11 Questions to Ask When Shopping for Data Analytics SoftwareReading time: 8 minutes
Data analytics offers great benefits to any organization, but when it comes to choosing which data analytics software is right for you, the market is saturated with options. Parsing between consulting firms, proprietary analytics software, and in-house analytics platforms is the first difficult choice to make, and each has its advantages.
Once you’ve decided what TYPE of analytics you’re looking for, you then have to decide which specific company to work with, and there are hundreds of options with new ones emerging every day.
With all these options available, it can be very difficult to decide which analytics solution will best suit your organization’s needs. To help, we compiled this list of 11 questions to ask when shopping around for data analytics software!
First, you’ll want to establish what a data analytics software company can bring to your organization and gather some basic information about costs and how the company operates.
How will data analytics software help my organization?
This is the most important question of all. Why invest in a data analytics platform without knowing why you need one?
Wrong answer: Our product will utterly revolutionize the way you do business, triple your earnings next quarter, and (insert unrealistic promise here).
Typical answer: We can organize your data for you, and we’ll answer specific questions you ask us to give you more insight into your business.
Best answer: You and your colleagues will be able to organize and share up to date, relevant, actionable business data. Users of any skill level can build custom predictive models to make data-informed decisions. You already do your work well: our product equips you to do it even better.
Key point: Be on the lookout for unrealistic promises, and ensure you’re getting maximum capability out of your software. The value of data analytics is in organizing data stored in different formats and locations, using that data to build predictive models, and sharing information across your organization.
What does your analytics software actually do?
Wrong answer: What DOESN’T it do! Heh heh… oh, you want specifics? I’ll have to check in with our software guy, Dave, on that one, but he’s on vacation in Bermuda this week…
Typical answer: It’s too complicated to describe in detail, but our proprietary algorithm forecasts outcomes. We’re also able to organize your data for an additional fee.
Best answer: Our software enables users of any skill level to organize and prepare data, build strong predictive models, and share data with their entire organization. We can provide detailed answers to specific questions that come to mind!
Key point: An analytics provider should be able to succinctly summarize its offerings and answer any questions you have about the product.
How affordable is your analytics software?
Another key question, and one that is often the deciding factor in whether a software will be a good fit for an organization.
Wrong answer: Well, that depends on how you define affordable…
Typical answer: Yes, depending on how much you need done. Our least expensive tier entitles you to five reports a month.
Best answer: Yes, and because you’re able to build an unlimited number of data prep jobs, predictive models, and dashboards, the return on investment is unmatched.
Key point: Data analytics solutions tend to fall into three broad categories. From least to most return on investment, the categories are:
- Consultants ($$$) Least R.O.I.
- Proprietary Software ($$)
- In-House Software ($) Best R.O.I.
For an in-depth exploration of why an in-house solution is the best option, see our recent blog post on the topic.
What training and customer support is included with a purchase of the product?
When working with new software, it’s always a benefit to know you have access to good training and support.
Wrong answer: If you’ve got a problem, google it. I’m sure someone’s made a youtube video that will answer your question.
Typical answer: We have support staff, somewhere… we outsourced it a few years back. You’ll probably get through to someone if you wait on hold long enough!
Best answer: We provide unlimited training and support to our users. Our experienced, on-premises analysts are available to answer your questions live by phone, email, or online chat to make sure you’re able to keep your work moving forward.
Key point: For advanced users, the availability of support may not be critical, but the average user stands to benefit from a company that backs its products with great live support.
A key benefit of using a data analytics software is finally being able to organize all of the data your organization has stored in various formats and locations, then compile and share that data to make better-informed decisions. These questions will help you ensure the software you’re evaluating is up to the task.
Can your software handle lots of data stored in different formats?
Wrong answer: I think so. If Dave, our data guy, wasn’t on a family trip to Belaruse, I’m sure he could give you additional information.
Typical answer: Your subscription tier determines the amount of data you can process per month.
Best answer: Yes, you can process unlimited amounts of data stored in any format. Your process is saved, so all it takes to start a new data prep job is to drag and drop new data into the existing process.
Key point: There’s no reason your data analytics platform should place an artificial cap on the amount of data you can process, so be sure to work with a business that allows for unlimited processing.
What programs and platforms can your software output to?
Sharing data in a variety of formats is critical to putting the insights gained from analytics to use in your organization.
Wrong answer: Our proprietary format, and that’s it.
Good answer: Virtually all commonly used formats, such as Excel, Google Sheets, databases, Tableau, Bridge, and many more.
Key point: The best data analytics platform will allow you to export your data in all major formats so that your stakeholders can access it on any device.
Since we already have Excel and Sharepoint, doesn’t that cover what we need?
Microsoft’s software suite offers some data preparation and sharing capability.
Microsoft’s answer: Of course! What more could you need?
Better answer: While Excel and Sharepoint provide great functionality, their features are limited where it concerns data prep, predictive modeling, and data sharing/visualization.
Key point: See our recent blog post about the advantages of using a full data analytics software in comparison to just using Excel.
Do I need to know how to code to use your software?
Data analytics options include DIY code-based options, in-house analytics platforms, fully pre-packaged proprietary software, and consultancies who handle everything for you.
A fine answer for someone familiar with code: Yes, in order to use our product you need to know R or Python.
The quick and easy answer: No. In fact, you don’t need to know anything. Just ask us a question and we’ll send you the answer. You won’t know how we arrived at the conclusion, though, and it’s going to cost you!
The right answer for everyone: No. Organizing data, building predictive models, and creating custom data dashboards has never been more intuitive and easy. Anyone can learn the process in a short amount of time. However, coders and advanced users can get even more functionality from the software using custom scripts!
Key point: The right data analytics software offers the best of all worlds: the ability to organize and manipulate data in an interface that doesn’t require code, but which enables the use of advanced scripts for users who are equipped to use them. It also offers the same level of top-notch support you’d expect from a consultant, but without the hefty fees and limited functionality.
An advanced analytics platform will include predictive modeling capabilities. However, not all predictive models are created equal. Some key features you’ll want to inquire about:
Do I need a background in math to understand your predictive model?
Ultimately, a predictive model is a lengthy, complicated algorithm beyond the understanding of the average, non-mathematical person.
Typical answer: No, we do the math for you, so you never need to look at any big, ugly equations.
Best answer: No, our software features an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and automatically generates the best predictive models. Users with math skills can inspect the algorithm itself and make modifications, but an understanding of math is not required to use the model.
Key point: While working with a consultant or a pre-built model can be easier, there’s no verifiability available to you to ensure that the model is performing as it should be.
How transparent is the model? Am I able to view the “inner workings” of the model, or just the results?
The ability to inspect your model is key to being able to defend its results, so this is an important question to ask.
Wrong answer: Just trust us, this model is top-notch!
Typical answer: We can share select information on the model, though some information is proprietary and inaccessible to our users.
Best answer: The model is fully transparent, the algorithm can be inspected, and tests can be performed to verify the model’s integrity
Key point: Ideally, work with a software that enables full access to the model’s inner workings, including its variables and algorithm, so that your work is fully defensible.
How does the model determine which variables to use?
One key to a strong, useful predictive model is the variables it incorporates.
Bad answer: You know, that’s a good question. I’ll have to check in with Dave, our analytics guy, on that one. But he’s out in Yellowstone this week.
Typical answer: Our pre-made models use the same, tried-and-true variables for all operations.
Best answer: The model automatically mines your data for the strongest, most relevant variables, shows you why those variables are statistically significant, and then allows you to change and modify variables as needed.
Key point: Different questions require different variables, and a model that can automatically search through your data to find the strongest, most relevant variables to answer your question is the best choice.
Asking these questions will make your search for the right data analytics software easier. They’ll help you sift through subpar offerings and companies that won’t deliver on their promises, and they’ll help you avoid being overcharged for software that underperforms.
If you didn’t already guess, we here at Rapid Insight firmly believe that our data analytics software is the best option for every organization. We offer an affordable, powerful, versatile analytics platform backed by outstanding support and training.