The last ten years have played host to a whole lot of changes in business. From advances in internet technology, to the rise of mobile and social media – yes, a lot has changed. Arguably, two of the most important changes have been businesses’ increased focus on collaboration, and business intelligence. Business intelligence (BI) isn’t new. Businesses have been using business intelligence systems for the last thirty plus years. However what has changed is the volume of data that these systems must now “crunch” to help provide valuable business insights. Today, companies are pushing for the next progression in this process: collaborative business intelligence.
We all know that business intelligence solutions enable users to report on, and analyze business processes and activities. What is changing today is that organizations are developing a new need to not only to be able to turn this data into insight, but also be able to easily and accurately communicate that insight to peers and managers. This added emphasis on cross-departmental collaboration in conjunction with the rising need of advanced data analysis tools, is leading to the birth a new generation of BI tools. As a result today’s companies are finding themselves needing to combine these two key processes, new BI tools are being developed that focus on three primary capabilities:
- Collaborative Interaction: Managers and workers need to interact with one another to improve communication as part of BI initiatives. They must be able to share their findings and discuss the meaning and possible options for improving business performance. Tools are being developed to ease discovery and documentation of new insights. These are key features of this next generation collaborative BI.
- Information Enhancement: Users must be able to add their own knowledge to BI results. Through the collaborative processes, workers can share information about why events are unfolding the way they are. This will help to provide a business context to their findings, allowing them to point to related data and content. Published BI results can be enhanced through feedback mechanisms such as ratings, comments and tagging as well as blogs and microblogs.
- Collaborative Decision Making: The ultimate goal of any BI tool is to help individuals make timely and improved business decisions. A collaborative BI environment supports team efforts to assess situations and make decisions. It must also enable organizations to track decisions and analyze their validity and business impact. Such analysis provides feedback that can help improve the decision process, allowing companies to document best practices and monitor the types of information that provide useful input for decision making.
As with any large scale tools, not everyone will need or use all of the capabilities offered. It’s important to determine which personnel require which feature. Claudia Imhoff and Colin White illustrate this with an example in a recent post, “users who execute assigned tasks may simply require collaborative interaction, whereas business managers may require all three capabilities.” Success of a system like this is dependent on this step. Think about it, if there is not enough attention given when planning an enterprise-wide system like this, then it will fail. Imhoff and White point out, “A collaborative BI environment that is designed for the wrong types of users will not be used and will not provide a good return on investment.”
If you do spend the time and think through the types of employees that will be using a system like this, their needs, and what features they will use, then the true power of a collaborative BI system will be realized. Imhoff and White put it best when they say “For many organizations the collective BI journey is just beginning. But if implemented properly, the end result will significantly benefit an organization’s decision-making abilities.”