally or vertically?

Integration

9. Where in my application do I want to expose BI?

10. How much control would I like over the BI application’s appearance?

11. Does the BI platform need to be white label?

12. Does the application need to support localization to accommodate global users?

Functionality

13. Do I want my users to primarily run preexisting “canned” reports or should they also be able to build and edit their own reports using self-service or “ad hoc” capabilities?

14. Do my users need the ability to build and/or run dashboards?

15. What types of data visualizations will my users need to be able to build?

16. Do my users need the ability to export reports? To which formats?

17. Do my users need to be able to email reports?

18. Is it important to have interactive reporting controls such as filters and drilldowns?

19. What specific kinds of reports do I want to build or have the ability to build?

20. What sorts of functions and formulas will my users need for their data analysis?

21. How user-friendly do I need the user interface to be? How accessible?

22. Will my users need the ability to fill out industry forms with their data?

23. Do I want my users to be able to restructure their data models?

Deployment

24. When am I looking to deploy?

25. How many staff can I devote to deployment?

26. How many reports (and which) do I plan to have available to users upon deployment?

27. What resources will I need in order to train users in the BI application?

28. How many internal staff will I need trained in the BI application?

29. What functionality do I want to make available in my initial rollout?

30. To which of my users do I want to initially roll out the BI application?

If you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to shop for an embedded BI and analytics solution with confidence, clear in your baseline requirements and ready to hear about what the market has to offer.

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