If you’re looking around for Business Intelligence (BI) solutions, you’ll certainly find plenty of options. Some are flashy. Others are plain. Some are expensive. Others are free.
How do you know which one is best for your business?
To answer that question, let’s get down to the absolute basics of BI. A good BI solution will provide simple access to any aspect of your data whenever necessary–ultimately leading to well-informed business decisions.
Now, that’s easy to say, but what does that look like in real-life? How can you know whether or not a BI solution will fit that description before you buy? What features or elements do you look for?
To help you answer that question, let’s take a look at a full-featured BI application, and then highlight each feature and explain why it’s important. Sound good? Okay, let’s get started. Click the image below to view the demo BI app.
Now, that application has a ton of useful features, which you may not be obvious at first glance. Let’s go through each feature and explain what it does and why it’s an essential part of a BI application.
1. Automatic Drill-downs
A good BI application gives you a broad view of your data with the option to zoom in and out as needed. The automatic drill-downs found on each row in the demo serve this purpose, starting users out with a high level view of their data and letting them drill down to the most minute details, all within the same application.
2. Report Filters
Business Intelligence applications must let the user decide which aspects of their data they wish to view, and which ones they wish to hide. As you see in the demo, the options found on the left side of the application let users filter out certain data aspects on the fly. When they select a filter, the application automatically applies the filter and refreshes the data.
3. Smart Selections
Usability improves when BI apps react to user input. As you may notice in the demo, selection values change colors as filters are triggered, which indicates related and unrelated selections. For instance, when a user filters by a customer, the application grays out all options that don’t relate to that customer.
4. Interactive Graphs
Interactive graphs make Business Intelligence apps more intuitive for end users. Users can click on any aspect of the graph to drill down for more information. Additionally, you’ll notice from the demo that the graphs automatically adjust when filters are selected.
5. Automatic Execution
Business Intelligence applications should let you analyze your data quickly and efficiently. You’ll notice in the demo above that rather than reloading a new page or forcing users to click a “refresh” button, the application instantly refreshes itself when selections are made.
6. Import Applications
To get a complete view of your data, it’s often necessary to embed data or charts from other applications. A good Business Intelligence application will make this process simple, letting you seamlessly pull all necessary data into one BI application. For instance, while it’s not obvious, the second graph in the demo application is actually imported from another application.
7. Saved Searches
The ability to save your searches is a real time-saving BI feature, especially for those who frequently sort and filter by the same criteria. Rather than making the same selections every time, saved searches let you store that criteria for easy access in the future.
8. Mobile versions
As smartphones and tablets become more prevalent, BI applications must be available on multiple device types. In the example above, the application will automatically display a different presentation layer depending on the device used.
Choosing between BI solutions can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. While the right BI solution largely depends on your business, the features listed above should provide you with a good checklist of basic areas to look for before choosing the right solution. If you’d like to read more on the subject, here’s a list of a few essential application types that every good Business Intelligence solution should include.