Posts Tagged ‘Power Users’

In its research on the new BI tools and how power users are reshaping the dimensions of fast and up-to-date reporting in today’s business environment, Aberdeen Research drew some key conclusions that we will briefly encapsulate here:

  • First, business users (becoming power users over time) using the newer BI tools are more likely than most to “have the ability to customize the BI environment to suit their own particular needs.”  As they point out, this tailoring opens a broad array of possibilities for presenting information in very precise ways, including (or excluding) data on dashboards, for example, to amplify certain key performance indicators.  Configured wisely, managers are more likely to have the information they need at their fingertips.
  • Second, these managers are more likely to have powerful “drill-down” capabilities enabling them to see the details underlying their data.  This is a key step beyond simple “managed reporting” that builds towards a more interactive and exploratory style of BI.
  • Third, while drill-down is enlightening, it is also inherently limited.  Sometimes, you can only follow pre-defined paths to your data (though we know of software where this is simply not true).  Thus, power users trained in visual and interactive BI tools are often able to go more off-road in their explorations, gaining greater latitude in their ability to analyze data and produce better action conclusions.

In the end, three takeaways come from our BI analysis:

  • Shrinking decision windows today challenge IT to deliver –quickly – even as business and data volumes grow.  Given this volume growth, IT is hard pressed to keep up.  Instead, better BI tools put into the hands of power-user managers can provide a better means of keeping up.
  • Visual and interactive BI solutions have strong appeal for business managers being squeezed by this shrinking window.  Organizations are finding this a better way to deliver BI, and it helps relegate IT to more of a support role, as opposed to the traditional managed-reporting creators.
  • Visual and interactive BI solutions increase the ability to meet the shrinking window.  According to research byAberdeen, just 17% of firms that rely solely on traditional reporting are “always able to provide business managers with the information they need” versus 44% of those that use just the newer interactive tools.  That figure rises to 50% for firms using both methods.

Ultimately, the newer approach heralded by the newer BI tools and their inclusion in many of the newer ERP systems takes responsibility for understanding and discovering relationships, patterns and trends within a firm’s data out of the hands of IT, who are often challenged to understand what to look for in the first place, and places it into the hands of experienced business managers, where it’s likely to do infinitely more good.  This trend can only continue.


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We noted in part two of this post series on BI that smart companies today are moving to ‘agile’ business intelligence (BI) systems, and that these decisions are comprised of two key components: interactive, or ‘self-service’ BI tools for quick access to data, manipulated by power users.  A power user is simply someone who’s taken the time to become very adept at using a particular software tool or program.  Most companies have one, and can call them by name.  Every company should.

In a recent report, Aberdeen Research makes the observation that the characteristic that really stands out regarding power users is their aptitude – which they define as not only the ability to learn such tools, but perhaps even more so that “they are always willing to explore and experiment to discover new capabilities of the tool and insights into data.”

Companies wishing to exploit these tools in order to gain more instantaneous access to critical decision-making information need to confront two needs then: they need access to the newer BI tools (via add-ins, or the tools contained in many of the newer ERP system), and they need to have (or to sponsor and nurture) their own power users.

This takes some time.  IT staff need to show the way for budding power users, who need to be trained in analytics, in the use of the tools, and who need to have time to experiment.  Ideally, the power users, at least in a few cases, will be among the key business managers, so that when quick access to information is required, they become the Go To Guy or Gal to do so.

Firms with a higher proportion of self-service BI users tend in general to have more employees using business intelligence thus leveraging their tech investments more wisely.  It’s as though knowledge begets knowledge, as tools and skills proliferate throughout the ‘informed organization.’  It’s a culture to aspire to!

In fact, formalizing the role of a power user can often provide a more decentralized mode of support and information gathering, especially in larger organizations.  Regardless, it’s important that firms large and small do everything to further empower their power users, and try to provide them when able the tools to empower their analysis.  Again, these tools are often embedded within their ERP systems (at least the newer, more modern ones) and the best of them are integrated with Microsoft Office tools for added functionality.

With the right software and BI tools in place, all that’s left is a dedication to training and a commitment to continuous education.

In our final post of this series, we’ll draw some key conclusions…

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In our previous post we noted how the ‘traditional’ approach to business intelligence involves collaboration between management and I.T.  Most of the control rests with the I.T. staff, as it’s charged with gathering, sorting and formatting the information.  The result is usually ‘fixed’ in the sense that a static report is generated, one typically that can be modified with variable data such as a range of dates or departments.  It’s all organized into a report or a chart, and this approach is typically called something like ‘managed reporting.’

For most managers, most companies, for most of the past couple of decades, and for most places today… this is how mission-critical data is gathered and presented to the business’ key decision-makers.

Which is all well and fine until someone reports that a production run has gone awry, and the supporting information to correct the problem is required… now.

So today, we see businesses looking more closely at more ‘agile’ forms of business intelligence.  With their business needs constantly changing, managers seek a more flexible mode of gaining access to critical information.

With research showing that the competitive pressures of a ‘shrinking decision window’ are only rising, agile business intelligence becomes an increasingly important competitive factor.  Increasingly, companies are turning to the more visual and interactive business intelligence tools, oftentimes blending these with their traditional reporting, and in so doing they find themselves significantly more able to deliver the needed information in the requisite timeframe, one more often measured in hours than days.

Today’s newest ERP systems typically contain dashboards and built-in BI tools that provide much of the muscle needed to accomplish agile, ‘self-service’ BI. 

Aberdeen Research recently concluded that companies using a more visual and interactive approach to BI “are more likely to provide information to business managers in the time they require – even though those business managers are, on average, more demanding in their time constraints.” 

So what did Aberdeenconclude about the power inherent in the more agile BI systems, and the people behind them?  “Organizations that use interactive BI tools have a significantly higher proportion of self-service BI users, and a much higher proportion of power users too.”

These two concepts go hand in hand, and they put some companies confronting them at a virtual crossroads.  We’ll explore that topic next…

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Happy New Year to YOU from everyone at PSSI!  May 2012 be filled with all the good things you work and pray and strive so hard for…

Businesses today are under constantly increasing pressure to make decisions more rapidly.  So we thought it was a good time to look at what’s happening today in the realm of “Business Intelligence,” a critical analysis and planning discipline (and tools) that seems timely to present as we begin a new year.

This requires the ability to deliver better business intelligence more rapidly which, in turn, requires modern tools, relevant and up-to-date business data, and for good measure, a ‘power-user’ or two thrown into the mix.  In this series of posts we’ll look at Business Intelligence (or “BI”) – its role in business today, how it’s evolving, and what you need to do to harness its benefits for your organization.

First up: What is BI, and why is it important to your business?

BI starts with the understanding that businesses often struggle to get the right information to the right employees at the right time.  Add to that the fact that what constitutes the ‘right information’ can change quickly, and the ‘right time’ can be not just days… but hours, and you begin to understand the challenge.  When, for example, a sudden ‘bad run’ of product requires immediate action, how do you get access to supplier data, or the shop floor production info of just a few hours prior?  In today’s world, fixing it next week doesn’t get it.  You need answers today.

Which begs the question: Do you have the data, the systems, the tools, and the people to answer the query?

The traditional approach to business intelligence usually involves two parties: the business managers, who have a need for information required to drive better decisions; and an I.T. or “computer person” tasked with creating the right reports, forms or drill-down screens, with links to the right data, to satisfy management’s needs.

The problem with this ‘traditional’ approach is that studies show it takes on average about a month to complete a support request to create a new dashboard, and about 8 days just to get someone to add a column to a report.  Oh sure, you can ‘rush’ the request, but you can only use that bullet so many times, and in each case, you have to ask what other important need got shelved or delayed because or your emergency request?

Besides requiring a lot of collaboration, the traditional approach is increasingly encumbered by the increasing pace of business.  Sometimes you want to go to the restaurant and have someone serve you up the meal.  But sometimes, it’s just easier and more efficient to cook it yourself.  It’s the same with B.I.  With today’s modern systems, and a little time and determination, the determined manager can create her or his own dashboard, report or form.  True, it pushes you into borderline ‘power-user’ territory… but the gains are worth the effort.  And increasingly, business pace-of-change simply requires it. 

Hence, we see the move today from IT-created reporting, to ‘self-serve’ business intelligence.  And we’ll look at that in our next post…

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