Sales professionals have seen their roles change massively over the past few years. From being the principal point of contact, to now as one of many sources of information, sales representatives are at a critical juncture of their careers. They need to stand out from the crowd, establish credibility and have a different set of tactics to win. Research by CEB shows that 57% of a purchase decision takes place before any contact with sales, while Sirius Decisions believes this number is even higher, at 67%.

Visual discovery tools have transformed the way we think about analytics. They empower people – particularly those without data warehousing experience – to explore data on their own while reducing their dependence on BI experts. Companies like Tableau have defined the benchmark for visual analytics, encouraging vendors to introduce or augment their own data discovery capabilities. This innovation ultimately benefits end users, who today have access to more agile ways to work with data.

In this blog series, I’ve outlined my method of evaluating and implementing analytics projects; providing tips, lessons learned and helpful advice for readers looking for analytics solutions and are in need of a BI vendor. By now, following Part 1 and 2, you will have evaluated qualified BI vendors, moved through the Proof of Concept trials, and made your vendor selection. In Part 3, I’ll provide insight into vendor contracts and, finally, best practices for initial project implementation.

Vendor Contracts

Prior to joining Birst, I spent the several years at my previous position evaluating and implementing multiple analytics projects. Throughout the process, I learned valuable lessons that I think are helpful to share with others looking for analytics solutions and are in need of a BI vendor.

For the fourth year in a row, Birst has been ranked as the # 1 vendor in the Cloud Computing and Business Intelligence Market Study conducted by Dresner Advisory Services. The comprehensive study, comprising responses from business and IT professionals in a variety of industries and different size companies around the world, provides an insightful view into the factors driving the adoption of Cloud BI and indications about the future.

Several years ago, I had just accepted a new role at a small technology company when an email from my soon-to-be boss changed the direction of my career:

"We've got all this data we've gathered from our application. We should do something with it, like adding some sort of business intelligence. Start thinking about what we could do."  

At the time, I had no idea just how little I knew about selecting a business intelligence vendor, getting the system implemented and integrated, and creating an actual product offering based on BI capabilities.

At the recent Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit in London, Gartner analyst Dan Sommer employed a clever analogy to illustrate the divide he sees in today’s analytics landscape. He called it “Suits vs. Hoodies”.

The “Suits” represent traditional, centralized BI. This model is typically associated with legacy BI platforms that support centrally-governed enterprise deployments, but have been losing market share in recent years to more agile data discovery tools – the “Hoodies” – adopted by decentralized teams looking for greater speed, ease of use, and autonomy.

Frankly, it’s become a cliché anytime a software vendor proclaims that the technology industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. If you’ve ever worked in a Sales or Marketing function, odds are high you’ve used the word “revolutionary” once or twice (*guilty*). But anyone who follows the BI and Analytics space closely must admit that, at least in our industry, a real change is occurring.

This year’s Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms is now available. Birst is thrilled to be positioned as a ‘Challenger’ within the report for the second year in a row.

On February 18 at 9am PST/12pm EST, Birst is hosting an educational webinar that we think would help any organization that is looking to create a data-driven sales and marketing organization. Forrester Research analyst Laura Ramos will participate in the session, “Analytics to Revenue: The New Strategic Weapon for Business Growth,” to discuss the latest evolution in sales and marketing and will highlight how analytics is powering every stage of the customer lifecycle.

I recently had the opportunity to join leading industry analyst Eric Kavanagh on his twice monthly audio program, DM Radio, a long-running podcast on Information Management that is designed to foster conversation among today's thought leaders in data. Also participating on the show were Krish Krishnan of Sixth Sense Advisors and Dan Power of Hub Designs.

As somebody who’s lived through the evolution of the analytics space over the past two decades – from the days of decision support systems, through the era of business intelligence, and now the emergence of visual data discovery – it has been fascinating to witness the shift from the traditional IT-owned, centrally managed analytics model to the more decentralized, user-oriented style of delivering BI.

Business intelligence has been around for over thirty years, evolving from the Decision Support Systems of the 1960s. It undoubtedly can and has provided huge benefits for private and public sector organisations, but these kinds of projects have often been limited to large centralised teams that have had the technology skills, resources and the budgets to implement traditional BI. This has meant that smaller organisations or departments have either been left behind, or ignored, often leading to a great deal of frustration.

As the growing emergence of data analytics and multiplying channels transform marketing, there is an increasing opportunity to develop more creative, strategic and effective data-driven marketing strategies. But as new trends emerge, marketing teams will be challenged to decipher which ones they should chase and which ones they should watch with caution. For modern marketers looking to formulate forward-thinking strategies, here are the top five marketing trends you should keep tabs on over the coming months. 

Over the past few months Birst has been generating a lot of attention thanks to its partnership with SAP. The Birst integration with the SAP HANA platform is a brilliant use case showcasing our breakthrough 2-tier BI technology. This solution delivers instant analytics in the cloud and turns insight into action faster than ever. It is thrilling to see companies use Birst to tap into enterprise data sources and seamlessly unify them with user data sources, analyzing millions and millions of records in just a few seconds.

The notion of “big data” has revolutionized the way we view business management practices and solutions today. And while the concept is treated as a “new” discovery, big data has actually been around since the early 2000s. In fact, 10 years ago, Birst was one of very few BI vendors on the market trying to make a case for itself as a needed technological solution inside any sized organization. Today, there isn’t an organization that isn’t thinking about it.

It is a compelling proposition to have external forces working for your success without heavy investments on your side - particularly if you need to build a broad geographic or industry reach. However, if mismanaged, partners can drain on your resources, rather than being an asset to your long-term growth. Use these three tips to understand how analytics can help you build a successful and data-driven channel strategy.

For those of you that may not have seen this yet, the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog (penned by Scott Brinker) posted its annual marketing technology landscape super graphic for 2015. I was happy to see this graphic again this year because it was rumored that last year's iteration would be his last. This week, we were reminded (once again) about the growth of the technology industry and about the impressive technologies that exist throughout.

Working through the IT channel can provide companies with huge opportunities to scale their business quickly, particularly if they need to build a broad geographic or industry reach. However, if mismanaged, the relationship can be frustrating for all the partners involved.

Marketers have always been great storytellers. They are wired to ask: “Why will people care about this story?”