Analytics is not as straightforward as one might think at first. It is possible to build a good overview of the potential benefits just by reading about it, but it is likely that we will not understand details of the actual process of working with it until we start implementing analytics into our strategy and workflow.
To make the best out of analytics, and choose the very best solution for our needs, the evaluation work will start even before we begin a trial with any tool in the market.
Let’s take a look into a few tips during each stage of approaching, choosing and implementing an analytics tool:
1 – Before the trial:
1.1) Understand our business: a research into our own business to understand what assets and departments we have, how they interact, and what are the capabilities of each in relation to analytics will be very helpful. This research can be as in-depth as possible, meaning that if we don’t have ways of being very detailed, a good overview will already be better than nothing.
1.2) Understand our market: research into what other organizations in our industry are doing, what is their level of use of analytics, what success cases are they presenting from the use of analytics. This research can also be extended into influencers in our industry so that we can have a broader understanding of the trend in analytics. It is always good to know if we are ahead or behind a certain trend, as it will help us decide on our future investments and strategies regarding new technologies.
1.3) Clearly list our needs: based on our internal and market analysis we can then create a clear list of our goals and needs with analytics. What do we want to achieve? What does success look like? Who are the people inside our organization that will be involved with analytics? Who are the main stakeholders? What are their opinions on the needs and goals? The better we can create such a list of needs and goals, the better it will be for us to find a tool that will match them.
2 – During demonstration calls and initial presentations from tools:
2.1) Present your list of needs during first contacts with the tool providers: this will help providers confirm that they can handle your requirements.
2.2) Listen to the tool providers, especially if they clearly consider your needs: sometimes a tool provider can open our minds to new ways of dealing with our needs. We might think that we need a certain tool, we might not be aware that we need more than one tool, we might need to integrate data, and so forth. Keep an open mind, but make sure that they consider your needs and don’t dismiss your needs just because they cannot provide it. If they cannot fully attend to your needs but can attend to them partially, and are honest about that, that is a good start. If they indicate the need for more tools to cover all aspects of our needs, we can then trust that they will really deliver on their promises.
3 – During trial:
3.1) Test thoroughly: make time for testing the tool. Get people together. Everyone who needs to give an opinion must have enough material to give an honest and good opinion by the end of trial. Don’t give up on the first sign of complications, not every tool will be instinctive and it doesn’t mean it is a bad tool because of that. Push the tool to the maximum, test all of its capacities. The more time we spend testing the tool, the better our decision will be.
3.2) Ask for help from the tool provider when needed: don’t try to solve everything on your own. Ask for as much help as you need from the tool providers. Engage in a relationship with them. Let them understand your needs and goals and really help you get there. Tool providers will likely have experience with many different cases, and while naturally they want to sell and have you as a client, they can still be helpful and honest during your process of testing. Don’t be afraid that the tool provider will flood your inbox with emails. Maybe the normal set of 3-10 emails will come in during trial, so have patience and just push on through. Use their help and relax about “being sold.” When we do our part as clients during our evaluation of tools, we are always in a strong position as “the buyer,” and the fear of “being sold” does not touch us. People who fear that a sales representative will convince them of something they don’t want really don’t know what they want in the first place. Remember point 1.3 of this article: clearly list your needs.
3.3) Create a proof-of-concept when possible: the ultimate test during trial is to replicate what we will be using the tool for later on. We can create what people call a “proof-of-concept” that will serve as a test to validate the capabilities of the tool towards our needs. The proof-of-concept is the practical application of our list of needs. It is important to note that if our needs are data related, we might find that a simple report can show us all of that data. In such cases it will be good to look into how that report is created, just so we know how much work is behind reaching certain “final output.” This is a point where the team behind a tool will make a big difference. How much can they actually help us reach our final outputs? Are their limitations to their assistance?… and so forth.
3.4) Understand the roadmap of the tool, look into the future: it can give us even more confidence to choose a tool when we know that their roadmap will bring more features that will add into our strategy as well. This is where we can consider dedicated tools versus hybrid tools. A dedicated tool will focus on one type of analytics and will likely develop itself to be even better in their field. A hybrid tool might bring features from several parts of a given process, and maybe their future features will not be something useful to us. In the professional market most dedicated tools will be a better choice in the long term. It can be better to have a set of 2 or 3 dedicated tools than have one tool that tries to deliver on everything at the same time.
It can sound exhausting to follow so many steps when choosing a new analytics tool. The better we follow these steps, however, the better it will be for us in the immediate choices we face and also in the long term. So all the effort we are putting into it is helping our decision to be the very best one, naturally. Sometimes we feel that we may be spending a little too long with a certain tool even before we decide to buy it, but all that time reverts to a better investment from our part. Sure, time is money, but it is still better to spend more time instead of more money during a purchasing process.