Saturday, September 5, 2009

Smarter Buying: Business Intelligence and Performance Management Software


Here's what matters when selecting a product and supplier. Hint: Price isn't everything.

Boil down the scores of industry polls of CXOs over the last few years, and you get a remarkably consistent message: We need to become a smarter, faster, more efficient (and cheaper) organization. No surprise this now-familiar mandate has been adopted by numerous industry vendors.

Nowhere is this truer than the hot markets for business intelligence and performance management software and services. IDC forecasts global sales of BI software tools will grow from $7.5 billion in 2008 to $10.2 billion by 2013, or about 6.3 percent annually.

It makes sense: Who doesn’t want to make better organizational decisions? Run a tighter, more effective outfit? (Especially, as vendors are eager to point out, during an economic downturn.)

Finding the most appropriate decision-making software will take some thoughtful decision-making of your own. As with much in IT (and life), the answer to “what’s best?” depends heavily on your particular situation.

  • What strategic vendors have you committed to?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Staff expertise and availability?
  • Are you looking for an easy-to-use solution for a group of nontechnical business users? A master analytic engine for the entire enterprise?
  • Are you willing to try a lesser known small but maybe more affordable supplier?

Very basic stuff, but here as elsewhere, they are make or break considerations.

That said, the list below shows what your IT peers look for when buying BI/PM software and services. It’s from an e-mail and online survey of 1,380 qualified buyers of products in the space conducted for Ziff Davis Enterprise by Preference Research in January.

Respondents were asked whom they now buy from, and whom they’d consider and recommend. Predictably, the list of BI suppliers that respondents would strongly/very strongly consider for next purchase was dominated by the Big Five in the space: Microsoft, Oracle, Business Objects, Cognos (IBM) and SAP. Predictably too, each vendor had particular strengths: IBM had best combo of features and reputation, Microsoft had best user familiarity, Oracle and SAP scalability.

On price, respondents all wanted cheaper products (stop the presses!). Fortunately, they also said price mattered less (ranked seventh overall) than good ROI (third).

Here’s what buyers told us what matters in choosing BI/PM. How does that square with your checklist?

Attributes "Very Important" to Selecting Vendor for Short List:

  • Usability: e.g., intuitive interface: 71.8%
  • Performance: e.g., speed, stability, lower rates: 63.1%
  • Value for the dollar: i.e., good return on investment: 50.6%
  • Features: e.g., uniqueness, depth, superiority: 49.6%
  • Technical support/service: e.g., telephone, Web, on-site assistance: 49.3%
  • Scalability: e.g., ability to handle high-volume usage: 44.7%
  • Price: i.e., relatively inexpensive: 41.8%
  • Low cost of operation: e.g., ease of deployment/maintenance: 40.0%
  • Familiarity: e.g., convenient because you or others already use it: 18.9%
  • Reputation: i.e., positive word-of-mouth, news or reviews: 18.7%

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