Selecting your data analytics vendor and technology is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many articles out there that list a certain number of steps you need to take, but what many articles lack is what you need to do leading up to those steps. Your first and only “step” though is to play the role of detective. If you don’t put in the proper research and investigative work prior to choosing a vendor or tool, you run the risk of spending a ton of money on something that runs inefficiently or isn’t a good match for your employees, and eventually make your business problems a lot worse.
In this post, I’ll share with you some practical information on how to avoid running into these issues and help you pick the best-suited vendor or technology that is specific to your own business. So pull out your detective hat and proverbial magnifying glass, and let’s get started.
Investigate Your Business’ Problems & Objectives
Before you even look at a tool, first dig into what your business problems are. You’ll need to identify what issues you are trying to solve for within your business and how you want to approach solving those issues. This is definitely an aspirational process. Consider the direction you want your company to head in, the goals that need to be achieved, and have a clear vision statement that represents your company accurately.
From an analytics perspective, you’ll need to know what kind of data your business should look at and the audience of that data. For example, do you want to focus on operational data or sales data? Maybe your business is a physical store and you want to break down store data by region. Do you want to focus on marketing data? Maybe you want to see how your marketing channels are impacting your business and how the performance of those channels affect customers in your ecosystem. Start there and be clear on the results.
Investigate Your Business’ Current Data & Analytics Capabilities & Skill Sets
Even when you have a better picture of your business’ problems and objectives, it’s not quite time to hang up your detective cap yet. The investigation is still on-going! Don’t start with asking, “Do I need this tool?” First try to discover what types of analytics you need, how you want your company to consume the data, and what tools your company already has. The answers to these will stem more from business intelligence. For example, you may have a database that already houses the information you need, but you may require an analyst to extract insights from that information.
You’ll also need to investigate your employees (but not in a bad way!). It’s extremely important to understand the culture of your organization and who works there. What are their skill sets? By examining what the current skill sets are, it can set you up for success by helping you determine the skills required for down the road. For example, with advanced analytics tools, some are more hands-on while others have more out-of-the-box capabilities. You may have a lot of business-savvy employees in your company that aren’t well-versed from a technical standpoint. If that’s the case, you’ll want to look at a tool that isn’t quite as customizable or requires technical chops. On the other hand, if you do have very technical employees who want to get into the weeds and are more engineering-centric, a customizable tool that allows for more capabilities can work well for your business.
Investigate Your Options
At this point in your investigation, you may have a little voice telling you that a vendor or tool in your lineup could work wonders for your company. However, before you commit to one prime suspect, you need to pump the breaks. It is still critical to get a viewpoint of your options from all angles, so let’s keep moving.
I highly recommend getting outside help to determine the nuances of different vendors and tools. You’ll need as many details as possible, and reviews can help too. So where can you get this information? Research companies like Gartner can show you different capabilities of many tools in their detailed reports. If you’re looking for a ranking system, the Gartner Magic Quadrant can provide a quick view of tools you may be considering and show which ones are the leaders in the analytics space based on their own research.
When doing research on vendors and technology, you’ll also want to do a proof of concept (POC). This is especially critical if you are working with a capability that is completely new to your business. Before diving into completing a POC, stay true to completing the previous detective work above. It’s impossible to do a POC on every platform, and the previous research will help narrow down your options in your lineup. Remember that your business problem will also help identify what kind of products you are looking for. During the POC process, try to use real data and a real use case. When the time is right, allow the right people to familiarize themselves with these tools via hands-on training. A word of caution about POCs: Make sure you have a rubric defined prior to conducting the POC, as you want to have a consistent method of judging the candidates. The key is to focus on educating yourself, and your business, as much as possible.
In order to select a data analytics vendor or tool that is best-suited for your business, you need to get into detective mode and embrace sleuth work. Between investigating business problems and objectives, capabilities and skill sets, and discovering your options, you’ll be able to sequentially narrow the field. Make sure you document what you’re learning during the investigative process, and keep in mind that there is no perfect tool. You’ll need to make sure the vendor or technology you choose is helping you achieve your business goals. When measuring your progress, make it as quantitative as possible. Then, it’s time to keep moving forward and tackle the next case!
If you need some sleuthing assistance on selecting your data analytics vendor and technology, contact us at Cognetik. We’d be happy to consult on your case!