How to Choose a Business Intelligence Consultant
A business intelligence (BI) dashboard provides up to the minute operational information at a glance. The information displayed on a dashboard helps you monitor your organization’s current status and is used to make informed decisions that affect the future of your business.
Just as you wouldn’t risk driving a $60,000 automobile without knowing that its dashboard was operational and well-tuned, you shouldn’t place your organization’s dashboard into unqualified hands. A qualified business intelligence consultant can help you streamline decision making. Let's take a closer look.
What Skills and Qualifications Should I Look for in a BI Consultant?
The qualifications for properly performing dashboard development and maintenance are varied. There is no single degree or certification that guarantees that the consultant you choose is best for the job, but the presence of certain skills are a good indication that your BI consultant can deliver.
A dashboard is only as good as the data it is displaying. The best consultant for your dashboard will have expert level knowledge of your underlying data system and the programs that create the data.
For example, if your data is stored on Microsoft SQL Server, a consultant who has Microsoft SQL Server experience is an optimal choice. If your data is on IBM DB2, then an expert of Microsoft’s platform may not be the best choice. Fortunately, most BI concepts translate across platforms, so the key is selecting a database expert.
A consultant with past BI development experience on your chosen platform is also a good candidate. Someone who is an expert on your source program – a Microsoft Dynamics GP expert if you use GP, or a Sage ERP expert if you use Sage 100c or Sage 300c, for example – and who has dashboard samples to show you is likely a solid choice.
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While previous development will likely not be a turnkey solution for your BI needs, past experience gives the consultant a starting framework for you and proves that they can deliver.
Communication is Key
Any consultant must possess excellent communication skills. A misunderstanding of needs or priorities can lead to wasted hours. Your consultant should also have good project management skills. Look for someone who can break the development process into stages so that you have a chance to see the work as it is being done, before the final product is completed.
Your consultant should also provide a communication plan related to the project, whereby regular updates are provided via email or phone meetings so you remain comfortable that adequate progress is being made.
Getting Started With Your BI Consultant
The most important part of developing a BI dashboard is the requirements gathering stage. This is typically a conversation between you and your consultant where, as a team, you discover places where BI can help streamline decision making. During this process, you would bring existing reports and details about your organization’s information flow to the table. Your consultant should listen carefully, ask pertinent questions, and take copious notes or samples from you. The end product of the discovery meeting should be a mock-up of the desired dashboard(s).
It is critical in the case of a business intelligence or any other consultant that both you and the consultant are perfectly clear on the expected deliverable. The best BI technician in the world could have project failure if they work from poor requirements.
If you need help getting started with business intelligence, or just want to explore how business intelligence can help your business get stronger, contact us here, or at 410.685.5512, to see how we can help.
About Tony Marinaro
Tony means business when it comes to efficiency. He loves turning an organization’s clunky procedures and tasks into lean, automated processes. Tony also enjoys helping companies put business intelligence to use, with the goal of helping them get meaningful information out of their business systems. He was affectionately nicknamed “Google” by co-workers because he always seemed to come up with the answers they needed.