The Importance of Support in Business Intelligence Solution Management

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This article will explore the importance of support in managing your Business Intelligence and Corporate Performance Management solutions.

When I began to think about the professional services, support, and training aspects of owning and managing a Business Intelligence (BI) and/or Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution, I’ll admit it – I quickly became confused.  How, when, and where do these three entities show up in the journey from software purchase to ongoing management?  Zooming in a bit, why is support important at all, if not extremely important, to successfully managing your BI and CPM solutions?  This article will explore the significant role that support can play in maximizing the return on your investment.

I reached out to a support professional to get some clarity, which helped me a lot – and as a result, I became aware of the value of each service, but especially support.  My friend, Nick, has been in BI/CPM software support for a few years now, and he explained the way these three entities interact in such an accessible way.  He suggested thinking about the product as if it were a car being manufactured.  The product is built generally by the independent software vendor (ISV), just like an automobile is manufactured in a factory.  From there, customizations and how-to attention by the consultant allows you to get to know your new financial reporting, budgeting, dashboards, or data warehouse product, much like you might get from the auto dealership – that exchange where the vehicle goes from being another inventory item on the lot to your car.
Consulting helps you truly own your BI/CPM tool(s).  A consultant will immerse themselves in your particular business needs and match them up with the features and functionalities of the solution you have purchased.  They know the product on a much deeper level than knowing which side of the car the gas tank is on, so they help your team by showing you the ropes and connecting the dots between your data sources, the BI tool, and your requisite analytical processes.
Training is a service that enables end users with deeper product understanding.  Imagine having owned your car for a year and never knowing how to set up the bluetooth function.  Your initial consultation on the vehicle was great and extensive, but consulting hours are finite in the sense that they cost money per unit of time.  Training deepens your knowledge of the product, sometimes in comprehensive, hands-on exercise ways – or at times, as an ad-hoc learning session about a particular feature, functionality, or module.  Training resides in the realm of consulting or professional services, but is generally in a group setting, information transmitting from trainer to users.  Consulting, on the other hand, is a project-driven partnership and a dialogue that results in moving toward an end goal.
Support is your trusted pit crew as you race forward with your new BI/CPM tool. Support is your go-to team for two main things: “micro-training,” as I’ll call it and help with any obstacles that require an in-depth understanding of the product, so that any issues can be troubleshot, and you can move forward.  As training in the traditional sense has already been covered, allow me to define micro-training: education on how to achieve certain results through specific maneuvers in the product.  In the realm of racing cars, you make a pit stop and take a break while the pit crew refuels, repairs, replaces tires, and so on.  If you run into any confusion, any issues with the product, or simply need a fix for a particular exercise, the support team is an important part of managing your product.
It doesn’t just stop there – support professionals are generally producing a knowledge base (KB), or a library of support entries containing instructions and documents for BI360 users, that is accessible to users.  These articles, visuals, videos, and/or simple step-by-step instructions on a particular exercise are built for you as end users.  In a sense, this store of information is another form of micro-training.  If you need help on how to navigate a particular error that isn’t isolated for one particular user, you can reach for the support KB.  If you are stuck due to a specific issue that you can’t figure out, even after searching the KB, you can call support.  The support team is a partner to your success using the product into which you have invested time, money, and personnel resources.
However, support does not typically come with your purchase, de facto.  Support is an add-on investment, sometimes a percentage of your software purchase and sometimes, a set price for the year.  If you are weighing whether or not to opt for support, consider the other two professional services we have discussed in this article.  Both consulting and training are limited in that they generally have a start and finish.  On the other hand, support is a constant lifeboat throughout the year – and is usually an affordable part of your software investment.  Support is the insurance you arguably need to protect the investment you made when you hit a wall.
When investing in BI and/or CPM software and then, go on to manage that investment, you have several things to consider in order to achieve the most return.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to save money when it comes to opting in or out of support.  The support team is your pit crew throughout the year.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools, as well as a robust offering of professional services to accelerate company performance management.

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