Most of us tech guys have been in the situation of moving in together with our girlfriend or wife just to learn that our beloved high quality AV equipment and large loudspeakers never even made it to the doorstep. “It is too ugly, too large, too inconvenient and too button..ized” were some of the arguments. The terms ‘quality’ and ‘sound’ never stood a chance! Superior technology is defeated by the SBB device (Small, Bad-sound, But-nice-looking), just because it has a better Wife Acceptance Factor. Haven’t we all – to some extend – used the arguments that the primary selection criteria should be the content of the box and not the look and feel?
Two lessons learned:
- By the end of the day the girlfriend won the “battle” and you were practicing being content with the huge loudspeakers winding up in the basement instead of being sold
- Maybe she was not as wrong as we initially believed. Did it really reduce our quality of life? (thinking of all the Apple gadgets we can buy instead)
So now,- what has this to do with BI development?
Few months ago Gartner held its annual BI conference in London. If I should describe with one word the theme of the presentations I attended, it would be USAGE. One of the major challenges in BI is to increase user adoption, increase the number of users, and to ensure an active usage of the solutions developed. For a lot of solutions only a fragment of the potential target user group is actively using it.
There are many factors that affect BI adoption ranging from good requirement specification to communication and training, but one element in particular stood out at the conference: Ease of use/ convenience.
In Gartners latest MQ for BI released in January they state:
With “ease of use” now surpassing “functionality” for the first time as the dominant BI platform buying criterion in research conducted for this report, vocal, demanding and influential business users are increasingly driving BI purchasing decisions, most often choosing easier to use data discovery tools over traditional BI platforms
There are two interesting points for us in this statement:
- Users prefer easy to use tools over solid architecture and functionality
- Users increasingly drive BI purchasing decisions
Users prefer easy to use tools over solid architecture and functionality
One scary example of this is that Platon last year were in fact defeated by a web design company in selling a complete BI/DW solution. The web design company showed the customer a lot of nice screenshots and then an architecture drawing with just one box below the nice graphics saying something like “…and here comes the data..”. We, on the other hand, showed a best practice layered architecture, highlighted the challenges and how we would address it….and we lost. We could of course start a discussion of client maturity, but as we see a similar trend in several organizations, it simply cannot be ignored…this is what users want
Another thing users want is “ANY device”. They don’t want to be limited by their laptops. No need to say that ALL vendors in the exhibition hall at the Gartner conference either presented solutions for Ipad/Iphone or had an i<something> as prize we could win. i<something> has a high User Acceptance Factor (as well as a Wife Acceptance Factor – not to forget)
Gartner predicts that by 2013, 33% of all BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices. This seems high but is nevertheless a major trend we should pay attention to.
Users are driving purchase decisions
As for the wife acceptance, you can be sure, that the user preferences will prevail in the long term. Gartner research shows that users already control more than 40% of the BI purchasing budget this year….and this number will just increase. The power balance between IT and business has changed.
Why has this usage thing become so hot?
A slide we have been using in Platon for a decade shows this value chain for information:
Data –> Information –> Knowledge –>Action
When it comes to collecting and transforming data into information and knowledge the market is very mature in terms of tools and best practices.
But the bad news is that everything above, even if delivered in a top architected and well optimized solution is simply a waste of money unless it is used in terms of changing or driving business decisions. If we do not address the usage/action we are just wasting money.
Nigel Pendse confirms in this OLAP Report that BI benefits are closely related to response time and ease of use. I also experience this from many dialogues with users who are frustrated with the information delivery interfaces made available to them.
The bottom line
(…as mentioned above – knowledge not used is just waste..)
Should we stop making good solid architecture and just focus on GUI and Apps? Of course not, -but we must do both! Good architecture might guarantee a solid foundation that can adapt to future changes but a good architecture alone does not provide business benefit. Therefor in your next BI project try to put more emphasis on the usage side and consider how you can make the solution convenient. Challenge the user on how they intend to drive value from the solution and how they will share their best practice on usage.
Peder J. Pedersen