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What to Look for in an Analytics and Business Intelligence Platform

August 08, 2023

Contributor: Colin Reid

Prioritize functional requirements like these five to make sure it will work for you in practice.

An analytics and business intelligence (ABI) platform supports the development and delivery of IT-enabled analytics for nontechnical users, meaning it provides them with self-service access to approved data, analysis, visualization and reporting capabilities that they can easily explain and share. As a result, ABI software enables organizations to determine how well they are performing and which business strategies to pursue.

For buying teams researching and evaluating ABI solutions, some of the most important requirements in selecting a platform relate to whether it provides the capabilities your specific organization needs to meet its objectives. However, it’s also necessary to consider technical interoperability, the availability of support and services, and whether the vendor will be a good partner whose vision for the market aligns with your own. Ultimately, you will want to evaluate pricing and commercial terms.

5 key capabilities for analytics and business intelligence platforms

Gartner defines business intelligence platforms as including capabilities in three key categories:

  1. Analysis, such as online analytical processing (OLAP)

  2. Information delivery, such as reports and dashboards

  3. Platform integration, such as business intelligence metadata management and a development environment

While the conventional understanding of ABI involves solutions with dashboards and reports as outputs, businesses should consider how they can use ABI platforms to drive positive business impacts — from triggering actions to ultimately making decisions.

But defining the functional requirements for these platforms — and judging each potential solution against those criteria — is what ensures they will work in practice. Use these requirements to judge the relative value of different options and ultimately shortlist the best candidates.

No. 1: Automated insights

Can the ABI platform apply machine learning (ML) techniques to automatically generate insights, such as identifying the most important attributes in a dataset, for end users?

No longer the stuff of sci-fi, leveraging ML capabilities to make sense of ever-growing datasets is now table stakes within the ABI space.

No. 2: Data preparation

Can the platform combine data from different sources using a drag-and-drop interface and create analytic models based on user-defined inputs, such as measures, sets, groups and hierarchies?

After usable data has been defined, the tool should allow users to effortlessly combine datasets from approved sources and customize insights based on inputs those users define.

No. 3: Data visualization

Does it support highly interactive dashboards and data exploration through the manipulation of chart images? Does it feature an array of visualization options beyond bar, pie and line charts? 

Line charts, such as heat and tree maps, geographic maps, scatter plots and other special purpose visuals, allow users to more creatively visualize meaningful insights for nontechnical audiences or cross-functional teams.

No. 4: Manageability

Can it track usage and manage how information is shared and promoted on a per-user and cohort basis?

No. 5: Product usability

Does it contain easy-to-understand and user-friendly interfaces with intuitive designs that facilitate user engagement and broader adoption?

If users feel intimidated or overwhelmed by an ABI platform, they won’t adopt or standardize workflows that incorporate its capabilities. In organizations that also prioritize change enablement, ensuring high product usability should be a top priority.

Unsure about how to prioritize the capabilities you need in an analytics and business intelligence platform? With Gartner BuySmart™, you can assemble a robust, customizable list of requirements to ensure the technology you choose is the right one for your organization.

Some technical capabilities are likely to be essential, too

Technical requirements, such as technology setup and delivery, are the next set of criteria to consider for your business intelligence platform. Gartner research highlights the following three technical requirements as essential, but again they may be less important for your use case.

  • Data storage: Provides required storage capacity, file types and locations, as well as processes, such as extraction or eradication.

  • Integration: Integrates with all relevant applications, data sources and technologies.

  • Monitoring, logging and tracking: Provides proactive alerts on system events, as well as logging and resolution reporting on all issues.

Colin Reid, VP of Product Management, leads Gartner teams in scoping, building, shipping and managing global SaaS applications, including BuySmart. Previously, as a Gartner analyst, he helped clients design, build, integrate, operate and optimize all aspects of marketing and content technology and their operations.

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