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Business analytics is less mature than other subsets of business intelligence systems, which means it's also harder to successfully launch. Here's what to consider before buying or implementing business analytics tools.

Before selecting a tool, understand the organization's analytic needs, said Scott Rhodes, project manager at systems integrator Teksouth Corp. "You must have a clear functional understanding of the organization," he said. "Don't start putting hardware and software in place until you do."

Next, work with end users to match screen presentations with the needs and expectations of those who will be analyzing the data, he said, adding that this is an ongoing process, so system flexibility is crucial.

"Our clients continually ask for refinements to systems over time, even if we successfully perform due diligence in identifying their needs," Rhodes said. "The value of [business analytics] is that it begets questions they haven't even thought about. So the system has to be adaptable without breaking the bank."

Asking prospective vendors to build a prototype can help ensure successful choices, said John Rusnak, a civilian employee of Mitre Corp. who acts as chief architect for Air Force Knowledge Services in Dayton, Ohio.

"Tell vendors, 'Here are the questions we want to ask, here's our database,' " Rusnak said. "Then determine what hardware upgrades you'll need, what your performance is and how happy your end users are."

The latter is especially important. "With [business analytics], you have to have success the first time," he said. "If their first experience leaves them with a bad taste, end users won't forget it, no matter what you do to correct it."

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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