No matter how cutting-edge a BI application is, and no matter how well it is built and implemented, it is ultimately the end-user who has to make the most out of it. The business intelligence end-user can be defined as a decision-maker (of any level within the company), who does not necessarily possess IT skills and who uses business data and information from the BI solution to guide his actions.
The true test of the usability of a BI solution is with the nontechnical end-user.
The success that a BI solution will have in propelling the organization forward depends in large part on how it is received by end-users. Adoption makes or breaks a BI project. And adoption is, in turn, dependent on three factors: ease of use, usefulness and cost.
Ease of Use: The First Requirement of BI End-user Adoption
“Being adopted” is not the goal of business intelligence. The goal is to help end-users solve problems, eliminate inefficiency and achieve the company’s strategic goals. Adoption is merely a condition to this end, albeit a necessary condition. A well-implemented BI solution that is squarely and intelligently aligned with the company’s strategy has indeed the potential to make a tremendous impact–if adopted.
The first condition to adoption is ease of use. New technologies tend to make some new users anxious, especially if they are perceived as coming with a steep learning curve. If a newly-implemented BI solution is (or even comes across as) complex to learn and use, you can rest assured that many end-users will be reluctant to adopt it, and will instead fall back on what’s familiar.
Today, there is no reason why a business intelligence product should be hard to use. Especially with Web-based solutions, user interfaces should mirror the easy and intuitive navigability of the Internet. Important information and recommended actions should pop out to the end-user without requiring him to sift through pages of data or reconciling multiple tools. Likewise, analysis should be intuitive, letting the user filter, sort, drill down and drill through data at the click of a mouse without any technical knowledge required.
Usefulness: BI Must Solve Real Problems
Even if initially adopted, a BI solution will quickly lose its following within the organization if it does not provide real solutions for the end-users. “Does this make my job easier and does it make me successful at what I do?” is the question that needs to be answered in the affirmative through the business intelligence solution.
And how does a BI solution make personnel more productive and more successful? By making it easier for them to spot, understand and act upon critical situation while making as many routine tasks as possible automatic.
Cost: Avoid User Fees
The more expensive a good, the less of this good will be bought, goes a fundamental law of economics. Likewise, BI user fees–a throwback of the time when BI solutions were all desktop–discourage widespread end-user adoption. Yet, most BI vendors still charge by the user, forcing companies to either be conservative in estimating who gets access to BI or to waste license fees on employees who end up not using the solution.
The best licensing model is server-based, which allows companies to empower as many end-users as they need at no additional cost.