Many analytics tools are great at telling you what happened – but not so great at explaining why.
By Gustav Piater, sales and marketing director of AIGS (Yellowfin BI South Africa)

Discovering and presenting the ‘why’, making decisions and then executing and measuring on the outcomes, is a multi-dimensional undertaking requiring various analytic components and, in most cases, means involving many disparate toolsets.

There are however a few of the modern BI-Platforms that provide end-to-end functionality and natively combine all the various elements to get to the ‘why’ faster – including ETL, machine learning, visualisation, collaboration, storytelling and more.

Automated Insights

Automated Insights combine machine-learning with human insight to deliver the quickest possible time to value for the business. Answers are automatically provided without users having to ask their data scientist or data analyst what happened and why.

All types of dashboard views

To meet all your enterprise needs, your BI should offer multiple types of dashboards – high-level strategic summary reports and KPIs for executives, interactive analytical interfaces linking all data together for further exploration, and easy-to-use, personalised operational dashboards for users.

Advanced visualisations

Infographics are provided by most BI tools today, along with a wealth of other built-in visualisations. Your BI tool should also be able to leverage the plethora of open source and third-party visuals available in the market and support location intelligence.

Story-telling with your data

Leading BI platforms have integrated presentation modules that combine live and interactive reports with custom text, images and video. These platforms should further allow you to share presentations with anyone at any time, comment and bookmark content to flag issues for later discussion and embed live reports that are updated in real time.

Business intelligence to go

Mobility should be a given, starting with a multi-tiered security model, support for all mobile formats and full-featured functionality.

Insist on a tool that lets you refresh and analyse all your KPIs; flick through financial charts and graphs; interact with, filter, sort and analyse data; enjoy uninterrupted offline access; and even author new reports.

Access through data preparation and ETL

There’s little point in not being able to access all your data, whether it’s Big Data sources, Web APIs or relational databases.

Look for tools offering virtualised, end-to-end data preparation. They should guide you in transforming your data into consistent, efficient formats suitable for exploration, analysis and report building, and take you from data source to decision, all in one integrated solution.

Ensure trust with data governance

The easiest, surest way to achieve user trust is with a completely Web-based BI platform deployed on a centralised architecture, with governance baked into the application.

That way, business users can consume, share and collaborate on trusted data. Analysts enjoy self-service freedom to create reports and build dashboards, and IT has complete security and governance over the platform.

Grow with your BI platform

Meeting your expanding reporting and analytics needs should finally be simple with a range of integration options making it quick and easy to embed your BI into your intranet or customer-facing applications.

A platform independent and browser-based architecture is essential to enable you to massively scale your deployment – without the spectre of an exorbitant pricing model hanging over your head.

Choose wisely

When you’re in the market for a BI solution it is easy to be misled by outlandish claims and empty promises. Ask for these features and come armed with the essential details, and you won’t have to wonder whether your vendor’s solution is all that.