Data and business go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s no secret that business analytics is fueling the data-driven economy in the hundreds of billions, so we’ve written extensively on the subject and created a list of the top business analytics software vendors to help you navigate the emerging data market space. If you’re one of the thousands of businesses planning on adopting a business analytics platform, then it’s time for you to start drawing up a data analytics RFP for BA software tools.
Table of Contents
- Getting started
- Beginning the request for information
- Compiling the BI requirements into a formal document
- Sending the analytics RFP
- Reviewing your responses from your business analytics RFP
- The request for quotation
- Just to recap
The process of getting ahold of business analytics software will start with a request for proposal or RFP. Put shortly, RFPs are multi-step processes that require a lot of planning, patience and careful research, but will account for your budget, specific goals, needs as an organization, time constraints, software requirements and more. Seriously, they’re comprehensive. To get started with a business analytics software RFP, you might begin with a request for information.
Begin the Request for Information
Before you even send out an RFP, many companies opt for an RFI, which can be an important first step in procuring business software. RFIs are all about finding a pool of companies that fill in your requirements, though they’re not anywhere near as involved as an RFP. They’re more of a broad-level overview of your needs and the questions pertaining to your needs. An RFI is a chance for vendors to explain themselves and the benefits of their software solution, but really, it’s a chance for you to reach out and say to vendors “Tell me a little about yourself.”
Because this is early in the process, they often don’t have specific answers to your questions or ways to fill your requirements yet, so, think of this as a first date — you’re just getting to know each other. To get started, go to our list of business analytics software vendors and check out some of the solutions that might suit your needs. The actual shortlisting process comes later in the RFP itself. If you’re uncertain when it comes to your selection of vendors, it’s possible that your RFI was too vague to start. Make sure your RFI is specific enough so that vendors are able to understand your business analytics software needs.
In the case of business analytics software, start by assessing your absolute needs as a business, and then move on to wants. Here are a few questions that can help you get started:
- What are our key performance indicators for the data we’re about to use?
- What kind of data will we collect? (As a general rule, refine how much data you collect. Don’t try to get intel on every part of your organization.)
- In what departments will we use this software, and who will benefit?
- Do we need an on-premise system or one that is cloud-based? Should we consider a hybrid?
- Will we need to hire a data scientist to help us understand what we’re looking at?
We suggest making use of our business analytics software requirements template, which will help you pick and prioritize your business analytics software requirements. Be sure to also include a list of software on top of your other necessities. These should be a product of the needs vs wants stage we covered earlier.
After deciding how you will answer these questions, you might start to think about sending off the first initial contact for your RFI and building a pool of potential companies that sound appealing. The RFI should first ask key details about the prospective company’s history, its future goals, ownership, structure and more. Then move on to more technical questions.
Business analytics software buys should also ask about the history of the product, its core features and where it sits in terms of its development. Again, responses from your RFI will be vague until you get to the RFP stage, where the nitty-gritty of actually seeing how a product can work for your business actually takes place.
Compile the BI Requirements Into a Formal Document
In this stage of the RFP process, take your ranked business intelligence requirements and put them into a formal, professional looking document. Your requirements come from your list of software needs, on top of your own organizational structure and needs as a business. It’s important to take a critical approach to your business, as you did with your goals assessment, and work to figure out:
- Where and how your software can be deployed
- How it’s going to be utilized
- How it integrates into your current IT and software environment
- What specific benefits do you realistically hope to obtain from business analytics software
- How the benefits can be applied to meet your end-goals
This document will contain your RFP for business analytics goals, an intro to your organization and the requirements you’ve outlined according to your needs and wants.
This RFP document will help guide you through the rest of the procurement process and future business analytics RFP processes.
Sending the RFP
Once the RFI is done and you’ve assembled a list of potential software buys, it’s time to send off the analytics RFP document (what you’ve all been waiting for). The RFP should drill down even further than the RFI and ask a list of pointed questions. Things like product demos, requests for prior experience when dealing with organizations like yours, and lists of contacts in the case that your organization selects their software might be good places to start.
Your list of software requirements also comes into play during this stage of the buying process. Remember to be as specific as possible and try to relate your questions to your company’s business analytics needs. Send these out to the list of companies identified in the RFI process, and keep in mind your own analytics guidelines and questions that you identified earlier — they’ll help you better interpret the answers you get as they relate to you and your business.
Make sure that, on top of your specific and general questions, you include a list of technical questions for your IT department. These are perhaps the single most important questions you could ask. If a system isn’t compliant with your needs or your own installed systems, then it’s easy to take them out of the pool so that neither you nor that specific vendor is wasting each other’s time, and you don’t get caught up in the glitz and glamour of a new piece of software.
To aid in this process, ask some pointed questions about their business analytics solution about things like:
- Reporting capabilities as they relate to your business needs (which are crucial when dealing with business analytics)
- Whether or not the software is fluent in the R programming language
- What the software’s collection capabilities are
- If the software offers any publishing features
Your RFP should also include as much information as possible about your own organization as well. The more of your company’s background and history you can provide, the better your software candidates will be able to help you — and the easier it will be to make a selection.
What happens next is the single most important part of the process in creating an RFP for business analytics software: the vendor proposal. The responding vendors will share their software solution and, based on your information exchanges, should also share how their solution can be implemented into your specific company. You want a solution that’s going to match your specific needs and wants that you set out with when creating your business analytics RFP software buy, but don’t be afraid to be a little flexible with your wants.
After all, they’re just features that you think would be ideal and are not essential to your business analytics needs.
Review Your Responses From Your Business Analytics RFP
Typically the software procurement process is lengthy and requires responses from multiple vendors. After all, this is a manual process, with a lot of composition and critical thinking involved, not to mention the exchanges between yourself and vendors. Responses in these exchanges have to be compiled and analyzed, which can take some time on its own. Luckily there’s software that helps make this process faster.
With SelectHub’s RequirementsHub, you can free up more of your time by evaluating and auto-computing vendor responses as they arrive. RFPs may be lengthy and resource-intensive processes, but they don’t have to take all of your time, and new software is constantly streamlining the process. In addition to your reviewing process, SelectHub also offers a free comparison report of the top business analytics software.
The Request for Quotation
An RFQ is similar to an RFP but is sent out after you narrow down your list of potential vendors from your RFI. The RFQ is like a response that says, “Thanks for sharing your solution. Now tell me what it costs and when I can have it.” This is because RFQs are used to communicate cost and timeframes. The request for quotation is extremely specific and communicates your exact specifications, needs and wants to the vendor as they understand you from your RFP.
Your organization’s specific operational needs and implementation plans will come in to play here. Pay careful attention to whether or not you’re going to be hitting your targets in the outline you created earlier as far as timing and budgeting go.
Once the RFQ is sent out, the vendor will return with a price estimate and perhaps more. In the case of data analytics RFPs, they might also come back with contract length, support clauses and installation timelines for your software. For agencies working within strict budgets or timeframes, this is an extremely important part of the process, as the real price of your software and its timeline for implementation will be brought to light here.
Just to Recap
The RFI is a request for information and is generally pretty broad. You’re asking questions and exchanging information about your companies, past experiences and so on. It helps to formulate a list of values and needs for yourself and your organization when at this stage. Think of this part like speed dating — you’re evaluating as many candidates as possible in a short time and pooling the ones who catch your interest.
The RFP is the long, involved part where you ask more pointed questions to your pool of candidates and shortlist the ones who meet your criteria. Narrow it down to three or five. After the RFP stage, send your RFQ and find the vendor who is going to be right for you and finalize any last-minute details. And if you’re still looking for a vendor, check out our BA comparison report.
A business analytics / big data RFP is an arduous but important process in optimizing your business. Make sure you’re picking from vendors who are reputable and well-reviewed on top of being right for you.