10 questions to ask analytics vendors (before you buy)

Analytics purchase decisions are littered with opportunities for missteps. These 10 questions will help ensure you get off on the right foot.

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Choosing the right analytics platform is essential. After all, the product you choose will be helping leaders make critical business decisions for years to come - that's if you get it right.

Here are 10 questions you should ask analytics vendors early in the buying process.

1. Can I answer questions?

It sounds very basic, but the capability to ask and answer new questions simply, not just a set of predefined questions, is table stakes.

"If you're confined to a preset view of a slice of your data and it requires going to your IT department or doing complex scripting to ask a new question, you're not going to get a lot of value out of your analytics," says Ellie Fields, vice president of Product Marketing, Tableau Software. "You need to live in a world where your questions are not predefined."

2. What is your experience in my industry or with my specific business issues?

Expertise in analytics is not enough. You need domain expertise to get the most out of your analytics products and services. Does your vendor have a set of industry-specific data models (e.g., for consumer products, banking, insurance companies, etc.)?

"To develop analytics or visualization or products specific to industry you need to be in tune with business issues," says Mark Shilling, principal, Deloitte Consulting and leader of its Analytics and Information Management Service Line. "You cannot deliver wireframes with KPIs and an underlying data model to support it if you do not know what you are measuring and why."

3. Will people want to use it?

Your analytics solutions need to be able to answer your questions, but using them has to be an enjoyable experience. As anyone who's deployed new products knows, getting the users to actually use it is a big part of the battle.

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