If you ask IT experts whether outsourcing business intelligence is a good idea, you may get some mixed responses. Strong-willed specialists believe that everything should always be done in-house, even if it costs more or requires more resources. Others are open to outsourcing BI because it’s often more cost-effective and easier to implement.

Who is right? That depends on your needs. Many businesses benefit immensely from outsourcing BI, while others prefer to do everything in-house. In this guide, we’ll help you decide which option is best for your unique requirements, and offer tips on how to make the most of your big data.

What Does it Mean to Outsource Your Business Intelligence?

Many people have strong opinions about whether outsourcing business intelligence is a good idea. Some find that it’s the easiest and most reliable way to handle business information, while others are more skeptical. Before you form your own opinion, it’s important to understand what outsourcing your business intelligence really means.

Outsourcing business intelligence is the process of hiring a third party to collect, analyze, and present data to help you make wise business decisions. Every business intelligence provider offers different services and expertise. For this reason, you can’t paint outsourced BI with a broad brush; it isn’t inherently good or bad. The experience varies depending on the provider. 

When Outsourcing Business Intelligence is a Good Idea 

Working with an experienced business intelligence provider can be a great idea. However, not all third-party providers are equally competent.

Some only offer basics like simple data analytics or visualizations. Those services are important, but they’re only a small aspect of BI. Without a detailed BI roadmap, you may collect the wrong data or miss out on key business insights.

Experienced third-party providers are much more thorough. They offer data analytics and visualizations based on in-depth BI consultations. That gives you an effective roadmap to success. They’ll build a custom user platform that lets your staff interact with data and generate insights of their own. Those benefits, combined with 24/7 customer support, make outsourcing business intelligence a very good idea.

Here’s another way of looking at it: Is the service provider offering me more than what my own IT department can handle right now?

“Right now” is an extremely important part of that question. Your in-house IT staff may say that they can build you a BI platform or incorporate new data analytics software into your system, but these things take a great deal of time and resources. Your IT staff may already be stretched thinly. Moreover, not all businesses are as agile as they could be. If you take too long to make important business intelligence decisions or changes, you could lose profits or customers.

By outsourcing your business intelligence, you’ll free up in-house IT staff and enable your business to pivot quickly to the most innovative new ideas and technologies. 

How Outsourcing Compares with Other BI Methods 

If you want to make use of business intelligence, you have a choice of three methods:

  • Outsourced: Outsourced BI involves hiring a third party to do everything. This includes coming up with a strategy, collecting quality data, analyzing data using the most advanced tools, running the results through detailed visualization tools, and helping you decide the best course of action. 
  • Self-Service: A self-service BI tool lets you analyze data yourself. To use it, download the software and plug in the data you wish to analyze. It’s designed with beginners in mind and doesn’t require much training. 
  • In-House: Having an in-house business intelligence system means hiring a staff of experts full-time to work on every aspect of your business. They collect quality data, process and analyze it, then present the results to the rest of the team.

There are pros and cons to each method, including:

There are pros and cons to each method, including: 

Outsourced

Pros:

  • You don’t need any infrastructure or staff to support it 
  • You can quickly scale up or scale down 
  • It can be customized to fit your exact business needs 
  • No training required 
  • Time to market and decision making are much faster 
  • Access to all of the most advanced data analytics tools
  • Costs much less than hiring a full-time staff or licensing state-of-the-art software 
  • Experts will advise you on the best business decisions 
  • Your data is secure and well-organized 
  • Customer support is available 24/7 to troubleshoot problems or answer questions

Cons:

  • Monthly fee
  • You don’t own any of the software or hardware 
  • Not all providers are reliable

Self-Service

Pros:

  • It’s easy to use and requires little training 
  • You manage the software license yourself and have more say over the tools you use 
  • Your staff is more involved in the process

Cons:

  • You and your staff may not know which software to use 
  • If you have questions, there’s no customer support 
  • The data you collect and analyze may not be ideal 
  • Possibility of misinterpreting data and making poor decisions 
  • Data may be unorganized or stored in too many different formats 
  • It isn’t easy to pivot to new strategies quickly 
  • Employees must be willing to learn how to use the tool 
  • Second-guessing is common, especially if you don’t have a data expert on staff

In-House

Pros:

  • You own everything from software licenses to hardware 
  • Customized to fit your business’ needs 
  • Control over your own staff and their workflows 
  • You get to decide how much time and money to spend on every project 
  • Staff is very involved in the process 
  • Data is completely secure behind your company’s firewall

Cons:

  • Can be very expensive, especially if you buy equipment, costly software licenses, or hire experienced staff 
  • Shortage of data experts available for hire 
  • Have to pay staff salaries and benefits, which are often quite high 
  • Maintaining equipment is costly and time-consuming 
  • You may experience more downtime and won’t always have staff available to answer important questions or find solutions 
  • You’re responsible for all staff training and business decisions

Self-service business intelligence is fine for some businesses, but it is severely lacking in many key areas. If you only have a small, basic data set that you want to analyze, then it’s a decent option. However, there’s no guarantee that the insights you generate will be accurate.

The best two options are outsourced and in-house business intelligence systems. They are nearly identical in terms of final results. Both methods give you a business intelligence roadmap, quality data analysis, and clear visualizations. The main difference is that outsourced BI doesn’t require any existing infrastructure or staff, while in-house BI requires a lot more planning.

But which is better, outsourced or in-house?

Choosing the Best BI Method for Your Business 

For most small businesses, outsourcing business intelligence is a good idea. That’s because this method doesn’t require any existing infrastructure or staff resources.

When you own a small business, your team is usually pretty small. The few IT staff members that you have are likely busy keeping your website updated, handling technical issues, and working on other important projects. They simply don’t have time to do all of these tasks and perform meaningful data analysis as well. The data analysis process alone is a full-time job that requires multiple expert team members. The fewer staff members you have to handle this process, the less reliable and detailed your data analysis will be. This, in turn, makes it harder to make effective data-driven decisions.

By outsourcing these tasks, you can get the same level of detailed data analysis as a company ten times your size. Outsourced BI levels the playing field. You’ll know how to best support your customers and improve your products, allowing your business to grow exponentially.

If, on the other hand, you operate a fairly large enterprise, then in-house business intelligence is a viable option. Some businesses have room in the IT budget to buy and maintain their own servers, purchase the best software licenses, hire a large team of data experts or scientists, and create their own platforms for generating visualizations and reports.

When your business has the time and resources required to do all of this, then in-house BI can save you money in the long run because you own most of the equipment and software outright and won’t have to pay a monthly fee to a third party. However, keep in mind that maintenance costs and downtime lead to additional unexpected expenses.

In general, most small and medium-sized businesses will find that outsourcing business intelligence is a good idea, especially compared with doing everything themselves in-house. In some cases, even large enterprises opt for outsourced BI over in-house systems because they’re so much simpler to use. 

Some of the most successful businesses in the country use business intelligence to make better decisions. When you get expert guidance to the best possible path, your business will flourish.

If you think outsourcing business intelligence is a good idea for your organization, contact Tek Leaders today. Our business intelligence experts will guide you through the entire process and make the transition as simple as possible. If you’d like to learn more about the power of business intelligence and the specific services we provide, you may also reach us by email directly.