Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dresner’s Point: How to Move the Needle in User Adoption

The topic of how to increase user adoption of business intelligence technologies generated a lot of opinions in a recent Friday #BIWisdom tweetchat.

The tweets started with opinions about what hampers user adoption. Some tweeted that the tangling of BI into the Big Data space causes confusion, it’s a mistake to try to get end users to adopt “analyst tools” and we must stop force-feeding generic analysis tools to end users even if they are “simple” to use. Someone tweeted that some organizations make the mistake of working only with power users who may have a vested interest in not expanding adoption to others. Many agreed that trying to change a user’s adoption of and interaction with BI tools on a daily basis is difficult; one tweet compared it to trying to change someone’s religion or belief system.

The conversation turned when a #BIWisdom tribe member stated that “BI encompasses people, process and technology; but most implementations focus on the technology and forget the people and process.” Others then chimed in with:

• BI should just be intuitive and just a part of other apps; users don’t want to think about doing BI
• Predictive analytics adds a lot of value; but it needs to be a part of users’ current desktop app, not a separate app
• Analytics should be placed inside business processes and link to actions rather than making users go to another system
• BI solutions should not be approached from a one-size-fits-all mindset

A participant tweeted that “Vendors need to push toward true self-service functionalities and super-easy user interfaces; self-service lies not in making generic tools simpler to use but in custom interfaces for specific tasks.” This tweet sparked comments comparing BI apps to mobile apps, as apps on smart phones and apps are very task oriented, enticing and focus on the end user. Mobile apps have the characteristics that “good BI” should have: agile, visual, interactive and intuitive. Unfortunately this seldom occurs.
Some tweeted that perhaps we should apply the mobile app model to business intelligence. Another participant added that “Every hour of training needed for BI technology cuts user adoption by at least 50 percent — compare that to the quick adoption of iPads and other tablets, which need no manual or training course.”

In the end, the group concluded that there is not enough focus on incentives. They agreed that bad analysis often goes unpunished and good analysis often goes unrewarded. “People who use BI technology well should be made into organizational heroes in internal communications and should be rewarded,” tweeted a tribe member. Organizations should praise people who demonstrate transparency and accountability as both are essential in an effective BI environment.

Along that line, someone added that organizations should also “identify employees who are against the necessary change management necessary to build a corporate culture that embraces fact-based analysis and accountability and then communicate to them the value/benefits of leveraging BI. That aligns with my own observation over the years that, without top-down strategic change management, an organization will not widely adopt BI.

Bottom line: A lot has changed, and the way we use technology today is vastly different from 20 years ago or even a decade ago. But one thing has not changed: technology adoption must be driven top down. If the CEO and other CxOs don’t believe in the technology, nobody else will either. My observance is that CxOs must embrace the technology; when they believe it is critical to their personal success, everyone else will get on board too. As soon as there is a hint that maybe the technology is not strategically important, people will treat it with denial and neglect.

There are some things that can be done to “move the needle” in BI user adoption, but nothing is as impactful as getting the CEO on board.

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Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.

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