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Assessing Product Fit

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BUYER’S GUIDE

Assessing Product Fit

Introduction

This guide is intended to help your team research potential embedded BI solutions, align your requirements with feature offerings, and move confidently into the product evaluation phase. In addition to outlining important considerations for each aspect of product fit, it will also disambiguate industry terms and point you toward helpful third-party resources.

Key Considerations for Each Aspect of Product Fit

Embedded BI solutions are complex, and it can be overwhelming to assess them without a little bit of structure. We find it helpful to think of embedded BI as having five fit aspects:

  1. Data integration
  2. Application integration
  3. Product
  4. Company
  5. Price

Each domain should be assessed for compatibility with your requirements. We’ve done our best to make universally applicable recommendations for how to explore each area but want to emphasize that every embedded BI implementation is different. Your product requirements may take you down different lines of inquiry.

The sections below dive more deeply into the subjects you explored in establishing your product requirements. Not all considerations will be relevant to your needs or environment, so focus on answering questions that speak to your context.

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Data Integration
Data Source Is/are your data source(s) supported? If not, does the BI provider offer data connectors or drivers that could make your sources accessible by the solution? Data Object Type Does the solution support reporting directly off non-tabular objects such as views and stored procedures? Hosting Does the solution support on-premises hosting, cloud hosting, and/or on-site hosting? Will the solution require that you import your data onto their proprietary servers, or can your data remain where it is? Tenanting Does the solution support:
  • Multi-tenant databases with object-level tenancy
  • Multi-tenant databases with row-level tenancy
  • Separate databases sharing a common schema
  • Separate databases, each with a unique schema
Application Integration
Embedding
  • Is the solution single sign-on?
  • Will end users need to download plug-ins or other software in order
  • to use the solution?
  • Is report output embedded?
  • Are report builders/designers embedded?
  • Does the solution support iframe embedding?
  • Does the solution support JavaScript embedding?
API
  • Does the solution offer an open REST API?
  • Does the solution offer a JavaScript API?
  • How robust is the solution’s API documentation?
White Labeling
  • Is the solution’s logo removable?
  • Are all language elements editable?
  • Are all images and icons editable?
  • Is the solution’s CSS fully open and editable?
Localization
  • May units of measurement, datetimes, text, currencies, whether in the application or source data, be localized for users in different countries and time zones?
Configurability/Modularity
  • Do solution administrators control which features to expose to which users?
Extension
  • May administrators write custom functions to be used in report formulas?
  • May administrators write custom functions to be used in report filters?
  • May administrators alter what happens when users interact with a UI control or kick off a process?
Security
  • How does the solution handle authentication and authorization?
  • How are administrative controls secured from intrusion?
  • Are database connection strings hidden and/or encrypted?
  • Is the solution secured against SQL injections?
  • Does the solution meet regulatory compliance protocols for your industry?
Product
Reports
  • Does the application offer canned reports, parameterized reports, and ad hoc reports?
  • Can reports be interactive?
  • Can the solution populate an outside document, such as a set of mailing labels or W3 form, with data values?
  • Can report authors mandate that a report be filtered before it is run?
  • Can charts be included on reports? If so, how many?
  • What is the UX like for users of various skill levels (business users vs analysts)?
  • Can reports be exported? If so, to which file formats?
  • What kinds of drilldowns are available?
Dashboards
  • Do dashboards display real-time data? Can it be refreshed automatically at set intervals?
  • Can existing reports and visualizations be added to a dashboard?
  • Can new tables and visualizations be created directly on a dashboard?
  • Can dashboard filters be applied either to select dashboard elements or to all elements?
  • Can dashboards be shared, distributed, and printed?
  • Which chart types are supported?
Scheduling
  • Does the application support bursting?
  • Can reports be emailed to recipients on a schedule?
  • Can reports be run and saved to a repository on a schedule?
  • Can multiple servers be tasked with executing scheduled reports?
Company
  • How does the company compare to other candidates on review sites?
  • Does the company ascribe to the same or similar values as your company?
  • How well reviewed are the company’s support and services teams?
  • How do the company’s employees feel about their employer?
Price
  • What does the BI solution cost?
  • Is the cost flat, or does it scale according to your company’s size, how many reports your customers generate, or some other variable?
  • What is the duration of the contract?
  • What payment schedules are available?
  • How long is the contract’s cancellation window?

Glossary of Industry Terms

Ad Hoc Report

Ad hoc means “for this” in Latin and refers to something done for a specific purpose. Ad hoc reporting, then, is the process of creating reports for a specific occasion (as opposed to for general use). In business intelligence, ad hoc reporting supplements canned reports by enabling end users to either duplicate and edit pre-made reports or build entirely new ones from scratch without assistance from IT.

Bursting

A method of report delivery that splits or filters a report based on recipient criteria. For example, a report containing HR information for an entire company may be emailed to a list of department heads such that each recipient receives only information pertaining to employees in his or her department.

Canned Report

Pre-built reports are stored in a report library and intended for general use. They may or may not be parameterized, and their core definitions cannot be altered.

Data Warehouse

A repository of data that has undergone ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processing, which may include information management and governance, for the purpose of integrating data from diverse sources and making it easier to analyze.

Drilldown

This typically refers to the act of clicking on a total to view the more granular data that gave rise to it, but there are additional ways to view related data that may also be referred to as a drilldown. It’s possible to drill laterally from a single, non-aggregate record and to a related report featuring information about that same record. Drilldowns may also be conditionalized and/or layered one on top of the other such that they go several reports deep.

ETL

ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) is the process by which raw, transactional data is manipulated and ported into a data warehouse. There are standalone ETL tools as well as full-stack ETL tools that come with BI solutions, as thoughtful data preparation is critical to a successful BI implementation.

Parameterized Report

Canned reports equipped with customizable settings such as sorts, filters, parameters, and styling options. Their core definitions cannot be altered.

Next Steps

Congratulations! You should have your short list of potential vendors and be ready to make your final decision.

 After selecting an embedded BI solution, it will be time to begin planning your deployment. To head off complications and help you stick to your timeline, we’ve put together a guide on deployment best practices and pitfalls.

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