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TOPAZ Guide to Shopping for the Right BI Toolshopping

Whether your company relies on Microsoft Dynamics GP, AX, SL, or NAV or something cloud-based like Netsuite, Intacct, or Acumatica for your accounting needs, selecting Business Intelligence (BI) solutions to accelerate your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications can be a confusing, tedious process – and rightfully so. In spite of generally being a series of interactions with sales professionals, it is also an important process that will have a big impact on your company’s management. We have had the opportunity to talk with finance team members that are starting to seek out BI solutions to meet company analytics needs, typically as an element of a bigger picture strategy to bring their collaborative decision-making into the 21st century of dynamic, robust, and intuitive processes. In our experience at Topaz, most seem to be experiencing sensory overload regarding the breadth and depth of assessing company needs, webinars, sales meetings, demos, and trainings that they don’t even really know where to begin.

Where you should begin: asking the right questions. First, researching the world of software options on the market today will organically involve you to pose questions in regard to your company’s specific BI requirements and goals. What tool(s) does your company need immediately? Do you want to work in the cloud or on-/off-site, utilising an ERP server? How much are you budgeting to invest in BI solutions? What are your long-term BI goals, and how are you going to strategically put together a toolbox of analytics to meet your objectives? These are just some initial evaluative inquiries to get the ball rolling, but most people we’ve met have found the amount of software and their sometimes unclear functionality and feature differences to be overwhelming. We at Topaz will suggest the answers you should seek when navigating the purchase of BI software.

In order to stay organised, we’re going to compartmentalise our suggestions for questions into three different categories:

  1. questions about the independent software vendor (ISV),
  2. questions regarding how business user friendly the product is, and
  3. questions about the cost.

These can be approached in any order, but we prioritised them in this way for a particular reason. Since this will likely be a big investment of time, money, and energy, you will want to know about the stability and the culture of the vendor before you get too invested in the benefits of the product. From there, you will want to know how easy for business users the product is to implement, utilise on a regular basis, and optimise for a solid return on investment (ROI). Finally, you will want to know how much money it will cost your company – comprehensively – to maximise the experience in response to your BI goals. It is these categories of questions that will frame this article, but there’s no such thing as a stupid question. If you focus being the expert with all the right questions, you will soon be the expert with all the right answers.

To continue learning more about what questions to ask when shopping for a BI product, read the rest of this article here.

Andrew Burn - GM Sales and Marketing