Many business intelligence tools are coupled with visualization tools that make it extremely easy to create reports from scratch and execute ad hoc analyses. So why won’t those sales and operations folks make use of these tools for self-service reporting for faster, better decision making as touted in all of the business intelligence literature? I’m sure we’ve all heard it (or even thought it), “My sales people are so lazy! I can’t believe they won’t do this themselves—it’s so easy!”
Let’s start with sales. Salespeople are laser focused on making sales. Salespeople, more than any other employees in your organization, are compensated on a very narrow definition of success—sell more, make more money. Sure, they want information about prospects and buying behavior and the likelihood that a customer will buy more products based on what other products they have, but if they spend a day in training to use a BI product and a day noodling around with numbers, that’s two days they haven’t been calling and demoing and following up and figuring out what will entice the hottest prospect to close the deal. They already spend about 25% or more of their time doing non-sales activities. They don’t want to waste time becoming familiar with new tools, especially if they have something currently that does the trick, no matter what “management” sees as problems with those existing solutions. They don’t want to become BI experts or statisticians or creators of well-constructed reports or dashboards. They just want the info and they want you to give it to them, ready to consume.
Operations people, while not normally compensated on commission, usually have some kind of bonus based on the success of their operations. More important for them, success in their area could mean greater visibility and even a promotion. Major problems could cost them their jobs. Again, they don’t have time to be data explorers and they sure don’t want to spend time creating reports while a problem shuts down their operations.
No amount of training on a flashy visualization tool is going to convince these people that they should be spending their precious time on self-service reporting and analysis. They don’t want to spend time digging into numbers to understand what they mean and they certainly don’t want to spend time looking up formulas. I think the people responsible for the selection, implementation, and management of BI tools forget this in their enthusiasm for a fantastic BI product with every conceivable bell and whistle. And it may explain why almost 30% of companies that implement a BI platform are somewhat disappointed with the results. Here they have this amazing product that allows everyone to create their own reports and answer all of their own questions and yet a lot of the employees don’t want to use it.
So what’s the answer? You need to provide a solution that serves the needs of both those who want consumable data delivered to their desktops and those who want to be able to produce reports for themselves and maybe for others in their department. For this, you need three things:
- an easy-to-use front-end or visualization tool,
- content in the form of pre-programmed reports, formulas, business objects, and more, and
- a flexible, customizable platform that enables power users or the IT department to do all of the heavy lifting like consolidating data from multiple sources and maintaining security.
Don’t force the salespeople to create their own reports—give them interactive dashboards with just enough functionality to allow them to answer their own questions. And don’t restrict those users like business analysts who need to really dig into numbers—give them a sandbox and let them sift through the data to find what they need.
BIO business intelligence with its three-point platform: visualization, content, and design and modeling platform is just such a BI tool. It provides over 50 out-of-the-box reports and hundreds of pre-defined business objects. The front-end that comes with BIO, called BIOVue, is easy to learn and use, and its powerful back-end allows you to consolidate multiple databases, create user-defined roll-ups and hierarchies, modify and create cubes, and so much more.
By Sandi Forman of BIO Analytics, Corp.,