The Real Cost of Multiple Business Intelligence Solutions

The Real Cost of Multiple Business Intelligence Solutions
The Real Cost of Multiple Business Intelligence Solutions
Written by Heather L. Cole on December 9th, 2021

What’s the best business intelligence solution?  This is a question I get asked repeatedly by clients that are struggling to manage multiple different business intelligence solutions in their organization.  Due to acquisitions, mergers, and departmental purchases, it’s not uncommon for clients have IBM Cognos, Tableau, and of course Microsoft Power BI along with other solutions.  Various studies show companies average between 3.8 to 5 different BI solutions.  But what is the real cost of multiple business intelligence solutions?

Today I’ll explore the pros, cons and a solution that could be game changing for companies struggling with which business intelligence solutions to use.

Why So Many Business Intelligence Solutions?

First let’s review how the heck we ended up with so many business intelligence solutions.  There were three key factors which include the pace of Data Warehouse initiatives, the massive growth in demands by business uses and of course politics.

Data Warehouse Initiatives

The vision on one version of the truth is nothing new.  Early data warehouse initiatives were supposed to solve the many sources of data and provide the foundation for business intelligence.  But standardizing data definitions and developing the data warehouse proved to be a slower process than we desired.  Some business units like finance were often told their data would be added to the warehouse in a couple years!  This was just unacceptable to the business units that required visibility to data to make decisions.  So, they took matters into their own hands and many purchase their own business intelligence and reporting solutions to meet their needs.

Data Needs Grew Faster than Teams Could Deliver

For organizations that tried to control the purchase of additional reporting tools, business intelligence teams were quickly overwhelmed and understaffed to meet the needs of everyone.  This too inspired some departments to look for solutions that provided solutions specific to their role or department that bundled in business intelligence solutions.  We saw this a lot with financial systems that included reporting tools.  

Politics

The final factor that contributed to the proliferation of business intelligence solutions in organizations is politics.  Many departments seek autonomy from the IT department.  They wanted control of their own destiny.  Software resellers like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI successfully marketed to various departments and their desire to control their own data.

For more information check out this blog, Top 8 Business Intelligence Challenges and How to Handle Them. 

Unfortunately, all these factors put many organizations in a situation where there are many silos of data and several reporting solutions.  Companies reviewing where they are in their analytics and business intelligence roadmap are discovering they are off course.  But what should the future road look like for business intelligence and analytics? 

The Reaction to Multiple Business Intelligence Solutions

If you have multiple business intelligence solutions and you want to create a plan, there is no one size fits most answer.  Having multiple reporting and analytic solutions may be the perfect answer depending on your goals and resources.   Let’s take a moment to explore some of the questions you want to answer in your evaluations.

Primary Goal of Business Intelligence Tools

What is the real reason you need reporting and analytic solutions?  Is it to rapidly provide insightful accurate data in a useful form to business users?  For some clients Lodestar Solutions works with having multiple reporting solutions helps them deploy the data to departments while meeting their unique needs, for others standardizing on a tool like IBM Cognos Analytics streamlines the deployment and maintenance for their IT department.  What are your unique goals?

The Cost Factors

Cost is always a factor.  When evaluating your current reporting tools, you will want to create a list of all the various reporting solutions used.  Then determine if the licensing for the reporting component is bundled with other software or you pay additional for the reporting.  Now estimate the annual cost for each additional reporting solution.  Costs should include the staff to support it and annual maintenance or subscription costs.  The goal is to gain visibility to the costs for all the different solutions.

If you need clarity on your IBM Cognos renewal or subscription costs, Lodestar is happy to help.  Email us at renewals@lodestarsolutions.com.  And check out our blog, Want to Save Money? 

Opportunity Cost of Disparate Systems

Depending on your industry you may find industry solutions or departmental solutions are greatly beneficial and add faster visibility.  I like to compare your reporting solutions to your garden.  You might need multiple tools to efficiently maintain your environment.  So, multiple solutions could be the perfect solution.  Only you can do a proper evaluation if you should standardize on one platform.  Talk to your end users and perform a discovery session of how they leverage data today and their ideas for the future.

Time To Migrate Existing Reporting

When determining if you should migrate reports from one system to another you must consider first if the new system has all the functionality of the old system.  Users hate losing functionality.  Then do a proper evaluation of the complexity and quantity of reports that would have to be redeveloped in a new tool.  If you are an IBM Cognos client and evaluating IBM Cognos verse Power BI, I strongly recommend you consider using Motio solutions to evaluate the complexity and quantity of reports.  For more information on this see our blog and call us for a discussion of how Motio Inventory module can give you clarity.  See our earlier blog on Motio for Cognos Analytics Administrators.  

Best of Both Worlds – One Portal, Many Business Intelligence Tools

Many clients have come to us at Lodestar Solutions asking for guidance on if they should move off IBM Cognos for Power BI, others seek help to manage all the different solutions.  We appreciate this can be a complex and political discussion in organizations.

What if I was to tell you there could be an easy solution to allow users access to all the information they need from one portal?  That the marketing department that loves their solutions can keep it, and finance can keep their solution.  What if wasting time rebuilding existing content that works was not necessary?  Would you and your team like to spend time on game changing solutions instead of reinventing the wheel?  If so, you MUST attend our webinar on What Every Executive Needs to Know about Dealing with Multiple BI Systems. 

Questions, call us at 813-415-2910.  Register for this complimentary, thought provoking event!

Webinar

What Every Executive Needs to Know about Dealing with Multiple BI Systems

What Every Executive Needs to Know about Dealing with Multiple BI Systems

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

1-2 PM Eastern 

Cognos BI Reporting – User Testing & Deployment

4/14/15

As a business analytics coach, I’m often asked about user testing and end user deployment when it comes to BI reporting.  Today, I want to take a few minutes and discuss my approach to these subjects.

Where do I start with user testing?

In a basic/summarized format, here is the approach I use most often where BI reporting is concerned. I should mention that Lodestar Solutions believes 100% in using an agile approach to projects and thus user testing is done through each step of the project.

  1. Compare for format – Does it meet the requirements of formatting that the end users are used to or will accept?
  2. Data integrity – Run each report for a number of months & companies and then compare to existing reporting.  Is the data as you would expect?  Are all accounts and companies available?
  3. Speed – Do the reports return data in the expected amount of time or does it take longer than you would think?
  4. Find a power user (other than yourself) to go through points 1 – 3 to test of the same things as you have.
  5. Once final testing is complete, mark reports for deployment.

What steps should I take to have successful end user deployment?

  1. Start small. Pick a couple end users who are quick to learn and who can help build support for analytics and reporting.
  2. Make sure that those end users selected receive some basic training and instructions prior to asking them to test for deployment.
  3. Ask user to go through the steps above in user testing.Cognos BI Reporting
  4. Once complete, move reports to a “production” status and insure only approved users have access to the reports. Security should also be set to the desired levels in this step.
  5. Start to involve other users in the same fashion as above to build support for analytics and reporting.
  6. Make sure you are open to suggestions.  In your role, you try to think of every scenario but inevitably you will miss something. Your end users will provide valuable input to increase your analytics footprint.  Take those suggestion and determine if it is something that should be done now or put on a parking lot list to accomplish in a different phase.

To learn more about BI reporting or to see some of our business analytics coaching videos, check out our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiiJyidDKrPBJDcVovXnqDQ

Framework Manager Time Periods

Have you ever been asked to create a report containing prior year and current? The request is common and most report writers would respond by doing a union of the current year data, plus the prior year data, then present the results on a crosstab. If you have a cube modeler like Transformer, it does the current year and prior year work for you, but what if you don’t have a cube modeler with a time wizard build in? You can create a Time Dimension using a Time Period field in Framework Manager. The technique to derive a hierarchy containing custom time periods will be covered in a later blog post, but for now we will talk about the concept of year of year report and how Time Periods works.

What are Framework Manager time periods?

One would logically think about the calendar when they think of time periods. However, there are many businesses that do not adhere to the calendar for their fiscal reporting. A time period is a concept defined by the business to report on financial or sales results over a standard period of time. These periods are usually defined by years, quarters, months, weeks and sometimes one less thought about such as the seasons of the year.

Where should a time period be defined?
For best performance, time calculations would ideally be defined within an enterprise date table dynamically controlled by a stored procedure. However, if this is not an option, then a query subject within the business view of Framework Manager can also control how you define your business time periods. Doing either one of these eases the process of creating calculations for period comparisons.

Why is time period comparison reporting important?
Year over year or even time period over time period, reporting is important to evaluate the performance of the business or a department. This style of reporting is important in helping a business identify measurable recurring events. The reports can help to identify a negative trend that needs corrective action or a positive trend, which requires increased productivity in specific areas of the business. Such as manufacturing or purchasing to stock trending item(s) at the beginning of the appropriate trend.

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