5 Things to Look for When You’re Choosing an Analytical Tool
A reliable analytical tool is a must for every project manager. But it’s not always obvious what factors you need to consider. Let’s take a look at several key criteria you need from your tool to be able to achieve your goals in the long run.
“How do I know which analytical tool to choose?”
You’ve probably wondered this at some point – maybe you’re even searching right now. I had a client ask me this question just the other day, in fact.
The right analytical tool can make all the difference in your team’s performance.
And it’s not all just a matter of opinion, either.
First, though, there’s an important step you should take before you even begin your research!
Why You Need a Strategy
As Malcolm Forbes once said, “If you don’t know what you want to do, it’s harder to do it.”
That’s why you need a strategy before you start looking at different tools and features.
Let’s say you’re struggling to deliver on your commitments, and you know that you’re not interested in counting story points or hours anymore.
You know that you need a data-driven approach that will enable you to make reliable decisions based on your past performance data. You’re exploring the concept of probabilistic forecasting.
In this case, you’ll know pretty quickly that what you want is a Monte Carlo simulation. Any tool you choose should therefore include this feature.
If the tool you’re looking at has burndown charts, burnup charts, or anything else focused on time-tracking then you’ll know it’s probably not the best tool for your chosen strategy.
Here is another example.
Delivering value to your customers faster boils down to managing the work, not the workers.
It’s a team effort. Therefore, evaluating individuals’ performance is simply irrelevant and even has the potential to derail you from your objectives.
If the tool you’re looking at provides reports based on individuals’ performance, then it’s probably not a good fit for you. At the very least, the tool should include the option to disable that feature.
If not, keep looking.
Strategy comes first. The tools you choose should support your strategy. Having clarity on the long-term goals you strive to achieve will help you narrow down your choices.
How to Decide Which Analytical Tool to Choose
“How do I decide which analytical tool to choose?”
I gave this question some thought and realized there are several key criteria to look for. Let’s explore all of them.
#1 Effective Onboarding Process
You need data from your past performance to get actionable insights. However, without context, your charts are only static images. You have to be able to understand the meaning behind your data.
That’s why your tool should include an effective onboarding process that will help you get started quickly.
The process should make it easy for you to comprehend how the tool works, what concepts does it implement, and how to read the data that you’re seeing presented.
#2 Data Integrity
Your teams will only want to use a tool if they trust the data.
If it’s hard to get solid numbers that don’t change and there isn’t confidence in the data, that’s when teams tend to not rely on it, and eventually abandon it.
If there are two people looking at the same data, having the same configuration and they’re both seeing different results, that’s certainly a red flag.
Always look for a tool that’s reliable, have good data integrity, is easy to use and that teams would want to use.
You know how it’s easier to learn about something when you have someone else to go to for questions?
A great community will help you level up your skills and knowledge because you can start a conversation any time you’re confused or are experiencing a challenge (especially for very specific situations that pop up).
If the brand you’re considering doesn’t have a community or doesn’t provide access to their support team (or even better, their dev team!), you’re most likely to drop out.
There must be a lot of goodwill and the team behind the brand should be responsive in terms of improving the tool.
Bonus points if the package also includes other knowledge components like Q&A sessions and masterclasses. These knowledge components, all together, can massively increase the perceived value of the tool – making your investment go further.
And speaking of “investment” …
#4 Reasonable Pricing
When it comes to pricing, the tool should be predictable and scalable.
Look into how the pricing works: is it per seat? Or maybe it’s uses a different pricing model – let’s say a dashboard.
You want the pricing that you pay to be aligned with the value that you receive. That’s why I don’t recommend you go with a pricing plan that’s per user – because even though you’re paying more to have more people look at your data, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get more value.
On the other hand, a pricing plan that’s based on the number of boards you analyze, (and not on the number of people you add!) allows you to make a cost effective, low-risk decision that you can scale once you get it integrated within your organization.
#5 Bonus: An Agile Roadmap
While not essential, it’s awesome if you can find a tool provider who also shares an agile roadmap with their customers (especially if your own goal is also to improve your business agility!).
The roadmap should include their goals for improvement, any features they plan to release soon, response to recurring feedback from their customer base, and other helpful updates that keep you in the loop with their vision and mission.
The more the provider shares your values and approach, and the more transparent they are about their own process, the greater your long-term relationship will be and the more value you will get out of it.
And if you need something further to consider, Nave offers all the criteria we’ve discussed here – and it’s helped managers around the world use data-driven insights to deliver value to their customers faster, meet their commitments and continuously improve their systems.
I hope this article gave you a more specific idea of what to look for in an analytical tool – feel free to use it as a reference going forward! And if you found it helpful, please share it with friends and colleagues on your favorite social media platforms.
Thanks as always for reading, and I look forward to seeing you again next week, same time and place, for more managerial insights. Bye for now!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.