Here are some basic questions on DWBI.
1. Do you know my industry and understand the BI needed to create competitive advantage? Give
2. Do you have the resources (human and technology) to aggregate multiple sources of data needed for the
BI solution. This is in addition to BI tools and related reporting and analytics.
3. Do you have the ability to grow along with us as we start using the data and related analysis in more
strategic and complicated ways. (If all they want to sell is dashboards and you think you will quickly
outgrow that - RUN)
4. What would you suggest for storage of aggregated data? Do you have a SaaS solution? Is it SAS 70
certified (if needed)?
5. What kind of ongoing support do you offer and how is it accessed.
6. What services do you offer to help us make sure we have thought through the BI solution we anticipate.
7. Can you provide guidance and assistance in helping us create a "data culture" so that the BI initiative is
not offered in vain?
8. What kind of SLA's will you offer? (have your own requirements to ask if they will adhere)
9. How do you charge? What are ongoing costs? What is a Total cost of ownership? Can you help us
develop an expected ROI?
10. You are looking for a business partner, not some vendor who will give you a solution and run. See if
they satisfy this requirement. Also, in my opinion there are no satisfactory off the shelf solutions so it will
have to be customized to some degree. Make sure they can meet your expectations.
11. What is the planning process? Describe how the process will work in practical terms? What resources
will I need to commit?
The first question,
What actions can I take which can make my business more profitable and customer more happy.
The Second question,
What information will be available to retain the customers and get to know to increase their life cycle and
life time value (repeat purchases).
What it takes to collect and process all the data, which gives answers to at least above questions.
Business Intelligence (BI) is a must-have capability for your organization. With it you can create a common
business language where everyone in the company aligns and focuses on business value and increases the
amount of fact-based decision-making you do.
The first thing to do before you buy a BI system is to understand why you're buying a BI system. Chances
are, you may already have multiple tools available to deliver BI scattered throughout your organization.
Perhaps your objective is to standardize on BI tools, work from the same data, control reports &
dashboards, standardize, and generally "bring it all together." Or maybe you just want to stop relying on all
those disparate, uncontrollable spreadsheets floating around the company.
You will need to define what comprises your BI “system.” It can be as simple as one end-to-end tool (or
“point solution”), or it can include multiple components, including:
• One or more Front-end tools (for dashboards, data visualization, interactive analysis, and so on)
• A separate mobile app or apps
• A data store (data mart, data warehouse, multidimensional (“cube”) database, in-memory
• One or more data management tools (ETL – Extract/Transform/Load, APIs to connect directly to
source systems, Data Quality tools, Master Data management tool)
• Workflow tools
Once you know why you’re buying a BI system, and once you know the scope of your BI system, you’ll
need to identify the BI system vendors you want to talk to. There are a variety of resources available to
identify the right one for you:
• Current technology vendors or consultants you may use
• References from contacts or companies you trust
• Third-party validations from analyst organizations such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, Dresner
Advisory Services, and others
1. What impact will the system have on my business?
This is a great question to get your Rep to help you brainstorm what’s possible with BI and the potential
ROI of the system. While they may not be able to answer with specific amounts, they may have some good
ideas on how to achieve the level of impact you’re looking for. Beware of vendors who draw a blank at this
stage, or are unable to point you to current customers who have achieved something similar. Here are some
details you can use to help prompt the Rep:
• How many net new customers will we acquire by having the new or updated system that we
wouldn’t otherwise have, and what’s the average lifetime revenue per customer?
• How many more products or services can we sell?
• Will the system let me improve my prices or price/volume mix?
• Will the system help improve my margins…measurably?
• Will the system increase the velocity of cash flow?
• Can I improve cross-sell & up-sell opportunities
• Will the system make me more efficient and produce more with fewer resources (measurable
• Is there a direct headcount reduction associated with this initiative?
• Can I reduce inventory costs? Raw material costs? Transportation and storage costs?
• Will it reduce my selling, general, and administrative expenses?
• Can it reduce debt and/or improve our cost of capital?
2. What features/functionality (that are important to my business) do you have, including:
• Support for self-service BI (meaning end-users can create their own experience with the system)
• Ad-hoc query & reporting capabilities
• Predicative Analytics
• Ranking, sorting, filtering
• Visualization (graphs, charts, drill-down, pivot)
• Exception & stop-lighting reporting
• Real-time monitoring and alerting
• Multidimensionality support (for example, looking at sales figures by rep, by product, by
geography, by month, by customer type, etc.)
• Support for various kinds of data (internal, external, structured, unstructured – like text from
customer support logs or social media data, financial, operational, historic, actual, forecast)
• Support for mobile devices (iPads, iPhone apps, Android, Blackberry)
3. Will your system help us ‘bring it all together’ and replace disparate tools. Will you help simplify our IT
portfolio and information architecture? If we gave you a list of our tools, can you show exactly how you
would replace them?
4. What’s the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the BI System? Including:
• the cost to build or acquire the system (hardware, software, network costs)
• the third-party software license costs to the above (for example a system may require an add-on
license for an RDBMs or middleware)
• the cost to operate, maintain, and upgrade
• the training costs (administrators & users)
• the cost to install and implement the system (this is a significant question to ask, there can be
many surprises here!)
• the cost to upgrade or troubleshoot and fix any impact the system will have on other existing
• the potential consulting cost to re-engineer processes that are being automated
• the cost to temporarily back-fill any headcount that has been ‘seconded’ for this initiative
• the labor components of all of the above (procurement staff, IT staff, new-hire administrators,
trainers, consultants, and so on).
5. How will we handle data and system integration? For example, with our ERP system, CRM system,
with budgeting & planning systems, with existing data warehouses, with external data.
6. Since different types of users (analysts, managers, executives) interact with information differently, do
you support role-based front-end tools (see my article here:http://www.information-
7. Do you run on-premise or as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application, or both? Having a BI system in
the cloud will reduce much of your IT overhead expense, and you have to be comfortable trusting your
company data to a third-party. If you are looking at a SaaS solution, some follow-on questions include:
• How do you charge (by user, by volume, by feature)?
• What security, integrity, redundancy, and backup guarantees are in place?
• What service-level agreement (SLA) do you have in place for performance (response times,
• How do I get at my data should something go wrong?
8. How do I get support when I need it, and what kinds of support do you have. For example, directly from
your company, through consultants, user-groups, on-line resources.
9. How many references can you give me for current customers in the same industry as mine, with similar
data sources, similar needs, and ideally with some third-party validated ROI success stories?
The return on investment you receive with your BI system depends on how well you prepare upfront. This
includes knowing why you are investing, knowing the scope and expectations of the system, preparing your
organization for change, and selecting the right vendor for you. Hopefully, the answers you get to these
questions will help put you on the path to huge returns!