This article will prepare you with the top questions you should be asking when shopping for a Business Intelligence (BI) solution to improve your Microsoft Dynamics NAV experience.

If you are running Microsoft Dynamics NAV, shopping for third party Business Intelligence (BI) solutions to upgrade your data management and analysis processes can be confusing and sometimes, overwhelming.  You’ll go through your share of sales pitches, webinars, and demos, but this is a process you won’t do often.  I’ve spoken to several professionals, most recently at Microsoft Convergence, who know what has worked and not worked for them, but don’t know what they should be looking for and asking regarding the features and functionalities of modern, powerful BI solutions.  Most people are simply looking for the right fit to best meet their business demands, but where do you start?

You should begin by assembling the right set of questions.  First of all, you will want to know what options are on the market today, which will organically involve you asking questions about your specific organizational BI demands and goals.  What tool(s) does your company have to have right now?  Do you have a preference when it comes to working on-premises with an ERP server or in the Cloud?  How much do you have to spend?  What are your long-term BI goals, and what is your roadmap for building the BI toolbox to meet analytics goals?  These are just some questions to get you going, but a lot of people find that the number of product offerings and the sales and marketing speak describing functionality to be too vague to really understand the differences.  In this article, I’ll give you a range of questions you should have handy when looking for new BI software.
In order to stay organized, I’m going to compartmentalize questions into three sets: questions about the independent software vendor (ISV), questions you have about how easy the product will be for business end users to manage, and questions regarding the price tag.  You can go about these curiosities in any order, but I ordered them this way for a reason.  Since you are investing your precious time, money, and energy, you do not want to get too engaged with an unstable, unsuccessful, or unsupportive ISV.  From there, in terms of return on investment (ROI) and business user management, you will want to know that the product is easy to use.  And finally: does the price tag align with the value you have found in the answers to the first two sets of questions?  No question is a stupid one, but we’re going to zoom in on these three categories of questions.  Ask as many questions as you need to feel like you have the answers you need to invest in and implement a third party product.
When considering questions about the software vendor, you should want to know what level of stability and support you can expect from the ISV to get the most ROI.  You can ask if you are able to look at the technical support web site or customer forum to spot any consistent problem areas and how the vendor fixes the problems.  You can also inquire if there are ways that the ISV can assist you in achieving your BI goals beyond producing and deploying software.  This will determine if their intelligence is more in-depth than technology, particularly in how well they can speak the language of corporate performance management with or without their technology.  When it comes to the customer experience, you could ask if you can contact one or more of their current clients who have similar BI objectives – or at least see if they have any case studies or customer testimonials.  You’ll probably want to know who the main competitors are to see how they measure up regarding tackling your business demands, maybe specifically in terms of ease of use.
I always write about this: ease of use is essential for business end users, particularly when it comes to your ROI.  Questions about ease of use can begin by asking how long it takes to implement the software.  The answer might surprise you for how quickly or how long it can take.  Does the ISV provide all the requisite modules for a complete BI solution?  If you are upgrading financial reporting today, but are planning to add budgeting or data visualizations down the road, does this vendor produce a fully integrated suite?  How simple is it to run reports using information that is housed in primary data sources?  How can you access more than one data sources when integrating diverse company information?  How much training does the ISV expect the typical end user will need?  What does deployment look like in terms of flexibility – on-site, off-site, Software as a Service (SaaS), and/or in the Cloud?  Asking these questions will only be meaningful if you have some grasp on what priorities your organization has for BI analytics, but you also want to know how much you can spend on software.
I’ve written about price tags of BI software before, but let’s zoom in on more specific questions about the price.  First of all, how many licenses do you have to purchase for your users?  What other tools or products are necessary to run the software?  What are some future investments that vendor might predict for projects on the horizon?  As you get into specific cost talks, more questions might come up, but this set of questions tends to be the most natural for finance professionals.
There are plenty of questions you can ask an ISV about their BI solution that can help to make an informed decision – and one article is never going to capture all of them.  It is essential to pinpoint your specific BI needs before you can zoom in on software offerings and start a list of questions for the ISV.  I’d suggest a basic feature/functionality questionnaire: do you want the product to be Excel-based, web-based, and/or offer an application for your mobile devices; do you want to have real-time analytics by integrating live from Dynamics NAV or simpler and speedier data queries with an OLAP cube or data warehouse; will you only ever require just one BI tool or would a comprehensive suite be more effective; and does the solution come with an OLAP or a fully built, configurable data warehouse?  Solver would be happy to help you answer these questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use, comprehensive BI suite for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

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