Picking the right solution involves thoroughly evaluating the technology, understanding the expertise offered by the vendor, and implementing a process to ensure success.
The first step is to examine the evaluation criteria that are critical to embedded analytics implementations. Below I’ve outlined both the technical and non-technical business intelligence requirements that are common to most evaluations, which you should consider:
- Self-Service BI Capabilities – These are the core capabilities for all the end users of your application.
- Data Environment – The solutions you evaluate should be compatible with your current data environment, while at the same time be flexible enough to meet future demands as your data architecture evolves.
- Embeddability, Customization and Integration – Embedded analytics implementations place a greater emphasis on customization and integration capabilities compared to standard business intelligence implementations.
- Development and Deployment – Since time-to-value is so critical to the success of the project, having a development environment where you can create, style, embed, deploy, and iterate on embedded analytics will enable your team to deliver the functionality your business demands.
- Licensing, Services and Company Expertise – Choosing the right partner is not just about the technology; it’s also about finding the right level of expertise and commitment to shared success to get you to the finish line (and beyond).
The Evaluation Process
Now that you understand the criteria for evaluating vendors for embedded analytics, let’s look at the overall process that will help you make the best decision for your business.
1. What are my goals?
Draw from the strategic benefits you want to achieve. Quantifiable metrics may include increasing revenue, increasing user adoption, or improving customer retention. Soft metrics may include an improving the user experience, creating a competitive differentiator, or increasing customer satisfaction.
2. What is my timeline?
Identify the steps you’ll take to reach your goals. Ask yourself, “When do I want to…”
- Begin the selection process?
- Have detailed vendor presentations and demos?
- Finish a proof of concept?
- Make my final decision?
- Start development?
- Release product?
3. Who should be part of my team?
Determine the stakeholders who need to be involved. Who is going to care about embedded analytics internally (your executive team, product management, lead developers) and externally (your key customers, customer advisory board)? Build the business case collectively to secure buy-in to move forward.
4. What are my requirements?
Review your technical and non-technical requirements, and rank the importance of these requirements. Research your competitors and talk to your customers to develop a firm understanding of the capabilities you want to add to your application.
5. Which vendors should I consider?
Assign a point person to research potential vendors and evaluate whether their functionality matches your requirements. Utilize independent industry resources, such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms report, to create your initial list. Pay special attention to vendors who specialize in the OEM market for software providers.
6. Can this vendor do what I need it to do?
Narrow down your list to the top two or three vendors and begin a structured evaluation process with each one. This is where you’ll define a proof of concept and establish clear-cut guidelines for what you want to accomplish. Always implement the proof of concept in a technical environment that is as close to the production environment as possible.
7. What do other customers think about this vendor?
Now it’s time to find out if your vendor can actually make customers like you successful. Ask your vendors for references. Solicit feedback from others in your personal and social networks. Look for references that are similar to your organization (size, industry, use case, etc.).
Once you have met with references, it’s go time! Choose the vendor you feel most confident in as a partner to reach your goals. Create your first set of reports. Work with your vendor’s enablement and consulting teams for best practices.
From there it’s time to monitor, adapt and optimize. There’s a lot that can be said here, given the endless possibilities that come from using embedded analytics. Here are a few tips for this phase of your process:
- Invest in the training you need to be successful.
- After three to six months, do a check-up and consider reengaging with your vendor’s services. Evaluate additional services that could take you to the next level.
- Engage with your vendor’s community to learn and share best practices. Suggest ideas for new features while you’re at it.
And there you have it. By following the steps above, you can avoid buyer’s remorse and ensure a successful embedded BI deployment.