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2/22/2008
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The Road To Pervasive BI

If you're not using business intelligence tools throughout your workforce, it's time to start--or get left behind in your competitors' dust

Widespread use of business intelligence applications and tools has been the rallying cry of BI vendors for more than a decade, and yet we're nowhere close to making that a reality.

1-800 Contacts' call center agents are BI-enabled
1-800 Contacts' call center agents are BI-enabled

On average, only 25% of workers use BI, according to a survey of 513 companies that I did, with help from Intelligent Enterprise, for my book Successful Business Intelligence. The tools themselves are partially to blame for lackluster adoption, along with company cultures that encourage gut-feel decision making, allow information hoarding, or let IT departments keep data locked away. Blame also rests with a failure to convey the value of BI to business execs, some of whom are confused about how it differs from the ERP system reports and manual spreadsheets they use now.

Yet some companies are finding ways to use BI to better understand and reap value from data to deliver best-in-class service, boost revenue, and increase operating efficiencies. BI is pervasive at these companies, used not only by business analysts, but also by front-line employees and even customers and suppliers.

For BI to be used by more employees and by employees in a wider range of job types within a company, several roads must converge. First, businesses have to fully appreciate the gold mine of data they're amassing. Vendors need to provide lower-cost ways to license and deploy BI. And, while only a small segment of employees need to be business intelligence experts, BI interfaces have to let data be presented in a multitude of ways in whatever interface is optimal and most familiar. However, pervasive BI requires more than technology innovations; it demands information be relevant and aligned with users' motivations and incentives. It's up to the business and IT to work together more closely to make that happen.

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