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Guest view: Understanding business users' real BI needs

JY Pook, Vice President, Asia Pacific, Tableau Software | Oct. 23, 2014
It's time to take a firm look at business intelligence from the perspective of it being a business enhancement tool. Here's what to do.

This is the age of information where data rules. Businesses today tap on business intelligence and data analytics to gain insights into their operations, better understand their customers, and project market trends. We have been seeing an increase in adoption in business intelligence solutions in Asia Pacific since 2011.

To be effective, business users need the ability to quickly analyse their data to identify causes, issues and opportunities for improvement. They also need to monitor and distribute these findings to other team members who they collaborate with or report to.

With traditional business intelligence, creating and maintaining effective analyses can be a costly and resource-intensive project that take months. Very often, this involves a process of the business user defining the needs, making a request to IT to acquire or develop the business tool. IT then goes through a second phase of building, selecting and testing as well as deploying the solution. Then there is the issue of training the end user. By the time, the solution is ready; the business situation could have evolved.

The operational business intelligence revolution
It is time to take a firm look at business intelligence from the perspective of it being a business enhancement tool. In other words, let's focus on the business intelligence user's requirements. A recent survey of business intelligence users in the insurance industry revealed that speed and agility of the tool is their top priority.

Such needs for fast and flexible business intelligence calls for a new approach -- an approach some are calling 'operational business intelligence'. It means business intelligence that empowers everyone in the organisation, business owners or knowledge workers, to make day-to-day decisions using better data analysis.

Here are seven recommendations when considering the adoption of a tool that provides operational business intelligence:

1. Plug and play
Traditional business intelligence often requires data to be extracted and converted or reformatted. This creates extra demand on IT to set up and maintain these repetitive systems and data stores.

Operational business intelligence should essentially adopt a 'plug and play' approach to this. Today's business intelligence solutions should be designed to leverage off existing databases without the need for additional steps from IT. They should also be able to interpret multiple data formats and comply with existing security requirements.

2. Visualisation is key
Reports from most business intelligence solutions come in text or table formats with static charts and dashboards. This alone is often insufficient for a user to understand the data and how pieces of information relate to each other, which makes it hard for users to derive useful insights. This is because users are stuck with 'one dimensional' views.


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