The 7 must-have features of your next BI analytics tool

  • Richard Thelwell
  • May 16, 2016

must-have-features-bi-analytics-toolIf you’re looking at investing in a new BI analytics tool, you’ll be sure to find plenty of options out there, from a large number of competing vendors in this space. But how can you tell which one is the best option for your business requirements? It’s a difficult decision, but the best place to start is by looking at the ‘must-have’ features you need from any successful Business Intelligence solution.

Data sources

The ability to integrate BI analytics tools into your current reporting processes seamlessly is a major advantage. This can allow you to make the most of the data that you already have buried away in multiple data sources and locations, as well as to smooth the transition to the new analytics platform.

To facilitate both activities, it’s important that these analytics tools are able to support the various data sources you already have in the business, be this ERPs, CRM systems, marketing automation packages, Excel spreadsheets or something more.

Matillion BI collates data from multiple sources and systems to provide a 360 degree view of your business

Many SaaS BI providers even do all of the hard work for you; extracting and collating data from these multiple sources, putting it into the right shape and format, and providing you with a front-end reporting tool on top of this. Business intelligence as a managed service can therefore be a great option if you want to take all of the heavy lifting out of this process.

Web-based front end

Traditional business intelligence platforms often required manual installation onto desktop computers, a costly and time-consuming process for organisations with large user bases. Additional hardware, infrastructure and software upgrades were commonly required to run the latest versions of these platforms, exacerbating the cost of deployment further.

With Cloud-based BI analytics tools, on the other hand, all you need is access to a web browser and a decent internet connection.

Logging in via a designated URL, all you need to do is input your credentials and you can be up and running on the tool, accessing analytics capabilities at anytime, anywhere in the world and on any device.

Data filters/ Drill-down

BI analytics tools are often equipped with a range of filters, drop-downs, slicers and search functions that make it easy for users to find the information they need quickly.

Filters allow users to drill down into the data, gaining greater insight

Users will also require the ability to drill-down into data, going from a high-level overview of performance, right down to a detailed, granular view.


Security is a massive priority for companies looking to invest in new BI analytics tools, particularly those based in the Cloud. And rightly so – after all, this is your business critical data we’re talking about, potentially containing things like confidential employee, pricing and customer records.

Here at Matillion, we understand the importance of security when it comes to BI analytics tools in the Cloud. Our security provisions are more than extensive. We use encryption that exceeds banking standards. Our data centres are SAS Type II, ISO 27001 and PCI accredited.

Matillion BI also allows you to control internal security by assigning user permissions and access controls. Using groups and roles as well as row and column-based security, you can ensure a user only gets the information they need to see and nothing else.

Data visualisation

Data visualisation capabilities in BI analytics tools can be a great way to bring your data to life. Dashboards, charts, graphs, gauges and other visuals can really help to illustrate the key messages in your data and can be an invaluable tool for presenting information in a quick and easy to digest manner.

Data Visualisation features are essential for presenting your data effectively

There are a number of brilliant data visualisation tools out there on the market that are excellent for data visualisation and dashboards but that do just do this. No matter how pretty your visualisations look, if the data behind the scenes isn’t up to scratch, they become redundant.

Some BI platforms, like Matillion BI, do all the important stuff in terms of getting your data into the right shape, and then provide you a nifty front-end to make your data beautiful with data visualisation features.


BI analytics tools were traditionally kept under lock and key by experienced IT users, the only people in the business with the necessary skills and knowledge to operate such complex, manual systems.

Thankfully, that’s no longer the case and a shift in focus towards self-service platforms means that access to these tools has been democratised to users across the business. With that in mind, BI vendors are making their tools more user-intuitive and easy-to-use than ever before.

Self-service functionality should therefore be high on your list of priorities when it comes to investing in a new BI analytics tool.

Mobile applications

The ability to access critical business reports, dashboards and analyses on the go is an increasingly important feature of modern BI analytics tools.

Matillion BI mobile apps are available to download for iOS and Android devices

As the use of smartphones and tablets in businesses becomes more prevalent, it is important that business applications are supported on these platforms. Analytics tools are no exception to this, and mobile applications for iOS and Android devices in particular should be expected as standard.

For business executives who are always on the move, access to these mobile reports is no longer a luxury, but a must-have feature of any successful business intelligence solution.

For loads of best-practice tips and advice on selecting the right BI analytics tool for your business, download our free eBook below.