Putting business intelligence tools in the hands of business users is the only way for companies to keep up with both the increased data volumes flowing through the organisation and the fast pace of organisational change.
This is the view of Sean Paine, COO of information solutions specialist, EnterpriseWorx. “To achieve this, IT departments and business managers need to work hand-in-glove,” he says.
According to recent global research by the Aberdeen Group, 57% of business intelligence (BI) projects are delivered late.
Research into operational business intelligence found that 64% of business managers have seen their decision window shrink in the past 12 months, while analytic data volumes have grown by 40%. Moreover, 70% of organisations need to provide information about business events within the day of them occurring for managers to make timely decisions.
“In today’s dynamic business environment, late information is almost as inadequate as no information at all,” says Paine. “Increasingly, business managers are pressured to make decisions more rapidly.”
“Consumer-oriented devices such as the iPad provide the platform to make this possible, and there is a tremendous drive from software companies to provide appropriate applications,” says Paine. “But there are still mindset challenges to be overcome. The Aberdeen research is important because it focuses on how organisations can make BI more agile so that managers can easily find the information they need as the business changes.”
Agile BI, as defined by the Aberdeen Group is “BI that can rapidly and cost-effectively adapt to meet changing business needs”.
“To achieve best-in-class performance, decision makers must engage with management information directly,” says Paine. “This means that the IT department must increase its understanding of business needs, since it still provides the backbone for BI. Companies must also develop a culture that supports the use of self-service BI by managers at a range of levels, so as to help them become self-sufficient.
“Traditional BI, often with only static views of data available, is mainly controlled by IT. As BI has developed a rich interactive visual interface, it has become more accessible, accelerating a shift in the responsibility for creating different views of data to business users.”
Aberdeen found that top performing companies use BI reports and charts run directly against operational data stores, and have decentralised IT and analytics skills.
“The incessant pressure to respond to business events ever faster places a tremendous strain on both the IT people and plumbing that supports BI,” says Aberdeen’s David White. “It requires the organisation to collect raw data, refine it into actionable information, and get it into the hands of business managers at ever-increasing velocities.”
“Aberdeen research shows that organisations using interactive tools are over 2.5 times more likely to get information to users in the time required,” adds Paine. “That is because visual, interactive BI tools tend to make business users self-sufficient and also develop a higher proportion of power users.
“However IT still bears the responsibility for making quality information available for exploration, even as it moves to a more supportive role – providing analytical tools, education and support to help business users become more self-sufficient.”
To achieve success, Aberdeen recommends that companies take the following steps:
Document possible BI data sources. Understanding where data comes from and how metrics are calculated is a key step in building the trust of business managers.
Ensure frequent collaboration between business users and developers. Using an incremental, iterative approach keeps BI projects on tract, ensures that business needs are met and that budgets and timelines are adhered to.
Put training programmes in place for business managers to make them at ease with the general concepts of BI and their particular tools so as to encourage self-sufficiency.
Standardise the development environment to deliver BI to a large and diverse user community. This allows skills and expertise to be fine-tuned and provides economies of scale.
Aim for reports and charts that are full interactive. As business users become comfortable with self-service BI, it is possible to introduce software tools where all parts of a display are available for manipulation to facilitate further analysis of the data.
“Putting information in the hands of those who really understand the business will facilitate decision-making and streamline operations,” says Paine.