Is BI Failing Businesses?
Insurance Experts' Forum, March 7, 2013
In this column, I talk a lot about the power of business intelligence and analytics, and how it is delivering new capabilities and insights to today's insurance operations. BI and analytics represent one of the hottest sectors in software for all industries, because everyone wants to compete on analytics.
In my last post, I pointed out that Gartner predicts widespread adoption of BI across enterprises because the software is getting easier to use.
However, not all analysts agree that today's BI solutions are up to par. Mark Smith, head of Ventana Research, has been a vocal critic of today's BI solutions. BI dashboards, for one, are still stuck in the 1990s, he said in a post a few months back.
Now, he has come out swinging against BI software in general. Smith's main contention is that today's BI solutions are targeted at analysts and quants, and aren't designed for general business consumption. Studies I have authored back up Smith's claim: In one survey of 338 data managers and professionals, fewer than one out of 10 decision makers and employees have access to BI and analytic systems.
Smith sees deficiencies in three key areas:
Personalized notifications and alerts: “Managers and directors have little time to do analysis. Yet BI advancements in visual and data discovery are focused on analysts, and not aimed at the majority of those in business who need to be notified of issues critical to business processes for which they are responsible. We need to make it simpler to consume BI from any point of a presentation.” Ultimately, personalized notifications should be a self-service activity that can be adjusted by the end-user.
Text presentation of analytics: “Even with dashboards, individuals can find it challenging to look at four or more charts with no context in communication about them. Even as we try to make the presentation of charts through visualization fancier, the problem is that majority of business professionals are not trained to interpret charts and would rather read what is going on in their business just as they read the newspaper or digital forms of it on their tablet.”
Make observations on analytics: BI software needs to be able to enable end users to quickly create and edit PowerPoint-style bullet charts that can be easily digested. While the value of PowerPoint could be the topic of a entire blog post in itself, Smith advocates that BI outputs have similar capabilities, in which users can freely add text.
Ultimately, Smith says, there's a reason why so many people still use spreadsheets, and that is the failings of today's BI software. “I hope that BI software providers start to add more communication and collaboration capabilities that adapt to the way people work, rather than the current approach that forces people to spend more time in their products,” he opines. “Your BI software should support all business roles, not just analysts.”
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