Can One BI Vendor Do It All? Probably Not

Ann All
Slide Show

Real Questions for BI Vendors

Click through to see the questions Ann discovered that can make a tangible difference in your diligence.


There's nothing wrong with a little good, old-fashioned self affirmation. But affirmation from others is welcome, too. When I created a slideshow filled with suggested questions to ask prospective business intelligence vendors, I thought it was packed with good advice. (Not from me, but from folks like Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson and BI Verdict analyst Barney Finucane)


Turns out I was right. Some of their smart suggestions are echoed in an Intelligent Enterprise report from Gartner's recent Business Intelligence Summit.


One of Gartner's primary pieces of advice: One vendor probably won't be able to satisfy all your BI needs, so make provisions for supplementary products from third parties. While that isn't featured in my slideshow, it did come up in a discussion with one of my sources, John Kitchen, SVP and chief marketing officer for Datawatch Corp. I featured it in a post about how much freedom IT departments should offer BI users. Kitchen has a business partner who advocates selecting a dominant BI platform to be used across the enterprise, but also offering a group of accepted third-party tools that can be used by individual departments. This approach helps ensure users' needs are met, while reducing the incidence of unpleasant IT "surprises."


Similarly, Gartner analyst Rita Sallam told summit attendees, "You have to prepare an information management infrastructure that can incorporate a portfolio of tools even if you rely heavily on one vendor." Sallam said some companies make the mistake of deciding to choose a single BI vendor before adequately defining their BI goals and needs.


In addition, Sallam urged summit attendees not to let BI vendors talk you into buying more licenses than you need, a bit of advice also offered by Barney Finucane in my slideshow, and to put shelfware clauses in contracts so you don't end up paying maintenance fees on unused licenses. Finucane's colleague, Nigel Pendse, offered an interesting perspective on shelfware when I interviewed him last year. More smart contract advice from Sallam:

  • Lock in initial discounts when negotiating enterprise contracts so those terms apply to future purchases as well.
  • Ask for caps on maintenance increases.
  • Specify license audit procedures so usage terms are consistent.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 11, 2010 10:47 AM Phil Simon Phil Simon  says:

Good advice, Ann.

While one BI vendor might not be able to do it all, there's a big problem with "too much BI." I like your approach of a "Big BI" and maybe a "little brother." I can't imagine having seven or eight different tools.


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