Times are exciting these days when working with user experiences. I’ve been working with BI (under difference acronyms though) since the mid-nineties. Initially the BI user base was focused around top management and specialists. The two user groups have not much in common except an interest for the same numbers. In the early days the specialist mostly had an economical background and the preferred information communication vehicle for them was a good old matrix/table layout. Other more “odd” specialists, perhaps with a marketing background, would be the exception to the rule if the graphical visualization was not the chosen communication form. In my experience top management most often just consumed the information in the form it had (designed by specialists) and did not require or even think of any specialized presentations or form factors. This is about to seriously change.
With the iPad hype happening – also within the BI space – we are beginning to see that simplified content and form factors communicates well to the “IT novice” and “analytical novice” segment – not being disrespectful. Generally top managers do not spent much time on learning new reports, programs or devices – and if they are not IT novices they often behave as if. So – the iPad has changed this fact. “IT novices” are no longer left under restricting IT tyranny (sorry again) any more. They may read the morning paper on the new non-paper device. They have started to buy apps from the internet to loosen the restricted IT bands on them and use the apps at work. This is an important trend that we must pick up as IT/BI professionals. We will not succeed with BI if we don’t understand this new behavior.
In my previous post “The Nature of Engagement” I wrote that it is about creating an emotional attachment of the user to our solution. That is true, but more than that an “engaging experience” could be defined as an experience worth sharing among people (read: users). And sharing is a key word here. You might have heard that the more we share information the higher the business value. As BI specialist I’m certain that the future for BI is found around topics like sharing and collaboration. BI folks usually have lots of beautiful information, in fine quality, nicely integrated and harmonized in wonderful data warehouses. But if we can’t communicate it and fail to deliver it in engaging experiences to the increasing number of highly pervasive user groups using their favorite new devices – we get obsolete! Our, and businesses, precious information will get worthless, and superseded by targeted apps sourcing specific information from unknown places (who said Cloud?). Worthless because the information that will not get used.
Over the last fifteen years we have finally managed to solve most backend issues – we don’t have another fifteen years to get the front-end experiences right. Knowing that Microsoft has about a billion Windows users, of which many business professionals, I’m happy about the recent Windows 8 initiative – Reimaging Windows. This is a great step in the right direction for BI professionals seeking inspiration on what engaging experiences could look like. But in the meantime we need to invest in delivering experience.
Most of the clients I work with have so many low hanging BI experience fruits and easy to pick. It’s about focus. Please join us at the IM 2011 conference in Scandinavia to strengthen your focus. The IM Conference title is “From Data to Decisions”. But what’s important in order to succeed is right in the middle between data and decisions – Engaging Experiences, nothing less!