The trouble with investing in a new, unknown technology is that it’s sometimes difficult to know what questions to ask a potential vendor.

Sure, you know broadly what it is you want to achieve – and any vendor will be adamant that they’re the right guys to do it for you. But how do you cut through the marketing spiel to figure out if they really do have the tools and capabilities you need to get the job done in the best possible way? What specifically do you need to know?

That’s where a Request for Proposal (RFP) document comes in super-handy.

What is an RFP Template?

An RFP template is essentially a framework of questions that covers all the key bases for the type of solution under assessment, which you can send to a vendor. You gain peace of mind that you haven’t overlooked something majorly important in the procurement stage – plus, it gives you a clear and easy way to evaluate vendors side-by-side.

If you don’t know what to include in an RFP template for a BI solution or think the one you have needs a refresher, not to worry. We’ve created a template you can (and should!) use freely when evaluating BI.

But, even before then, here are seven key business and technical areas you should be sure to cover:

  1. Complexity of Data

    Why it Matters: It’s highly likely that you need to bring multiple, complex data sources into the mix to get a complete picture of your business. These questions are designed to ensure that your solution is flexible enough to handle anything you throw at it and to treat it like a single source of truth. For example, you’ll need to know how each vendor connects to different data sources, what connectors they offer, and if there are any external extract, transform, and load (ETL) requirements.

  2. Implementation Time

    Why it Matters: The longer it takes to fully implement your BI solution, the longer you’ll wait until you start to see a return on investment. These questions are designed to establish how long you can expect to wait until your technical solution is rolled out, your team’s on board, and you’re ready to start getting results. You should clarify how many weeks or months you should factor into your timeline for implementation as well as how long it typically takes for training and onboarding. Adoption can often be overlooked but has a huge impact on when you’ll start to see ROI.

  3. Total Cost of Ownership

    Why it Matters: Some BI vendors calculate TCO purely in terms of your initial outlay, but this can be misleading. Instead, these questions will gather the information you need to figure out how much the solution will really cost you in long term staffing costs, data storage, and the real TCO per report or analysis. In order to make sure your bases are covered your BI tool evaluation template should include questions about data warehousing, internal resource commitment, and specifics on how pricing is calculated.

  4. Data Warehousing/Storage

    Why it Matters: If the solution you’re looking at does not offer a streamlined way to store, handle, and access data, you may be looking at huge data warehousing costs. These questions will help you clarify what options this vendor offers for data storage and unfettered access. Check if the vendor allows users to access your entire pool of data in real-time and what kind of tech they use to facilitate this without impacting performance.

  5. Agility/Ease of Use

    Why it Matters: It’s crucial that everyone who needs to can use your BI solution when they want, how they want, without IT intervening each time. Use these questions to establish whether your solution is genuinely self-service and directly accessible to non-technical business users. We recommend you check, among other things, if users can run queries without advanced skills like SQL and if they can build and manipulate their own dashboards and reports.

  6. Future-Proofing

    Why it Matters: Your BI vendor might do everything you need them to now, but are they innovating enough to cope with your needs in the future? These questions look to figure out how much on-going R&D they’re doing – to make sure they won’t get complacent later on. Questions about innovation strategy, how upgrades are managed, and how often the platform is updated should give you a pretty good idea of how committed the vendor is to consistent improvement and innovation.

  7. Customer Service/Customer Experience

    Why it Matters: No matter how powerful your BI solution, without the right guidance, support, and training, you won’t get the full value out of it. These questions aim to clarify what you can expect after you sign on the dotted line. Not all customer success is the same. To make sure you’re getting the best, be sure your RFP template includes questions about post-sales support including if you’ll receive a dedicated customer success manager and what kind of tutorials and community exists.

Don’t stop here! Now that you’ve seen seven of the most important key areas to outline, we’ve got four more for you to consider, plus a free and complete RFP template to make gathering information from vendors even easier.

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