How to meet business needs and user needs with BI

My last class at TDWI San Diego was thought provoking and oh so timely. The growth in self service business intelligence has been widely documented. My class clearly shared the drivers for the rise in the business' desire to drive the information delivery initiative and presented realistic paradigm changes for IT to consider.

The first response to challenges and changes in the corporate world is often to gain control. To centralize. As a result BI programs that become centralized often have perceptions by the business of being bottlenecks and definitely not game changing corporate assets.

Many times the user needs, the business objectives, can be lost in the shuffle to standardize on specific tools to save costs or gain centralized control. Unfortunately, not every business reporting need has the same requirements and every request for information is not created equal.

What happens when a rigid and centralized BI program is implemented? Often the business then begins to satisfy the thirst for information the only way they see available - through side projects, surreptitious tool purchases and what the instructors called "rogue BI programs".

I thought the instructors made a great point. What is needed: refinement and innovation in the tools we deploy so that IT's reaction is more tools that are usable for disparate business challenges versus "fewer tools with more features".

Business intelligence is often thought of as the final destination but instead it is the jumping off point for most users to ask more questions. BI is not passive and is most successful in enabling data driven decision making when user perspectives are integrated. What are some of the key user perspectives we learned?

  • Users need to do things on their own schedule and not according to rigid IT plan.
  • Users react and analyze new problems versus just need passive info in a repeatable, standard report.
  • Users require new data for new problems.
  • Users feel frustrated about lost opportunity when IT is slow to respond.

There are many options recommended to build a flexible and business-driven information delivery environment. The take-aways I noted were:

  • Active tool portfolio management that incorporates data discovery and visualization for tackling new challenges.
  • Cloud computing, in-database and other options that provide speed and flexibility to solve problems quickly but at reduced cost -Approachable analytics that empower the user to answer difficult questions -mobile deployment options so that users can monitor and act.

We are in a challenging and ever-changing business climate and our desire to make decisions based on data has never been greater, thus we have to be open, not closed, to the technology and approaches that make best-in-class organizations.

tags: bi, business intelligence, centralized BI, self-service BI, tdwi, user needs

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