BI projects are never short, and, alas, many of them don't end since a fast-paced business environment often introduces new requirements, enhancements and updates before you're even done with your first implementation. Therefore, we typically recommend doing sufficient due diligence upfront when selecting a BI services provider — as you may be stuck with them for a long time. We recommend the following key steps in your selection process:

  1. Map BI project requirements to potential providers. Firms should use Forrester's "BI Services Provider Short-Listing Tool" to create a shortlist of potential providers. With the tool you can input details about your geographic scope, technology needs, and the type of third-party support you need (i.e., consulting versus implementation versus hosting/outsourcing). The tool then outputs a list of potential providers that meet the criteria. For each potential fit, the tool also generates a provider profile summary that offers key details around practice size, characteristics, and areas of expertise.
  2. Narrow your short-list based on additional needs and considerations. Beyond the capabilities of Forrester's "BI Services Provider Short-Listing Tool," firms must eliminate or add partners based on factors such as their current strategic suppliers list or past partner success or failure (and therefore image and reputation internally), plus references from peers. Similarly, some BI services buyers will have a preference for larger, global companies whereas others may want to consider more regional players and boutiques. Some firms will consider a single-provider strategy whereas others may engage multiple providers for different needs/phases.
  3. Send RFI/RFP to potential candidates. Forrester's "BI Service Provider Short-Listing Tool" is a basic starting point only. Most firms will need a more detailed RFI or RFP to uncover additional relevant details about project approach, proposed staffing model for a specific need, costs, or technical IP/accelerators/tools. Beyond key details about project approach and resources, BI services buyers will likely benefit from finding out details around provider strategy, such as SaaS and cloud capabilities or strategic partnerships.
  4. Zero in on the finalist using Forrester's BI consultants' selection methodology. This is where the hard work starts, because from this point on the selection process becomes quite subjective. Dig deeper and understand your prospect's strategic advisory capabilities. Also, check out their existing methodologies, reference architecture, and any relevant solution accelerators. Review their execution methodology, strength in data governance, and experience with next-generation BI technologies (such as Agile BI, self-service BI, and others).

Boris also blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/boris_evelson/.