Why Information Apps are the Key to High BI Adoption Rates

PendulumOver the past 20 years or so, when it comes to deciding the best way to ensure business people have fingertip access to the information they need to make decisions, the pendulum has swung repeatedly between 2 extremes.

On the one hand, you have what you might call do-it-yourself, self-service BI and, on the one hand, centrally produced reports and dashboards. And, whilst the technology has moved on and undoubtedly improved, still neither approach has been successful in reaching the full, diverse set of decision makers within our organizations.

At Antivia, we have seen first-hand, through the success of our customers, that information applications offer a happy medium between these 2 extremes and can satisfy the needs of the majority of business users within our organizations.

However, first, a little background…

Traditional reports and dashboards prove too simplistic

Traditional reports and dashboards are usually created by the IT team and then shared with business users. They have the virtue of being easy to use, so people didn’t have to take time out to go on a training course to get up to speed with them. However, the reality is that delivering information in this way is too simplistic for most people’s needs. These reports and dashboards are too one dimensional and do not provide enough detail, so they end up spawning more questions than they answer.

This results in a large volume of new report requests into IT from business users. These requests build up over time into a reporting backlog. This reporting backlog causes frustration all round. IT feels overworked and overwhelmed. Business people feel they are waiting too long for the information they need, forcing them to make decisions based on gut feel in the absence of any useful data.

The do-it-yourself approach is too hard for most business users

It is often against this background that organizations decide that things must change. The answer, they decide, is to empower business people to answer their own questions by providing them with a BI tool, some training and access to the underlying data. This way they won’t be reliant on IT to provide answers to their follow-up questions and, at the same time, the organization can eliminate its reporting backlog.

However, whilst this theory is great, the reality is somewhat different.

When we stop to think about the different types of people who inhabit the different areas of our organizations, it’s clear that most have day jobs which aren’t focused on data analysis – they are supposed to be out selling, or answering customer enquiries, or doing one of the myriad of other roles that helps an organization to run smoothly on a day to day basis.

So, after these people have been trained in how to use their new BI tool, they get back to their day jobs of running the business and by the time they get round to picking up the tool again, most of their training has been forgotten. The result is that only a few people ever end up mastering and regularly using the tool and everyone else relies on this small group to produce information for them. So, before long we’ve fallen back into the traditional reports and dashboards model that we tried to escape and the reporting backlog starts to grown once more.

Information applications offer a happy medium

To break out of this cycle, we need a different approach to addressing the information needs of our business users. For most people, that different approach is providing them with an information application.

Information applications offer a middle ground. They have the depth to provide answers to multiple business questions, which avoids the need to go back to IT or to a power-user … eliminating the reporting backlog. At the same time, they provide an interface that fits the flow of the business and speaks the user’s language. This way, a business user can pick-up and use their information app without training – just as they can with a consumer app.

This results in high adoption and ensures business people have the information they need, when they need it.

However, there are other factors to consider when looking for tools to help you create information apps:

  • With business requirements changing rapidly, you need to select a tool that offers a fast time to value. This means a tool that enables you to create information apps without coding, so you are not reliant on scarce development resources. Ideally, you want a tool that both power-users in the business (e.g. the go to people for Excel) and the BI team can use
  • To satisfy the needs of your remote workers, you need a tool that can provide them with fast access to their information with full interactivity even when they are out and about with no network connection. So, you need a tool with a rich set of offline capabilities.

This is a model for 21st century BI success and it is based on giving the right tools to the right people.

To see this in action, watch this 2-minute video of DecisionPoint.

Check out this example information application

Peak RecruitmentWe talk a lot in this blog about information applications and why they are the ideal way for the majority of business people in our organizations to consume information.

We explain why they should be task-focused, require no training to use and yet provide the flexibility to answer multiple business questions. And, we give examples from the consumer world of the types of interface we should be aiming for with our information applications. Continue reading

Self-service BI requires more than generic data exploration tools

gas station In a recent blog post: “The Myth of Self-Service Analytics“, data visualization expert Stephen Few took BI vendors to task for their use of the term “self-service”. He opened with the remark: “Exploring and analyzing data is not at all like pumping your own gas”.

The pumping gas analogy is one I like. It is also one I have used myself for some time. The earliest example I could find being this slide from a presentation I gave back in 2013: Continue reading

Calculating the cost of moving to a new BI tool

BI Tool Switch ROI Calculator - AssumptionsIt’s funny. As business intelligence professionals we spend our lives trying to encourage a data-driven decision making culture within our organizations.

But, at the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’re as prone as anyone else to making decisions based on gut feel rather than facts.

A common example I see of this is when it comes to considering replacing an existing business intelligence product. The current product may be old and cumbersome. It may take an age to create new content with this tool. Maintaining existing content may be onerous and time-consuming. And, all of this may require specialist skills. Continue reading

Google’s Olympic Self-Service BI Lesson

Google Olympics Rio 2016For a lesson in how to deliver Self-Service BI to the majority of people in your organization, you could do worse than to look at how Google is serving up information for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

If you search Google for an Olympic event or sport (e.g. try typing in Olympic Swimming), you get back a thoughtfully designed, mini information app. Continue reading

Summer Reading. Antivia’s most popular business intelligence posts of 2016

Summer ReadingWith the summer vacation season upon us, we felt it was time for reflection, so we’ve taken a look at some of the most popular posts on this blog so far in 2016.

We start with the 3 posts that have attracted the most interest this year: Continue reading

What you need to know about information applications

4 information appsInformation applications are a new way of delivering information to front-line decision-makers to enable them to answer their immediate and follow-up questions and to guide them in their daily activities.

Donald MacCormick recently explained that: Information applications look a lot like interactive dashboards, but they also look a lot like the web and mobile ‘applications’ we use every day (on-line banking, on-line weather, on-line stocks and shares, … in fact, pretty much anything we do on-line in our non-work lives). Interfaces we can use almost without thinking and certainly without any training or documentation.”

This no need for training is critical, because, as we’ve said before, end-user training is a sure-fire killer of BI adoption and BI project success. Continue reading

If you wanted a sandwich, you would not tolerate BI-style “self-service”

Self-Service Sandwich BarIn his recent blog post, Wayne Eckerson opens:

The promise of self-service analytics is almost too good to be true. Business people get the information they want, when they want it, how they want it

From there, he goes on to explain how he has seen this vision fail inside organizations, in a post which nicely articulates some of the pitfalls of self-service analytics.

However, I want to take a step back and look at his opening premise. Particularly, the aspect summarized as: Self-service analytics gives business people information “how they want it”. Continue reading

How to put information into the hands of front-line workers

In a recent post on this blog, my colleague Donald MacCormick, picked-up on a comment from Howard Dresner’s latest Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Study: “for the first time, operations moved ahead of executives in 2016 as the leading driver of business intelligence initiatives”

When discussing the findings of this report on Howard’s regular Friday #BIWisdom tweetchat, one contributor said: “More people are recognizing that the value of their data increases when put in the hands of people on the front lines.”

This is a sentiment we at Antivia wholeheartedly agree with, and so, in this post, we’re going to look at some examples of how we can put information into the hands of our front-line workers: Continue reading

Is end-user training killing your BI project?

User TrainingDo you have time set aside in your business intelligence (BI) project plan to train your business end-users? If you do, then I would urge you to think hard about what you are doing, because the need for business user training may well be an indicator that your project will not be the success you are hoping for.

As Mico Yuk is fond of saying, there is only one success metric which matters in BI: User Adoption. And, there are three reasons why the need for business user training kills adoption: Continue reading