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Posted by Peder Enhorning

March 12, 2013


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Give Decision Makers Better Access to Business Intelligence!

Business Users Have the Knowledge but Not the Proper BI Tools

End users are decision makers. However, all too often they don’t have the data necessary to make accurate, well informed decisions. Even though they understand the data that drives their business, they don’t have access to the tools to interrogate it. Think about it. The business tools we use every day don’t have the ability to generate insightful reports. If you are a sales manager, perhaps it would be good to know the percentage of client tasks sales people completed on-time and how that correlates to their performance, or simply how many tasks they have relative to sales performance -try extracting that from Salesforce! Perhaps you want to know how sales and marketing activities affect other channels of engagement such as the web. Unfortunately, the tools necessary for these queries are not easily within the grasp of most business users.

Instead, BI reporting tools and data warehouses are controlled by IT and rightly so. IT is the guardian of corporate data, but it’s not generally the function of IT to extract business insight from it. Therefore, solutions need to be available for users to interact with data without burdening IT when doing so.

Tableau Saves the Day – True story!

Last year, a middle manager at a major insurance company was asked to deliver a report to senior executives providing sophisticated sales analytics. He immediately engaged with the company’s Business Objects power user, but after two months of fighting with scripts, data incompatibilities and a general disinterest from IT about his reporting needs, the project had stalled. You would expect that after so much effort they could have completed the task, but it was no further along. Nothing tangible had been accomplished.

Since the manager was now behind on his deliverables, in desperation, he did an online search for something he could use himself. He stumbled across Tableau, installed it, and took a 30 minute online tutorial. He then connected to the corporate Oracle database, completed his analysis and created fantastic visualizations in less than three hours! That’s the power of placing analytics tools in the hands of the user.

This is a great example of how Tableau was able to bridge the technology gap between reports provided by IT and what is most useful for the business end user. Giving reporting tools to the business user, allows them to interact with data and ask iterative questions rather than looking at static reports that are not designed for their use.

By the Numbers

Let’s frame this discussion with some statistics:

  • While most companies have BI systems in place, only 8% of employees are actually using BI tools (BARC).
  • According to Gartner, 70 – 80% of BI projects fail.
  • Cost and complexity account for 70% of the barriers to success (Gartner).

These stats exemplify what we are saying! Costly BI systems that are put in place are not accessible to end-users. Therefore, they provide little value and a lot of frustration.

According to an MIT study, only 4% of organizations use all the data they collect and 30% don’t use much of the data. 65% of organizations say they do not have access to the data they need to make key decisions. But even having access to the data is not enough. You also need the ability to interrogate the data to glean insight. A typical BI implementation takes 7 – 9 months (BARC). Most tools such as Tableau don’t normally take three hours, but time-to-value can be measured in days, not months. However, the biggest pay-off isn’t in time. It’s in the delivery of self-reliance and learning agility. You gain more insight and get much more work done.

Data Driven Rather Than Hunch-Based Decision Making

Stop guessing. Rather than basing decisions on a hunch, analyse the data your organization already collects to make superior, data based decisions. This will shift the question from, “What do you think” to “What do you know?

By providing decision makers with tools that don’t require technical skill-sets and that can easily access information stored in corporate databases and spreadsheets, business users can gain new insights and perform their jobs more effectively.

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