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Let’s say you need a new dining room table for your home.

If you have some woodworking talent, you might be able to build a table in the exact style you want. If you’re not quite that skilled, you might opt to buy a table at Ikea and put it together yourself. Or, you may pay a little more to buy a table in the exact size and color you need for the space.

What you choose to do really all depends on your budget, your personal skill level, and the tools you have at your disposal.

The same is true for data analytics. When should you build your own analytics solution from scratch, and when should you buy it from a vendor?

It all depends on you. If you’re an analyst or a data wizard, you might be able to pull the data yourself and run the numbers in Excel. But if you’re like most business leaders, you don’t have all of the time or the necessary skills to build out detailed business reports.

You know the importance of building a data-driven business, and you need the right analytics tools to measure your business growth. But whether you build it or buy it is really up to you. Here are the pros and cons that you must consider before you invest in analytics.

The Builder’s Challenge

How comfortable are you with Excel? If you proudly pull out your “I heart Pivot Tables” mug, then you might be the perfect candidate to build out your own analytics suite. If the business is fairly small, it’s possible to manually and securely pull the data you need from Salesforce, Google Analytics, and other data sources each week, run reports, and fully understand your business. If you have the skills required, you can customize an analytics solution to your exact business needs and can easily change it as you grow.

But before you jump on board and start building your own analytics, there are some negative side effects of this approach. First ask yourself, do you have bandwidth available for this project? You are signing up for a time consuming and manual process that is a never-ending commitment. As your business grows, you will need more and more specific reports to track what exactly is contributing to growth across all departments. You may need to eventually hire a full-time analyst to do this work for your business, which can become very expensive.

Pros: Customizable, flexible, control of the data

Cons: Time-consuming, difficult to build, limited reporting

 

Buyers Beware

If you don’t have the necessary analytical skills, you may assume you should just buy an analytics solution out-of-the-box. There are many traditional BI solutions on the market that are incredibly powerful and can delve deep into data. Unfortunately, these same products are also often unwieldy and complex. Most solutions require custom development, extensive training, expensive professional services and months, or sometimes years, of configuration before you even get the first report. BI is notorious for slow time to value — research found that BI projects take 33% longer to get started than planned.

All of this would be worth it if the product worked well and was easy to use, however that’s not true of most traditional BI solutions. Some software requires as much skill to use as building your own analytics from scratch, if not more. You may need to understand SQL and other complex database technology to use the software. Instead of an out-of-the-box solution, you may even end up having to hire an analyst or data expert just to use your expensive BI tool.

Pros: Pre-built reports, requires less analytics expertise

Cons: Slow time to value, complex configuration, requires extensive training

 

The Right Solution for Your Business

Luckily, there is a middle ground between purchasing traditional BI solutions and building your own analytics reports. Today’s newest analytics products combine the best of both worlds. Forget the cumbersome, expensive, and difficult-to-use analytics of the past. Now, you can find solutions that offer easy-to-understand reports with minimal configuration and fast time to value. And instead of building time-consuming reports from nothing, you can customize existing reports to fit your exact business needs.

Whether you’re a data geek or a time-crunched business leader, you can find the analytics that you need. Combine the benefits of buying with a little bit of building, and you’ll be able to get the right analytics solution for your business.

 

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  • […] rule of thumb I follow is build for one-off problems, and buy for more systemic issues — but realistically it always comes down to a cost-benefit […]

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