Digitally empowered customers — both businesses and consumers — wield a huge influence on enterprise strategies, policies, and customer-facing and internal processes. With mobile devices, the Internet, and all-but-unlimited access to information about products, services, prices, and deals, customers are now well informed about companies and their products, and are able to quickly find alternatives and use peer pressure to drive change. But not all organizations have readily embraced this new paradigm shift, desperately clinging to rigid policies and inflexible business processes. A common thread running through the profile of most of the companies that are not succeeding in this new day and age is an inability to manage change successfully. Business agility — reacting to fast-changing business needs — is what enables businesses to thrive amid ever-accelerating market changes and dynamics.

What does business agility mean in pragmatic and actionable terms to sourcing and vendor management professionals (SVM) working on procuring BI professional services? In addition to the traditional vendor selection criteria such as breadth and depth of service offerings or experience and expertise in a particular industry or business domain, Forrester believes that it's now also about embracing Agile BI. Forrester's Agile BI concept is characterized by methodologies, processes, organizational structure, and technologies that enable decision-makers to be more flexible and responsive to the fast pace of business change. But most importantly, it's all about best practices, lessons learned, and many battle scars. Even if an organization's internal technology professionals have experience with several BI implementations, that's not nearly enough. Forrester believes that it's the realm of professional management consultants and systems integrators to accumulate thousands of such best practices, not just mere dozens. Then and only then can a professional services firm find implementation patterns and correlate them with successful versus failed BI initiatives.

The BI services market is a crowded and highly mature market. There are literally tens of thousands of large, midsize, and boutique vendors around the globe. Forrester knows at least a hundred of them by name, and tracks a few dozen closely. It is no surprise that the top 12 large global BI service providers reviewed in this research are members of an elite club. While Forrester finds it relatively easy to differentiate between a market leader and a boutique firm in terms of the breadth of services, global reach, ability to mitigate all aspects of project risk, and other criteria, differentiating among the leaders is not a trivial task. Indeed, all vendors reviewed in this research have best-in-class BI strategy and implementation methodologies, project and risk management templates that are hard to poke holes in, comprehensive BI reference architectures, and extensive expertise and experience in the latest BI tools and technologies across most geographies, verticals, and business domains.

Rather than agonizing and spending months of SVM pros' valuable time on BI service provider selection, Forrester recommends a very pragmatic five-step approach.

  • 1. All the providers included in this evaluation should be on your long list. Do not examine this Forrester Wave graphic with a magnifying glass. Rest easy that the 12 providers in this evaluation are top, world-class organizations — market leaders indeed. These providers all have global reach, breadth and depth across major geographies and industries, highly qualified individuals, a long history of successful projects, and top methodologies and execution skills.

  • 2. Adjust the initial list based on conflicts of interest or prior experience with the vendors. Take a look at the list and run it through a sanity check. For example, you may notice an advisory firm on the list that happens to be your auditor or a firm whose director is also on your board. Take these firms off your list to avoid conflicts of interest. Similarly, if you've had a less-than-stellar experience with a particular service provider in the past, remove them from the list as well.

  • 3. Supplement the list with midsize and boutique firms. While the sheer breadth and scope of large global strategic BI initiatives typically requires engagement with a market leader, there's always a risk of being lost in a large vendor corporate shuffle; multiple, conflicting client priorities; and long decision/approval cycles from the service provider management hierarchy. There's also something to be said about working with subject matter experts who are focused on one thing, and one thing only. These, plus a potential preference for local resources or prior positive experience with a specific firm are just some of the reasons you may want to invite other smaller firms to play.

  • 4. Send out your RFI/RFP to the resulting long list of service providers. All the vendors on the list you come up with should receive your request for information/proposal (RFI/RFP). As an added benefit of Forrester research, we recommend leveraging the evaluation model created in this research as a main building block of your RFI/RFP. Then, realistically, not all will reply, so the list will again grow shorter. Responding to an RFI/RFP is a laborious, resource-intensive process. Most of these providers are aware of your existing vendor relationships, and will often not waste their time on a response, unless they are convinced that they have a fair shot and you are not "just fishing" to put a price pressure on their choice provider, or to fulfill an internal or government-regulated sourcing guideline on how many bids there should be for any specific project. Typically Forrester sees clients ending up with no more than five to six vendors at this stage.

  • 5. Make your final selection based on five main criteria. Forrester recommends making the final selection based on: the specific people being proposed for the project; the provider and people proposed for the project's experience in your business domain and/or industry; the vendor's presence in your key geographic locations; the delivery support capabilities the provider can bring to the engagement (such as project accelerators, tools, and frameworks); and the vendor's embrace and adherence to Agile BI concept and best practices.

In Forrester's 30-criteria evaluation of BI services providers, we identified the 12 most significant services providers in the category — Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), HP, IBM, Infosys, KPMG, PwC, TCS, and Wipro — and researched, analyzed, and scored them. This report details our findings about how well each vendor and their respective BI service offerings fulfill our evaluation criteria and where they stand in relation to each other to help SVM professionals and their companies select the right service partner for their BI initiatives.

Originally published by Forrester Research. Published with permission.

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