How Many Reporting and Analytics Tools Do You Really Need?
May 22, 2020
Most organizations have implemented a variety of solutions to satisfy their reporting and analytics needs. It’s not at all uncommon to find Tableau, Qlik Sense, SAP Business Objects, IBM Cognos, Microsoft PowerBI, and Excel all being used by IT and business users to develop executive dashboards and operational reports. Mergers and acquisitions contribute to a high likelihood that many disparate tools are being utilized across the enterprise to satisfy unknown reporting and analytic requirements for a user community that is often undefined. Have you stratified your reporting and analytics users into groups such as Senior Management Stakeholders, Information Consumers, Power Users, and Data Scientists, and have you mapped their requirements to your inventory of tools? Are there any gaps or overlaps?
Redundant reporting and analytics tools, coupled with a lack of understanding regarding the unique requirements of the organization’s user communities, can lead to the following significant business challenges:
Achieving self-service analytics is a strategic goal for many organizations, but the current portfolio of analytics tools requires a significant amount of training or a strong knowledge of relational database concepts such as entity relationship diagrams and Structured Query Language (SQL).
Users tend to use the tool with which they are most familiar (e.g., Excel) even if a more powerful analytics solution is available. When multiple, redundant solutions have been implemented, users often don’t know which tool to use for which purpose.
License fees and training costs can be significant, and it is not uncommon for organizations to continue paying for tools that are no longer being fully utilized.
A number of IT challenges are also common, such as:
Additional staff with different skill sets are required to deploy, maintain, and support multiple tools. Some tools require highly skilled and expensive Business Intelligence (BI) Architects to configure the “semantic layer” (e.g., Business Objects Universe) to mask the complexity of the database from the end user. This also increases IT staffing costs.
Multiple reporting and analytics tools may require additional server infrastructure, which increases hardware costs and operating system license fees.
If you haven’t yet formally defined your analytics user communities and mapped their requirements to your portfolio of reporting and analytics tools, you should strongly consider launching an initiative to achieve the following objectives:
Identify your analytics user communities and document their high-level requirements.
Determine the most appropriate tool for each analytics community.
Rationalize the portfolio of analytics tools and prepare recommendations to de-commission any redundant tools.
Document the anticipated cost savings and other tangible business benefits.
Prepare a project plan to de-commission redundant analytics tools and perform any required training.
Organizations are under increasing pressure to do more with less. Rationalizing your portfolio of analytics tools can save money by lowering staffing costs, hardware costs, training costs, and license fees. It can also increase satisfaction by providing the right tools and training to satisfy the clearly understood requirements of a well-defined reporting and analytics community.
Client Solution Architect
John Walton is a CTG Client Solution Architect and consulting professional with more than 35 years of IT experience spanning multiple disciplines and industries. He has more than 20 years of experience leading data warehousing, business intelligence, and data governance engagements. He has extensive experience working with a broad range of healthcare and life sciences organizations including IDNs, national healthcare payers, regional HMOs, a global pharmaceutical company, academic medical centers, community, and pediatric hospitals.