Top Business Intelligence Requirements & Checklist Template

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Business intelligence (BI) is the practice of blending and visualizing proprietary enterprise data to discover trends and patterns that can help businesses make better, data-driven decisions. In today’s digital age where data rules supreme, picking the business intelligence software that will turn your data into actionable insights can be a critical choice that impacts your company for years to come. Since BI solutions span across the whole spectrum in terms of cost and features, it can be difficult to evaluate all your options and find the right one, but taking the time to do so properly can be one of the best investments of time you can make for your business. The evaluation process starts by gathering a template of business intelligence requirements; these requirements determine what you need to look for in a vendor.

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BI Requirements Checklist

After reading this article, you will:

During the selection process, you’ll find that not all vendors include the same features. Without understanding your organization’s needs and requirements, it’s easy to get confused and distracted by shiny features that one vendor may offer that’s not offered by others. But if they don’t have a functional requirement that you absolutely need, then their product will be a waste of your investment. By preparing your business intelligence requirements gathering template, you can set a course for your search that navigates through obstacles and helps your company be more efficient in its quest for the right BI tool.

Answer These Questions Before You Shop

5 W’s and 2 H’s: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? How much?

These are key questions to ask when seeking information, whether you’re a journalist or a software buyer.

  • WHO: Who will be using the solution?
  • WHAT: What features do we need?
  • WHEN: When do we need it?
  • WHERE: Where will we deploy it?
  • WHY: Why do we need BI?
  • HOW: How will we adopt and implement it?
  • HOW MUCH: How much can we spend?

BI Software Selection

When considering these questions, think about the following: Who will actually be using the solution – data analysts, businesspeople or stakeholders? What business intelligence functional requirements are must-haves? Do you need something like a SaaS (software as a service) solution that can deploy immediately and eliminate the difficulties of on-premises installation? What deployment option is best for you, according to the resources your business currently uses? And why exactly do you need BI – what specific benefits can a BI tool bring you? It’s also important to keep in mind the logistics of user adoption and budgeting.

Answering these questions before you start looking will help you to identify pain points and better understand your needs so that you can evaluate software more effectively.

Compare BI Software Leaders

Top BI Requirements Checklist

After gathering your requirements, you can properly assess the vendors on your shortlist. By ranking your list, you can skip vendors from the get-go if they don’t offer one of your top requirements, saving you valuable time in the selection process.

So what kinds of business requirements should you have? Here is a template of the 15 top business intelligence requirements that you should consider for your list.

Functional Requirements

Getting down to basics: what are some must-have BI capabilities? What fundamental features would add the most value to your company and employees’ work? The platform functions of business intelligence software establish the baseline of the system. Many global companies work across borders, requiring internalization and localization tools like other languages, fonts, time zones and currency formatting options. Some functionalities, like projects or workspaces, help teams or departments work more effectively, together or apart. Collaboration tools such as messaging, comment threads, email or Slack integrations make it easy to start important conversations and keep them going.

Globalization Support
Projects or Workspaces
Collaboration and Information Sharing
Decentralized Analytics Environment
Write to Transactional Applications

Dashboarding and Data Visualization

When we say “business intelligence,” what comes to mind? For many users, it could be a colorful dashboard, full of graphs, charts and more. Dashboards are a staple of business intelligence frankly because they work: they reveal the underlying value of data in a format that people can look at and understand in seconds. It’s no surprise then that data visualization is one of the most important requirements of BI software; by translating insights into a visual medium, data visualization turns complex results into easily understandable conclusions for the user to interpret, customize and share with others. Simply put, the human brain understands visuals better and faster than it does spreadsheets, so data visualizations make it easier to present or absorb information.

Dashboarding and Data Visualization

Screenshot from Tableau, a vendor on our BI leaderboard for dashboarding and data visualization

 

Dashboards
Storyboarding
Interactive Data Visualizations
Filtering
Drill-Down and Drill-Up Capabilities
Auto-Charting
Geospatial Visualizations and Maps
Animations
Advanced Visualizations using Python and R
Auto-refresh and Real-Time Updates
Pre-Built Templates
Web Accessibility and Embeddability

Data Source Connectivity

The top BI tools can connect to a wide variety of data sources, including relational databases, data warehouses, big data ecosystems and more. Do you use ERP platforms or CRM software in your business? If so, make sure that a prospective solution supports or integrates with your preferred tools to save time and extend the benefits of BI to your other platforms. Double check that you will be able to import all your data into the platform, whether it lives in Excel files, a cloud storage system, an on-premises server – or a combination of all of the above. Doing so ensures that your BI tool will deliver full visibility into all your operations and processes.

Standard Files (i.e. Excel, CSV, XML, JSON, PDF and more)
Statistical Files
Relational and NoSQL Databases
JDBC, ODBC and Parameterized Connections
Big Data Ecosystems
Enterprise BI and ERP Platforms
CRM, Customer Success and Marketing Platforms
E-Commerce and Accounting Platforms
Social Media, SEO and Web Analytics Platforms
Cloud File Storage Systems
Project Management and Enterprise Messaging Platforms
SFTP/FTP Support

Data Management

It’s important to consider how a BI tool manages and handles your data. Data exploration and data preparation let users describe, profile and cleanse data from large data sets to identify initial patterns. These patterns can be mapped out and diagrammed as to how the sources of data will fit together and flow into each other through data modeling and multi-dimensional analysis. Data blending then combines data from multiple data sets and different file formats from disparate sources to create a single, data warehouse or dataset ready for processing or analysis. Finally, data governance grants users oversight, making sure that all analytics processes and insights comply with business policies and procedures, ensuring data integrity and mitigating the risk of having multiple sources of truth.

All of these functionalities help users prepare, collect and organize data to ensure greater visibility and more accurate results overall.

Data Exploration
Data Modeling
Data Preparation
Data Blending
Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) Tool
Metadata Management and Data Catalog
OLAP and Multi-Dimensional Analysis
Data Governance
Advanced Data Preparation using Python and R

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Data Querying

While a database can potentially hold a wealth of information and trends, users can only harness that potential through the data query. A query is a request for data written in a special syntax, often Structured Query Language (SQL), from a database that extracts information and formats it for consumption and analysis. Data querying can perform calculations, automate tasks or dig deeper through data mining, which uncovers hidden trends and relationships between data points. Though more specialized for the fields of data science and big data than business intelligence specifically, it is certainly a feature you can consider depending on your business needs.

Query Multiple Data Sources
Complex Queries
Scheduled Queries
Readable and Modifiable SQL
Multi-pass SQL
Batch Updates
Visual Querying
In-Memory Analysis
Live Connection

Data Analysis

Data analysis turns raw information into actionable insights, helping businesses maximize the value of their data to make better business decisions. Data analysis assists users in extracting value from operational information and empowers them to take a deeper look into their business. There are four main types of analytics: descriptive, predictive, prescriptive and diagnostic. Each is useful and important in its own way and not all BI solutions can perform every type of analysis, so it’s important to identify your data analysis needs and make sure that prospective solutions can address them.

Ad-Hoc Analysis
Segmentation and Cohort Analysis
Cluster Analysis
Scenario and What-if Analysis
Statistical and Regression Analysis
Time-Series Analysis and Forecasting
Predictive Analytics and Predictive Modeling Markup Language (PMML) Support
Text Mining (Text Analytics) and Sentiment Analysis
Social Media and Web Analytics
Geolocation Analysis
Advanced Data Analysis using Python and R
Internet of Things (IoT) and Streaming Analytics

Augmented Analytics

Augmented analytics play a huge role in enabling organization-wide data literacy, empowering all users with the power of self-service BI, while freeing up IT and data scientists professionals for more specialized projects. Augmented analytics is the use of technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and automated algorithms to analyze data, accelerating the work done by human data analysts and data scientists. Through augmented analytics, modern BI solutions can now also process data faster and return deeper, more valuable insights with minimal human bias. They can provide automated predictions and prescriptions, helping users prepare for what-ifs. Through natural language generation and natural language processing, they can simplify data analysis and make actionable insights accessible to users without coding knowledge.

No longer just a buzzword, augmented analytics is often referred to as the future of business analytics and Gartner predicts that by the end of 2020, more than 40% of data science tasks will be augmented. If you want a BI solution that’s fully equipped for the future, augmented analytics may be a feature you want to consider for your requirements list.

Oracle Analytics Cloud Augmented Analytics

Example of augmented analytics, featuring a system automatically turning data into written sales reports
Source: Oracle Analytics Cloud, a vendor on our BI augmented analytics leaderboard.

Augmented Data Preparation
Automated Descriptive Insights
Key Driver Analysis
Automated Anomaly Alerting
Autogenerated and Analyzed Segments or Clusters
Auto generated Forecasts or Predictions
Contextualized or Relevant Insights
Automated Feature Generation or Selection
Automated Algorithm Selection and Model Tuning
Automated Model Packaging and Monitoring
Text-Based and Voice-Based Natural Language Search

Reporting

You may think that reporting and analysis are the same thing, but they are very different in terms of their purpose and delivery. Reporting organizes data into information that displays how different areas of a business are performing, while analysis transforms that data into insights. Reporting shows what is happening in a business, while analysis explains why it’s happening and what can be done about it. While reporting without BI tools is often IT-centric, many BI solutions break down this barrier and allow for self-service reporting so that users can generate their own reports. This helps users get reports in minutes, not days, while alleviating the burden on a company’s IT department to deliver reports. The productivity and efficiency that reporting can provide make it important to consider in your business intelligence report requirements template.

Board Reporting

Screenshot example from Board, a vendor on our BI leaderboard for Reporting

Canned/Managed Reporting
Conditional Formatting
Interactive Reporting
Ad-Hoc Reporting
Auto-Schedule Reports
Built-In Alerts
Reports Exporting
Reports Versioning
Text-Based Natural Language Reports
Voice-Based Natural Language Reports

Embedded Analytics

Embedded analytics refers to a BI solution that can be embedded into other programs to perform in-application analysis, offering features like reporting, data processing, drill-down and more from directly within the system. It delivers the benefits of business intelligence and data-informed decision making to users of an existing platform without requiring that they access a separate BI application. If you’re looking to add embedded analytics to an existing platform and don’t want to have to build an in-house analytics solution within your chosen application, you can purchase an embedded BI tool that supports out-of-the-box integration.

Here are some embedded BI requirements:

Embeddability
White Labeling
Multi-Tenancy Support
Version Control
Mobile App Embeddability
Embedded Reporting
Secure Write-Backs
Background Processing
Integrated Workflow Actions

Get our BI Tools Requirements Template

Security

Security is one of the bigger issues in software, especially when choosing a cloud deployment, so it makes sense that checking a prospective vendor’s security protocols and certifications is a best practice for software selection. User filtering and permissions are essential features for a BI solution. On many platforms, administrators can set limits on who can access, edit and export files, data and dashboards based on roles, teams or licenses. Single sign-on and trusted authentication provide secure automatic access to authorized users who have already authenticated themselves through the corporate system. Encryption protects data while at-rest and in-transit. Additional features like activity tracking, auditing, row-level security and monitoring help keep an even closer eye on data security.

Authentication Protocols and Systems
Single Sign-on and Trusted Authentication
Object-Level Security
Row-Level Security (RLS)
Column Level Security
User Filtering
Application Activity Tracking
Integrated Security
Encryption
Annual Security Audit and Penetration Test

Mobile BI

Business intelligence no longer stays in the office; it goes with us wherever we go. Through native mobile apps and responsive web design, many platforms help extend insights to your Android or iOS phone or tablet, seamlessly fitting a variety of screen sizes and maintaining dashboard interactivity. Often, mobile support includes push notifications or alerts that allow users to take immediate action, as well as collaboration tools. Some platforms even put an emphasis on mobile-first optimization or support offline mode to enable access to insights even with limited or no network availability. If your employees or users are frequently on-the-move, support for mobile devices is critical to making sure everyone has access to the platform wherever they work.

Microstrategy Mobile BI

Screenshot of native mobile apps from Microstrategy, a vendor on our mobile BI leaderboard

Native Mobile Apps
Responsive Web Design
Mobile Dashboards and Reports
Offline Mode
Push Notifications and Alerts
Mobile Collaboration
Mobile Geospatial Analysis
Scan Machine Readable Codes

Deployment Environment

Your chosen deployment method depends on the existing infrastructure of your business and your storage and security needs. An on-premise solution appeals to organizations that want to keep their proprietary data in-house, but not every BI tool supports Windows, Mac and Linux or offers online access. Alternatively, a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) offering provides security and on-the-go availability but may incur higher maintenance fees. Perhaps you want a hybrid deployment to maintain control over infrastructure and costs by hosting the platform on a private cloud, a public cloud IaaS like Amazon Web Services or Azure, or a multi-cloud environment. Whichever deployment option you use, checking out whether the platform supports migration to and from cloud and on-premises environments is also worthwhile, in case your company’s needs shift in the future.

On-Premise OS Support
Cloud-Based SaaS Option
Self-Hosted Deployment
Hybrid Deployment Option
Migration Option

Pricing and Plans

As mentioned earlier, every company has a budget to work with and it’s important to consider that budget when compiling requirements. Is the vendor’s pricing model a recurring subscription or perpetual license? Costs can vary depending on deployment option as well as how many features, licenses and users you need. Additional costs may come in the form of implementation, training and support services. Some vendors provide transparent pricing but others don’t, so you’ll need to make sure to do your research so you don’t get hit with unexpected hidden fees.

After you have established your budget requirements, you can then compare BI pricing and costs between vendors that offer products that suit your needs.

License Type
Number of Licenses Needed
Pricing Model
Project Budget
Pricing Factors
Implementation Cost
Support Cost
Training Cost

Get our BI Tools Requirements Template

Extensibility, Availability & Scalability

These three features collectively refer to the ability of the software to be expanded, scaled and stretched as your company’s needs change. As a major investment of time and money, BI tools must evolve and adapt with your business to provide maximum value; the extensibility, availability and scalability of a product determine how well a product can accomplish that. These factors will affect the long-term viability and user adoption of a BI solution as your organization continues to generate more and more data, so make sure to choose a tool that can keep up with your company’s expected growth when assembling your business intelligence requirements gathering template.

Scalability
Dynamic Scaling
High Availability
Fault Tolerance
API Extensibility
Document API
API Integration
IDE Support

Vendor Qualifications

The product you’re buying is only as good as the company selling it. Before purchasing software, it’s a good idea to look into the vendor and evaluate what they offer to their clients in terms of services and support. While 24/7 technical support is ideal, it’s definitely not standard, and even that doesn’t guarantee fast response times. Researching your prospective vendors and their estimated response times will help you get a feel for how long you might be waiting if your platform encounters an issue. Some vendors may offer premium or paid plans that provide priority technical support, so if a guaranteed speedy response is important to you, be sure to look into these options as well. Other things to consider include services to help accelerate implementation and user adoption, as well as the resources at users’ disposal for self-help, community discussion or instructor-led training.

Phone, Email and Chat Support
24/7 Technical Support
Forum/Community Support
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Support Issue Priority Levels and Response Times
Maintenance Contracts and On-Premise Maintenance Support
Implementation Services
Free Trial
In-Product Help and Suggestions
Training and Certifications
Social Media Presence and Responsiveness
Reviews and User Sentiment

Get our BI Tools Requirements Template

Next Steps

Choosing a business intelligence solution doesn’t have to be a struggle. Now that you’re a bit more familiar with what BI solutions can do, your next step is to compile your own list of requirements to use during software selection. We recommend starting with our free requirements template: you can customize and prioritize the features that matter most and compare vendors with a personalized scorecard to find the solution best-suited for your company’s needs.

Using a business intelligence requirements gathering template like ours can help you accelerate the software selection process and narrow down a shortlist of vendors who provide solutions that match your needs best. Once you have that shortlist, you can reach out to vendors for pricing quotes, demo requests, trials and more to get a feel for which solution delivers the best fit for your business.

Which features are on your company’s BI requirements list? Did we leave one of your requirements out? Let us know in the comments!

Hsing TsengTop Business Intelligence Requirements & Checklist Template

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  • Srujana Jammalamadaka - November 4, 2018 reply

    Very useful and important. Thanks for posting this article!

    Alainia Conrad

    Alainia Conrad - November 5, 2018 reply

    I’m happy you found it informative! Thanks for reading!

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