The Business Application Research Center (BARC) is one of the leading analyst and consulting firms for business intelligence software. Headquartered in Germany, it’s spent the last twenty years conducting industry research, evaluating providers and products, charting trends, and advising companies in the market for BI. Its most well-known project, however, may be its ongoing web-based BI survey, which has been gathering data for over 17 years! More than 3,000 respondents in 89 countries have provided insight into their BI implementations, from the buying process to demonstrated business outcomes.
The BI Survey has given rise to BARC’s BI Software Buyer’s Guide, which very helpfully includes a section titled “Success Factors in Implementing BI Applications.” We’re all about success factors here at Exago, so we tucked into the section and discovered, to our absolute joy, the following five BARC Recommendations for a successful BI implementation:
- Aim for a three-month implementation window for the first application.
- If possible, try an incremental approach by breaking the project into a series of smaller projects.
- Find the right implementer to bolster project success.
- Choose smaller specialized firms or vendor consultants for implementation rather than large general purpose consulting firms.
- Use the proof of concept to evaluate the quality of the implementation team as well as the product. Of course this only works if the team that will eventually carry out the implementation also carries out the proof of concept.
It was a profound moment, stumbling upon these recommendations. They echo what we’ve been telling prospects and clients for years, and it was deeply validating to see a renowned analyst group produce them from a longstanding body of research. The data doesn’t lie.
We’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the BARC recommendations one by one, indicating how they relate to the work we do at Exago and supplying additional resources when available. Each and every one of these suggestions can impact whether an implementation goes smoothly and yields a high ROI or becomes a drain on company resources, so please read on. It’s important to note, however, that BARC’s survey data includes but is not limited to embedded BI implementations, which can be deviate from the norm in some respects. We’ll do our best to point out those instances below.
Aim for a three-month implementation window for the first application.
BARC’s survey results indicate that a BI implementation time of 0-3 months yields the best business benefits. “Business benefits” in this case refers to BI offerings, such as advanced analysis, ad hoc querying, dashboards, enterprise reporting, and so on. The longer implementations took, the less these benefits were realized.
It could be that longer implementations simply have more opportunity to encounter deployment issues, or it may be that they require more time because they encounter those issues. Causality aside, it’s important to get the first application up and running in relatively short order.
For software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers embedding BI into their applications, implementation time is going to be most profoundly impacted by:
- The resources available.
- The clarity of business requirements.
- The quality of the data.
If any one of the above factors necessitates an implementation time exceeding three months, well, that brings us to the next recommendation.
If possible, try an incremental approach by breaking the project into a series of smaller projects.
We wrote a whole article about the value of a phased BI rollout and encourage you to take a look. Releasing your first implementation to a restricted user base and/or only offering a limited set of features is a great way to get user feedback while you proceed with other preparations. Work to satisfy the majority of users first, then finesse your offering to meet more niche requirements. The sooner you get the ball rolling, the sooner you’ll be able to free up resources currently allocated to data analytics and reporting — both for you and your customers.
Find the right implementer to bolster project success.
This recommendation pertains both to third-party implementers and vendor support. Our Support and Services teams are so beloved by clients that our G2 Crowd reviews are flooded with mentions of them. Here’s a word cloud based on those reviews from a couple of years back:
You see what we mean? One reviewer was so overcome by the support she and her team had received that she took G2 Crowd as an opportunity to praise our Client Integration Manager, Nick Cortina.
Our support and services staff literally steal the show, and we believe that’s how it should be. Every IT team, no matter how experienced or credentialed, deserves the benefits of a dedicated support team. Your BI implementation will go that much more smoothly.
Choose smaller specialized firms or vendor consultants for implementation rather than large general purpose consulting firms.
We save Exago clients the trouble of sourcing outside implementation help by including service hours in our contract price. This approach has had great success, as customers find coming to us with both product- and service-related questions streamlines their communication process.
But BARC’s point still stands. Smaller, more specialized firms tend to offer more hands-on, individualized help. They also tend to be more accountable, as there’s less anonymity in small firms. Your BI implementation is unique and should be handled accordingly, not forced to conform to borrowed methods.
At Exago, we treat our clients like the partners they are. While we work from a common implementation plan, every execution of that plan is different and designed to meet the strategic needs of the organization in question. Our BI consultants build stock reports, conduct on-site implementations, and lead in-person product training sessions all according to client requirements and specifications.
Use the proof of concept to evaluate the quality of the implementation team as well as the product.
Back in 2017, we published an article titled “How to Get the Most Out of a Product Evaluation.” In it, we walk through the creation of a proof-of-concept (POC) and devote a whole section to “business features,” things like pricing, support, services, product training, etc. Your BI vendor will become an extension of your IT team, and this is especially true in embedded BI scenarios. Team fit is easily as important as product fit. After all, who are you going to call when you hit a technical roadblock? Exactly.
BARC is right to suggest having the same people both evaluate and implement the chosen BI solution. Those individuals have already gone through the POC and, ideally, entered the deployment phase with some work already completed as a result. They know who at the BI vendor to contact about what, are already familiar with the product, and don’t have to start back at square one. It’s therefore a good idea to think ahead to who you’ll want deploying the product when you decide to proceed with an evaluation.
BARC has a lot to offer beyond these five recommendations — the entire Buyer’s Guide is a treasure trove of nerdy information. We highly recommend giving it a thorough read if you’re in the market for a BI solution, embedded or otherwise. Keep these recommendations in mind, and you’ll avoid countless headaches.