The question, then, becomes which platform? For sure, not all platforms are created equal. There are three crucial questions every buyer needs to ask before investing in analytics, and they center around value, stakeholders and the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Where Will the Value Come From?
The truth is we can never really know or predict – not really – but the upside is that value can come from almost everywhere in the analytics ecosystem, as long as you are looking for it. So, first, take stock of the short- and long-term goals for your data analytics platform. How do you see it driving value and how do you expect it to impact your business?
To be successful, as a baseline, every organization needs to understand and measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), as they are essential to driving incremental value. Not only that, value from those KPIs has to be spread throughout the enterprise. Every individual should feel empowered to confidently use – not be encumbered by – data. Data, which is everchanging, also has to be able to prompt timely reactions to keep your business ahead of opportunities and anticipate risks.
Now, although identifying and leveraging the right KPIs should be a baseline criterion to success, KPIs can’t move the needle dramatically in an organization’s favor. The real game-changer here is the value driven by uncovering hidden data insights and their impact on decision-making. Discovering hidden insights in your data to make better decisions – both small, tactical ones and larger strategic or enterprise-level choices – can reshape internal practices and policies, alter business approaches and bring to light issues that may never have been noticed before, much less addressed. Through the revelatory power of these insights, solving problems should also become easier, as your market acumen and sense improves. And, these insights will inform the analytics and workflows in applications for your teams, partners and customers. Finally, you will undoubtedly encounter unique challenges that only data can help solve. Modern data analytics platforms can help you face them head-on with confidence.
Who Are the Stakeholders?
Don’t take a limited view of who your stakeholders are – the greatest potential of analytics to drive value means making it accessible to your entire workforce. This isn’t as much about which platform you go with; it’s about having an egalitarian, democratic data mindset, which is openly and actively supported by leadership. Your stakeholders are everywhere – from the techie data scientists and data architects to the by-the-numbers sales representatives. As mentioned before, you want users of all skill levels to feel comfortable working with data, using it to impact your business now and into the future by making the best decisions. Your entire workforce needs to be able to explore and use relevant data to get to those decisions that drive meaningful change, enable your business to pivot during inflection points, and look for value in those little-known places – or those places where value was in plain sight. This doesn’t mean you need to overwhelm everyone with the same level of analytics; strike a balance and know who needs what. But make sure everyone has access to analytics, so that its use becomes universal.
So, how do you achieve all of this? Choose a platform that can provide analytics to the broadest group of users possible. Be able to segment users as needed, determining which users need access to which dashboards and which reports, and how much self-service they might need to upskill to a point where they can use the data effectively. Do you want to limit your data analytics platform to a specific business line or function? Does your workforce need mobile access to analytics? Think through which applications and workflows actually need analytics. Finally, don’t forget about implementation. Choose someone to own responsibility for implementing and managing the platform, and look to leadership to guide the implementation process. You need champions at the top.
What Will It Really Cost?
Sticker shock is a familiar experience. You may look at a car, and, flabbergasted at the price, go for the cheaper option. But how much will maintenance cost? How many miles per gallon will you be getting? Budgeting for analytics isn’t as simple as looking at the initial price. Carefully consider the TCO for your analytics platform, which really means be wary of additional or hidden costs.
There are many elements that go into TCO. You will need to know if you’re going to be working in the cloud with a SaaS offering. Look at the subscription and maintenance costs, from the core analytics product, third-party products and required underlying technologies. You could also be facing on-premise hardware costs: That means servers for production, development and maintenance. Because you simply don’t know all of these factors ahead of time, ask the vendor you’re considering if they have flexible deployment options. You’ll also need to consider how much ongoing support is going to cost – this means IT, vendor management, implementation and professional services. And don’t forget about user training and enablement. Again, this is all part of the TCO package, which you’ll need to consider in selling your choice on a product to upper management.
In the end, the two biggest TCO factors to consider are the full cost to run your analytics solution (all of the above and more) and whether you’ll need to invest resources in rebuilding application parameters every time users need to explore new datasets. Some solutions tout themselves as free, but, on closer inspection are anything but. To work at an enterprise scale, the “free” solution may require you to pay a lot for upgrades, additional add-ons and a patchwork of stack products to execute a robust analytics solution. As for resources, think about your skilled workers. You need a solution that is flexible and promotes freeform data exploration, one that doesn’t bottleneck and screech to a halt every time a user wants to look at an adjacent dataset and an expert has to come in to rebuild data queries.
A modern data analytics platform will empower your team with the insights they need to take action here and now. By putting the power of that platform into people’s hands, you can help make better decisions and accelerate value across your business. But remember: If you know the value that the platform can bring, who the stakeholders are, and the TCO, you’re well on your way to making the right choice.
If you’re looking to learn more, read our Data Analytics Buyer’s Guide.