As the BI market matures, I often get asked what is my view of the data visualisation market? Dashboard’s creation tools first became established 7-8 years ago. Their prime role was to make life easier for IT staff and data analysts who were becoming overloaded with requests for more and more data as organisations became more data aware. In fact, many vendors basic value proposition was about empowering business users to self-serve without the need for an IT department.
I have seen many organisations struggle with this and wondered when people would get beyond the hype of the marketing message. In my view, the adoption of these tools hasn’t lived up to their promise of giving users easy access to the data they need.
Over the last few months, I came across a great piece of writing from a specialist BI research consultancy. The Eckerson Group are one of the companies who in my view have analysed what is happening in the real world:
“Despite its promise to liberate users from reliance on their IT department, self-service analytics is not that easy to achieve. Many companies that have deployed self-service analytics have become inundated by a tsunami of conflicting reports, spreadmarts, renegade reporting systems and other data silos. These companies have learned that the goal of self service is not unfettered liberation from IT, but rather a partnership that balances freedom with control, flexibility and standards, governance and self-service”
Source: Eckerson Group 2017
Why hasn’t the self-service approached worked for business users?
To understand, what has gone wrong you need to look at the different types of users and their needs. For me in most organisations these are broken down into four groups :
It seemed logical then to move from business intelligence solutions delivered via a Centralised Control approach to Self Service BI by making the tools available, The aim of this was to provide easy-to-use visualisation tools sitting on top of something like a data warehouse that users could then create their own views of the data. This approach has worked well for the Data Analysts but the business users have found these products far too complex and have not adopted them.
A Business Week Research study into 406 U.S. IT Executives and 675 Business Executives found that 55% of business users, contrasted with only 18% of IT users found difficulty in finding the information they require when using Business Intelligence. (Source: BusinessWeek Research Services)
Perhaps users are expected to be more proficient in these tools than they actually are?
In our experience, users in many organisations have reverted back to Excel. Even in large-scale operations MS Excel is still the reporting tool that is most widely used, even though this was never what it was designed for.
What went wrong?
So what do organisations need to do to be successful?
Based on our experience, and that of our clients, we recommend the following steps to overcome these issues:
• Don’t look for a “one size fits all” solution. The tools that business users need will be simpler in their design and their approach than the data analysts. Many organisations have begun to select different tools for the different user communities.
• Implement packaged dashboards that relate to one key application area of the business (e.g. HR) and then grow out from there by adding in new datasets and connections. Packaged application suppliers have in-depth knowledge of their data and can ensure that the dashboards are fit for purpose.
• Focus dashboard design on the real questions that a business user would ask. Think carefully about the drill downs and routes through the data. Be careful about providing users with a generic self service module which will contain too much data as this will prove to be too complex
• Develop different dashboards that are relevant to different roles within the business – for example high level KPIs for the Executive team that are optimised for mobile devices, and data-intensive detailed dashboards for operational management. This will grow user adoption and the benefits users will get from the application
For a more detailed analysis request a copy of our White Paper which has been written in collaboration with Stinus Andersen, Head of Information Systems Services at Morson International.
The white paper draws on his practical experience of implementing and rolling out a very successful data visualization project which now distributes critical business information to managers, consultants, and most importantly major clients across the organisation, and also reviews Intuitive’s approach to packaged dashboards.
Roger Stocker, Sales Director