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How to Choose the Best On-premise Business Intelligence Tool for Your Business

Written by

James Watney

Last updated on

November 2, 2022

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If you’ve begun researching business intelligence, you’ll probably already know that no two tools are the same. That’s great - more variety means more choice, which means a better chance of there being exactly the solution you need. 

But what do you need? And with so many options out there, how do you narrow down your shortlist? 

What are the pitfalls of selecting the wrong business tool - are there hidden costs you should be aware of? And what are the key features of a business intelligence solution that no business should do without?

If you’d like to know the answer to these questions, develop your understanding of why business intelligence is so valuable to business today, and learn what you should factor into your selection process, read on.

Want to see if would work for your team? Try it free for 2 weeks!

Table of Contents

What is a Business Intelligence (BI) tool? 

A business intelligence tool takes your data and lets you quickly gain insights by producing dashboards, reports, and charts so you can make data-driven decisions.

You can move away from working within Google Sheets or Excel with data exports from your systems and connect your database straight into a business intelligence tool.

Related article: Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboards: Everything You Need to Know

Why use a Business Intelligence tool? 

There are many compelling reasons for having business intelligence integrated into your business’s research and decision-making processes. We take a look at some of those reasons below.

Free up your data engineers and analyst

Without a business intelligence tool processing your team’s data queries, your engineers have to handle all that work themselves, putting a massive strain on their workload. BI frees them, allowing them to do what you hired them for in the first place: developing.

Data-led decision making

One of the main reasons for using a BI platform is the ease of use for non-techs. Anyone in your business can gain access to data insights without having to be a specialised data analyst. 

With the fast access to data that business intelligence provides, your business can undergo a cultural shift towards data-driven decision-making. If you want to optimise decision-making and strategy at every level in your business, free access to data analytics is essential.

Increase revenue

Business intelligence software can give you insights into business performance.

Imagine you see your sales drop every year in January. You could refocus your marketing efforts in January to prevent this from happening.

On the other hand, you might see that certain days of the week are more successful for marketing campaigns, so you launch new products on those days - at the optimal time of those days.

The data insights that facilitated these strategic choices would make a big difference to a business of any size.

But those insights could be made available across your whole organization, which is how business intelligence can have a direct impact on revenue - only the insights you can gain from business intelligence aren’t limited to marketing and seasonal shifts in performance.

Wherever you collect data in your business, about whatever aspect of your operations, there’s the opportunity to learn from it - but you need a data analytics solution in place to do so.

Increase overall efficiency 

Most BI tools have built-in features for efficient workflows and data oversight. If you like to receive a weekly report on some of the most critical data sets in your business, you can do this with the power of automation. 

It's as easy as building your report and setting it to schedule to be sent at the time and date of your choosing - no more export data and manipulation in Google Sheets. Or putting in a request and having someone else build the report for you.

If you need certain graphs or charts for a presentation, you can build them ad-hoc and export any visual analytics to make presenting business findings much easier.

As well as the in-built automation features of the top on-premise business intelligence tools, BI speeds up research and decision-making workflows. 

Instead of a member of your sales team waiting on a response from your engineers about a unique query on sales projection, customer analysis, or product performance, they receive a quick response from your BI solution, follow it up with further queries, and then independently arrive at a data-based conclusion.

The advantages of on-premise business intelligence

There are advantages and disadvantages to having on-premise business intelligence versus a cloud version. In another article, we wrote about the pros/cons of cloud vs on-premise business intelligence

Data security is one of the main advantages of on-premise business intelligence. Rather than your data being in the cloud, you can keep it on your servers. For heavily regulated industries, like finance and healthcare, this could be a legal requirement.

Also, a cloud solution that copies your data has to transport all that information to its servers, then transport it back to the end-user, which is an inefficient and costly process.

Types of Business Intelligence tools

Different business intelligence platforms can include different tools, and some specialise in particular areas, such as embedded analytics, predictive analytics and forecasting, or OLAP.

Let’s look at some of the features that might be important to your business.

Reporting & dashboards 

It's great that you have a lot of raw data, but what’s its value if you don't have any way to access or interpret it?

Reporting and dashboards help you do this. A user-first design makes data discovery simple with a drag-and-drop interface that provides interactive visualization, such as charts and graphs, which you can use to drill down into a single piece of data.

Analysis & data exploration 

Data exploration and analysis are crucial to locating, interpreting, and learning from aggregate data, but it’s an inefficient, drawn-out process when conducted manually. With the right business intelligence tool, your teams can quickly access and visualize data, spot trends, and make decisions accordingly.

Embedded & predictive analytics 

Business intelligence tools can perform predictive analysis tools, where they model certain actions that you could take in your business to see what the potential risks and rewards are. You can then make data-informed decisions on those actions rather than doing strategy by guesswork.

How to choose an on-premise Business Intelligence tool?

Before deciding which business intelligence solution best fits your organization, consider these questions and suggestions.  

1. What are you going to use your Business Intelligence tool for? 

Before committing to a BI tool, know what you’ll use it for and how you want it to integrate with your existing workflows. This will help you determine what features, characteristics, and service options you value most. With this decided, you can compare tools on those specific points, for example:

  • Specific data formats
  • Customizations
  • Automations
  • Permissions
  • Integrations

RELATED POST: 7 Best On-Premise Dashboard Software to Visualise your BI Data

2. Who is going to use it? 

Who will use it should be part of your decision process when selecting a BI tool. 

If you want to empower your non-tech team, you ideally want something that is easy to use and is a self-service platform. You can find BI tools that have a drag-and-drop interface which makes building queries simple.

If it's your data team that will be using it, you can worry less about how easy it is to build queries and focus more on how in-depth you can get with the data.

3. What questions does your Business Intelligence tool need to answer?

Your BI tool must enable you to answer the questions your teams will ask.

If you're in e-commerce, then three (of many more) typical questions you might want answering could be:

  • Which products sell the most?
  • Where is the majority of traffic coming from?
  • When should you order stock before it runs out?

Whereas if you're in a SaaS business, then some questions you might want answering could be:

  • Where do people drop off the most in the onboarding process?
  • What is the average lifetime value of a customer?
  • What is the average churn rate?

Typically, teams at SaaS companies tend to have a greater number of ad hoc questions than teams at E-commerce companies, so it’s important that the tool they use is flexible enough to enable them to dig into the data and answer these. 

With a strong understanding of what kinds of queries your teams will be making, you can make more specific comparisons between BI solutions, making sure the tool you select has the capacity to provide the answers you’ll need, at speed and at scale.

4. What’s your budget? 

Budgeting might not be as straightforward as paying for a monthly or yearly cost for the software as there can be hidden costs that only become apparent as your business evolves.

Here are some of the areas where common hidden costs could affect you.

  • Implementation
  • Maintenance 
  • Support
  • Training
  • Growth costs

Make sure you’ve done your research on hidden costs so your budgeting is realistic and accurate.

5. How much support do you need?

The level of support you need depends on who you want to be using business intelligence and if you have an in-house team with the capacity to provide additional expertise when required.

Most BI tools offer basic support, but if you want to do something more complex with your data, it could result in having to pay a premium rate or even a one-time project fee. 

So, consider if it's better to hire someone internally to assist you or if paying premium support would be a better option.

Related post: 10 Best Practice Tips for Creating Powerful BI Dashboards

Evaluating your choices 

With the variety of BI tools on the market, and the enormous potential of business intelligence to positively impact your business, it makes sense to bring as much structure to your decision-making as possible.

It may be a useful exercise to create a scorecard so you can rank certain features among the many BI tools you have shortlisted, narrow down that list, and focus on what’s most important to you. Also, you could sign up for some free trials to get a feel for what the tool is like and if it suits your way of working.

But the most important aspect of choosing the right BI tool is understanding your business needs.

Once you know your budget, investigate what hidden costs there could be. When you’ve established the types of queries your teams will make, be sure your BI tool can handle them. And having decided what’s most important to your operations, compare BI tools on the basis of those key features.

Though you should speak to if you need:

  • Seamless integrations with Google Sheets, Slack, Zapier, and more
  • The ability to set up data alerts so you never miss a key milestone
  • Stunning customized dashboards
  • Intuitive data mapping at the click of a button
  • Quick-to-set-up automatic workflows
  • Beautifully visualised data queries
  • World-class support

Want to see if would work for your team? Try it free for 2 weeks!