There's no debate about the importance of business intelligence as process and business tool; both the robustness of the technology for the business user and the timeliness of the information from it are essential to business operations today. There is a challenge associated with BI, though: The channels through which you get guidance about it have multiplied over time, requiring you to be as smart about your sources of BI market insight as you are about the analytics you use for your organization. This is not always easy, but it's important; you need to be sure you're getting the most practical and timely insight available on vendors and products that you use today or might be examining for your future deployment.

I would encourage you to take a new look at your existing approach to ensure that it's still the best path forward. Ask yourself, are you really sure that dots in boxes that supposedly describe a vendors' usefulness are as good an approach as actually using a request for proposal (RFP) approach that can help save you time and money?

Over the last decade, I have refined a new value-based approach that examines and scores a vendor for its efforts and its products and usefulness for your business and IT needs. The Value Index uses seven categories - usability, capability, manageability, reliability, adaptability, validation and TCO/ROI - and a detailed methodology to properly score a vendor and its products.

Doing effective evaluation of your BI deployments and ensuring their cost-effectiveness requires analysis, and using it well requires education. Given how today's businesses operate and the challenging environments they face, you want that analysis and education when you need it and without complex entanglements like long contracts or commitments to a single consulting or analyst firm provider. I recently noted the importance of the on-demand approach to advice, education and research that our firm announced and was a part of my letter to challenge you to improve your knowledge on what you need to do for your organization and career.

The times have changed and are continuing to change, faster and more radically than many might have guessed. Social media is dramatically changing the ways in which you can engage and learn from others in the industry as I recently wrote.  If you want to get a taste of the timely analysis and research that is available to you, just read some of the latest perspectives from my firm. I am sure you will enjoy them as you determine how to get research- and benchmark-based advice for your needs.

Mark also blogs at VentanaResearch.com/blogs.