selling bi to it

Our Way of Selling BI to IT and How We Address (Valid) Objections

Before starting ClicData, I worked in IT for a large pharmaceutical organization. So, over the years, I watched their IT morph from consisting of a single person working for the Financial Department to being a full-fledged, rightfully distinct, globally reaching department. The manager was even promoted to the distinguished C-level ranking of CTO.

The purpose of information technology has also evolved in that time. While it used to merely be a team of people in charge of maintaining computers, installing printers, and producing mostly financial reports, it now extends into areas of security and business processes, reaching beyond finance into every single area of the company. Even to physical security.

Anything that beeps and has a screen and a battery seems to fall into the hands of IT for one reason or another.

it crowd

Those departments, business units, and offices that stray too far from IT standards and guidelines, by bringing their own device to work or purchasing software licenses directly, are quickly brought back into the fold for not complying with those standards and threatened with putting at risk company security policies – which is true at times.

IT clearly plays a crucial role in any organization. It also has the potential to be a source of savings and even revenue if it works to provide its core users with the best technology possible, if it focuses on the business first, and if it applies and maintains security protocols—all while abiding by the necessary standards.

It comes down to four things: who’s in charge, the company culture, the core interests of the IT group, and its mandate from the higher-ups.

“Nobody Gets Fired For Buying IBM”

I heard this quote in my S/36 and AS/400 days, and it remains one of my favorites. At the time, I was wondering why screens were still green and why we were coding in languages that were made for punch cards instead of keyboards. The reason we were using that technology at the turn of the century came down to the fact that someone was making sure their behind was covered if stuff hit the fan. Just blame IBM, the software vendor, or the consulting team.

As time goes on, the objection above is still heard, only instead of “IBM,” people might mention Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, or SAP. It’s hard to think of any company with more than 1,000 employees ever selecting an innovative and young technology company, hardware, software, or services to implement core technology for their users. If things fall apart, who immediately goes after the vendors? The CTO.

For example, the pharmaceutical industry took much longer to move to cloud-based software than other sectors did; some concerning issues with data security and patient protection delayed them. Once two or three of the larger pharma companies made the plunge, though, it was deemed “safe” to start using cloud services. Then, other CTOs looked to their competitors and saw the benefits they were gaining by doing so.

For those innovating and willing to experiment, it is a risk—but one that can be mitigated. For the followers, they are simply covering their behind. They mostly let others spend their money, paving the way for them to come in later after everything is seen to be working and stable.

Innovation Killers

When we present ClicData to large organizations, we put ourselves in the same camp as Oracle, Tableau, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. We not only offer a data warehouse built right into BI, but we also offer an ELT tool that competes with other big names such as Talend and Information. Our built-in portal can even provide an alternative choice to a company’s own intranet.

In essence, ClicData competes with very big companies whose decades-old technologies are embedded in the IT systems of many companies. They spend much of their licensing revenue ensuring they maintain that position, a large percentage of which goes to marketing and sales, while the rest is spent on patching their current product.

So it’s no wonder that IT would want to challenge a newcomer. It’s human nature.

Uber continues to be challenged to this day by taxi companies despite the fact that riders and drivers clearly report that it is a good service. Human nature is what kills great ideas— not on the merits but just because they are different. Politics kills innovation more than funding. And fear destroys any chance of giving something new a try. It’s dramatic, but it’s true.

We hear the objections that companies tell us they have about implementing our services. Many are valid, of course, and we make sure to address them.

But we have heard many others that have little reason for being. Here are some of them:

“Our cloud is safer”

A variation of this objection is, “We only do on-premises work.” We’ve heard this objection back in 2015 from large and small businesses, even at a time when governments and health institutions are using cloud services.

Those who believe they can run their data centers better than the companies that make the hardware and software installed in those data centers are essentially protecting their jobs. They probably love the fact that they get to see blinking lights in a windowed room somewhere. These are the same folks that put in an eight-digit push button door handle to the data center as a security entry mechanism.

“We prefer that cloud”

From the same folks that brought you “Are you a PC or a Mac?”, the 2020s brought you “Are you an Amazon or an Azure?” war. Or “All of our systems are on Amazon.” Can you move your entire application to Amazon? Of course not. This makes no sense because it really doesn’t matter one bit. If the servers and application are still inaccessible, why would anyone care if it’s A or B? But they do.

“Only open source”

This is a fair yet naïve concern.

If you are just looking at the state of GitHub projects or npm, you are basing your company on technology that anyone—including your competitors—can contribute to and that is usually under-funded. (A recent study states that over 80% of open-source projects used in mission-critical systems are underfunded.) If the trend continues, it will eventually create more backdoor and security nightmares. If that doesn’t scare you, read this blog about how one of the core security technologies, used by millions, is at risk simply due to underfunding.

So, how do we use open source and still make a business out of it? If you have an answer to that, then I think open-source is a good option. But until then, you might want to pick a platform that is at least investing enough funding and effort to maintain its code.

“You aren’t XYZ-certified”

This is one that can hit the smaller software vendors the hardest. Becoming ISO or SOC-certified is not an easy task. In fact, just understanding what it means to be certified is a hurdle for most— customers included. HIPAA requires compliance; it is not a certification. ISO is a certification. In both cases, there’s lots of documentation, and there are lots of meetings, trainings, and processes that need to be put in place, not to mention the resource or resources needed to accomplish all that. It’s just not an easy task.

So, How Do We Sell?

A business partner asked me for my thoughts about how to best handle IT objections from our potential customers. My answer was short and sweet: We support their objections to the fullest. I mean, these folks work with the business day in and day out. They know the challenges; in most cases, they’re the ones providing the first level of support. If their arguments are valid, then we need to support their objections and work with them.

If their objections are valid, then we need to work with them on it as a partnership. As long as their objections are not along the lines of “Which cloud do you operate in?” and they’re not merely throwing acronyms of certification at us for the sake of making things seem too complex or near impossible for them to use our platform, then we’ll go there.

We take on customers as partners. As long as they choose to work with us, we ensure that the platform continues to add value to them. We discuss top-of-mind concerns, such as:

Data Security

Our customers’ data is stored in SQL server databases. The servers are fully managed by Microsoft Azure and include monitoring, backups, zone redundancy, and high availability.

We back up logs every 15 minutes, differentials every six hours, and do a full backup daily, and we keep the logs for 35 days on a separate storage device. We maintain a read-only replica of the data, and we are able to fully restore it within six hours for average database sizes. Some companies find it a challenge to be assured that encryption, key management, and other functions are being applied. We build into the platform an encryption methodology that is used both at rest and in transit.

We can provide insights about the type of physical servers and networks we purchase from Microsoft, and we clarify how they apply to their data centers. Still, most customers are well aware of the benefits, and they know that the choice to use dedicated cloud providers, whose full-time job is all about security, is clear. We truly partner with a company’s IT to make sure they are satisfied with the level of security provided by Microsoft Azure and ClicData so that they have peace of mind.

Certifications and Compliance

ClicData works with our customers to provide data processing agreements, HIPAA compliance worksheets, and data agreements for GDPR, CCPA, and other regulatory acts. We work with Microsoft Azure so that we can ease the burden on our customers by storing their data in our applications and servers. We help IT with the tedious yet necessary portion of their role within the company—the one that ensures that the company is adhering to regulations in their region of operation. This is seen as a huge help and saves them days and weeks of work.

Compliance Certificates

ClicData is built for IT

ClicData was built with an IT mindset. It was our experience in IT, after all, that helped us see the looming issues with existing data visualization tools like Tableau and PowerBI, the cost of licensing, installing, and maintaining a data warehouse, and the cost of maintaining all the associated interfaces.

So we developed ClicData as a platform that can be expanded in many ways and adopted by the more technically oriented teams out there. It can be embedded into other apps and portals, and it can integrate other apps, too. It has an extensive API for better integration, single sign-on, custom domain, custom email, and many other features that allow IT to make it their own.

Ability to build a playground

IT necessarily imposes restrictions to safeguard the company’s valuable data. At the same time, business users need to access that data to report, export, explore, and analyze. These two objectives sometimes impose restrictions and cause frustration on both sides. The ClicData platform can be seen as neutral ground whereby IT can expose the data it is comfortable exposing while giving business users a playground to safely access and explore the data.

Security still applies, but it does so within the platform. It is not necessarily applied to all other systems.

Made for business users who are hungry for data

Business users, especially in marketing and sales, identify, generate, and purchase market data. They typically generate more data much faster than IT can sometimes accommodate and adopt into their own processes. This constant demand for more data to be integrated, even if temporarily, can cause undue stress on IT resources and staff as they attempt to ensure a high caliber of service and speed.

By allowing ClicData to serve as a data import area for business users, IT can both analyze the usefulness of the data and look into whether or not it should adopt it as part of its core services and reporting.

Use ClicData as your buffer

Let’s face it, if you need to make changes to your core or transactional systems every time users require a new field, column, flag, or calculation, you would be in dire straits. Just the QA process alone would take you ages, with the potential that you’d find out that the item in question is only used in a few reports or metrics. Yet you would need to add the storage, rebuild or update the interfaces, include it in the data models, cubes, and then finally add it to the dashboards and reports.

So why not add what is needed for reporting and analysis in ClicData? Create separate tables for dictionaries, key values, and constants used in calculations, along with indicators and charts, without having to modify your back-end systems. ClicData provides IT with an added layer so that business rules, data augmentation, and enhancement can take place without refactoring your entire back-end processes.

Ability to prototype before you build

Sometimes IT has great ideas that can be prototyped for the business community, clients, partners, and employees. Building these prototypes, especially those involving data and reporting, can be costly and can require the involvement of entire environments and all core teams—analysis, development, security, operations, DBAs, and more.

But there’s another way. You can use ClicData to prototype with real data, and by doing so, you can address problem areas before the final build. You can also impress your end-users in iterative, co-development sessions.

Summary

ClicData believes in “data democratization”—the ability of any business user to access the data that’s relevant to their job and slice it and dice it any way they want. Data democratization allows users to build dashboards for their teams and co-workers and be self-sufficient. But we also have first-hand knowledge of the harsh realities of business data and analytics. It is very hard, costly, and time-consuming. Most importantly, for larger companies, it requires IT and technical knowledge to keep it working.

ClicData was built with this dual purpose in mind—to provide technical power behind the easy features. So, whenever you need it, it is there.

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