Use A Four-Step Approach To Select The Right BI Services Provider

BI projects are never short, and, alas, many of them don't end since a fast-paced business environment often introduces new requirements, enhancements, and updates before you're even done with your first implementation. Therefore, we typically recommend doing sufficient due diligence upfront when selecting a BI services provider — as you may be stuck with them for a long time. We recommend the following key steps in your selection process:

  1. Map BI project requirements to potential providers. Firms should use Forrester's "BI Services Provider Short-Listing Tool" to create a shortlist of potential providers. With the tool you can input details about your geographic scope, technology needs, and the type of third-party support you need (i.e., consulting versus implementation versus hosting/outsourcing).  The tool then outputs a list of potential providers that meet the criteria. For each potential fit, the tool also generates a provider profile summary that offers key details around practice size, characteristics, and areas of expertise.
  2. Narrow your short-list based on additional needs and considerations. Beyond the capabilities of Forrester's "BI Services Provider Short-Listing Tool," firms must eliminate or add partners based on factors such as their current strategic suppliers list or past partner success or failure (and therefore image and reputation internally), plus references from peers. Similarly, some BI services buyers will have a preference for larger, global companies whereas others may want to consider more regional players and boutiques. Some firms will consider a single-provider strategy whereas others may engage multiple providers for different needs/phases.
  3. Send RFI/RFP to potential candidates. Forrester's "BI Service Provider Short-Listing Tool" is a basic starting point only. Most firms will need a more detailed RFI or RFP to uncover additional relevant details about project approach, proposed staffing model for a specific need, costs, or technical IP/accelerators/tools. Beyond key details about project approach and resources, BI services buyers will likely benefit from finding out details around provider strategy, such as SaaS and cloud capabilities or strategic partnerships.
  4. Zero in on the finalist using Forrester's BI consultants' selection methodology. This is where the hard work starts, because from this point on the selection process becomes quite subjective. Dig deeper and understand your prospect's strategic advisory capabilities. Also, check out their existing methodologies, reference architecture, and any relevant solution accelerators. Review their execution methodology, strength in data governance, and experience with next-generation BI technologies (such as Agile BI, self-service BI, and others).


Hi Boris, I have been on the

Hi Boris,

I have been on the other side of this "evaluation fence", and it's great to note the structured manner in which you have outlined the process for customers to evaluate BI service providers. Of course, the simple, but often less-than-obvious, starting point is project requirements, and I couldn't agree with you more about that being the best way to begin the selection process.

It would be interesting to know what you might suggest, if anything different, when the BI services provider would need to work with an Open Source BI technology; or perhaps have to develop a hybrid solution that blends Open Source and Commercial BI products. Given the prevalence as well as broadening adoption of Open Source BI technologies these days, organizations are increasingly looking to Professional Services organizations to provide the support they need.

I look forward to additional thoughts/comments on this subject from you and your readers.

- Aamir

Actuate Professional Services

Open Source BI Wave that is

Open Source BI Wave that is due to come out in a week or so should shed some light on that.

A note on Open Source BI


There are two reasons that make Open Source attractive to prospects:

1. No license fees
2. Being able to customize the source code

The truth is that the second reason is only theoretical, because I know for a fact that 99.99999% of open source BI customers don't touch source code and will never want to either. The main reason, therefore, is the fact you are not charged for licenses.

However, Open Source BI is not free and if you don't call it 'License Fee' you call it something else like 'Service Contract' or 'Enterprise Edition Premiums'. The highest costs entailed in a typical BI solution do not revolve around licenses anyway, it's all the work you need to put in to organize the data and then the hardware you need to buy to support it. And that, even with Open Source, does not change because they use the same type of technologies the commercial vendors use. So Microsoft use 'Analysis Services' OLAP that they initially bought from Panorama and Open Source use 'Modrian' which is an open source OLAP, but it's all the same beast in different packaging.

The only way to really reduce costs is to go around the traditional data warehouse/OLAP approach that is the true money grabber in a typical BI implementation, not whether you call what you pay the vendor 'services' or 'licenses'.

Elad Israeli
Co-Founder of SiSense and
Author of 'The ElastiCube Chronicles'