A recent survey by InformationWeek brought out two interesting findings: the percentage of businesses providing BI tools to more than a quarter of their employees remains unchanged since last year, and major challenges to more widespread adoption include software/implementation complexity and unclear ROI. These are non-trivial challenges from both a technical and business perspective, and the onus is on vendors and IT practitioners to push the pedal.Vendors have a bigger burden to bear. To begin with, BI does not tell a single, coherent and easily understandable story. What exactly is a "BI implementation"? OLAP? Data mining? Operational reporting? Performance management? Historical or predictive? Latent or transactional/real-time (does transactional mean real-time)? Can real-time data be meaningfully combined with a data warehouse? Why is a data warehouse or data mart needed if BI solutions have their own analytical data stores? How much of data integration/ETL is needed to benefit from BI? Is data quality built into the solution, or is that extra? To these questions, add serious concerns surrounding architectural complexity, ease-of-use issues and licensing costs, and it is little wonder that BI is not making as much headway as it could, considering its potential for business impact.
Clearly, vendors have a tremendous opportunity to seize the initiative for building a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. Here's how. • Customers are confused about what they need and what they are buying; help them understand the bigger picture without looking for quick returns. • Help business users understand the benefits more clearly - give them verifiable, unexaggerated real-life stories; provide them with (believable) ROI findings; be more generous with proofs-of-concept and training. • Address the licensing costs issue - sometimes it seems like vendors have built future returns into the solution price, a little like forward EPS built into stock price: "You will have fantastic benefits from your BI solution in the future, so let me charge you more already".
IT practitioners have a "job" on their hands as well - after all, vendors cannot usually make much headway with business users unless facilitated by the technology arm of the enterprise. In your role of business enabler and confidante, you must:
• Understand the pain-points of the users: businesses have limited resources; where would BI provide the most bang for the users' buck? • Educate the users. Help them understand the value of BI, and how it can integrate seamlessly into operational and decision-making processes. • Partner with BI vendors to make things happen in the right direction and at the right speed. Provide them with the insight needed for all-round value and success.
Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson also attributes relatively sluggish market penetration to lack of understanding on the part of enterprises (and I would add vendors and integrators as well) in trying to roll out reporting and analytical tools in isolation from the rest of the BI "stack" - data discovery and integration; analytics; metrics management, presentation, etc. - and in neglecting to tie BI together with other tangential but important related solutions such as Knowledge Management (e.g. discovering reporting capabilities), a BI Portal ( to bring together all these capabilities) and eLearning (to facilitate intuitive, contextual learning). Evelson also encourages data governance & stewardship, linking BI and business processes closely, and - this may come as a surprise to some - pushing Microsoft Excel as the main BI user interface.
Do you agree? What's your experience?A recent survey by InformationWeek brought out two interesting findings: the percentage of businesses providing BI tools to more than a quarter of employees remains unchanged since last year, and major challenges to more widespread adoption include complexity and unclear ROI. These are non-trivial challenges, but here are six steps vendors and IT practitioners can take to push the pedal.