Business intelligence (BI) technologies are highly sophisticated and extremely complex. Even the most tech-savvy users, and BI evangelists, who know about BI from beginning to end, will admit that even they cannot fully grasp the potential that BI offers.
“If these experts cannot be expected to know everything about BI, how can we expect the average user to grasp all the intricacies of complicated BI tools and solutions?” asks Rick Parry, chairman and CEO of AIGS.
“As BI becomes even more crucial for company operations, it will become increasingly critical for businesses to simplify their BI tools, enabling non-technical users to access and use mission-critical data without this assistance of the IT department or BI expert should they have to read a report or run a query.”
The main reason that companies find themselves encumbered by complex, legacy BI solutions is that users’ needs are not considered from the ground up, or in the decision making process. “BI is incredibly complex, and because of this, those in charge of deciding what is needed in terms of products and tools, take their lead from the technical department. This isn’t the wrong thing to do, but in isolation, it is ineffective. Of course technical will have very valuable insight and opinion into the capabilities offered by the tools, however, they are not the ones actually using them at the end of the day, which is why user buy-in is vital,” Parry says.
He says it is imperative that members of other departments be on the search team that’s having the conversation about BI investments. “Those with the purchasing power need to listen to the requirements and concerns that these less-technical staff may have, and these employees must be there for any product demos that happen for the duration of the decision making process so that they can get a feel for how the tool works, and it’s simplicity or complexity.”
Companies who want their BI to be actionable must ensure it is fully accessible to non and less-technical users. “BI’s core objective is to provide the correct information to the appropriate people at the right time. If only the most high-level data scientists need access, then a complex BI tool isn’t a problem at all. However, this isn’t the case in most businesses. They want BI solutions that make reports and queries easier across the entire business, and all its various departments. Let’s face it, in today’s highly competitive business climate, the more users that can access the latest, most up-to-date information, the better.”
According to Parry, another problem with complex BI systems is that the users are often at the mercy of the technical department for their reporting requirements. “This can be an onerous process. Requests need to be submitted, and due to the busy nature of IT departments, the wait to actually receive the report can be interminable, taking up to months at a time. A backlog will impact the entire company, as the information becomes stale. For example, how can the supply chain function at an optimum level without the latest sales numbers, figures and forecasts? This leads to decision making in hindsight, which is frustrating and inaccurate.”
User-friendly BI tools and solutions are the way forward, says Parry. “Organisations can free up time for the end users, as well as the technical departments saddled with creating the actual reports. Simple BI tools allow employees to run their own reports as and when they need them, removing backlogs, boosting accuracy and ensuring the have the most up-to-date information right at their fingertips. Everyone in the organisation can focus their time and resources on their actual jobs, the company’s core business, which will only improve efficiency and the bottom line.”