What can the product do? How does it meet our requirements?
If you clearly define your business requirements before meeting with a BI vendor, aligning their product with your organization’s needs will be a much smoother process.
What pricing/licensing options are available?
Many vendors offer multiple licensing styles. A few of the most popular options are:
- Concurrent users
- Role based
- Server based
- Web based
How will your BI software integrate into our current environment?
If you have outlined the technical requirements — source systems, databases, hardware platforms, etc. — it will be easier for the vendor to discuss the integration process with you.
Will we be able to test the product in our environment? Can we get a proof of concept?
How are support and maintenance contracts set up?
If you are using a new vendor and a new product, it’s likely that your users and administrators are going to need technical support – particularly during the first year of implementation. Ask vendors for specifics and detailed pricing for support, training and maintenance.
How long will implementation take? Will we need consultants or vendor services?
Make sure the implementation time frame given by the vendor is realistic, experts warn, and matches the time frame you have determined for yourself. There are often vendor services teams or independent consultants that can assist you — either throughout the whole process or for specific decisions/questions.
What are your software update cycles like? How easy is it to add on new functions/features?
When your reporting requirements change at some point down the road, your BI software may have to change, too. Make sure you talk with the vendor about the process and cost of adding on new features at a later date.
Can I talk to one of your customers in an industry similar to mine?
The best insight into vendors and products comes from people with firsthand experience, all experts agreed. Ask your vendor whether you can talk to one of their customers, ideally a similarly sized organization with similar needs.
“Talk to people in the same industry, with similar types of applications, similar types of users — that’s where the real value comes in,”