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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog

02/21
2013

Making Visual Data Pop for Top Brass

Chief among the critical areas of functionality for a business intelligence (BI) platform is its ability to offer end users rich visualization capabilities to enable and strengthen data discovery and data exploration.

bi Making Visual Data Pop for Top BrassThese features are vital because they enable executives and other employees to access, analyze, and grasp large volumes of big data sets quickly and effectively, according to the Gartner BI Magic Quadrant.

Data visualization also lets executives and other end users view information in a variety of different formats and find previously unnoticed trends and insights that can help lead to business or operational breakthroughs.

If more BI tools would offer stronger data visualization capabilities for end users, perhaps BI adoption rates would be higher.

BI adoption rates among employees are stuck at about 25%, according to a BI Scorecard study. Companies that have achieved higher adoption rates and greater contributions from BI to business performance often provide business users a bigger role in BI.

As far as the low BI adoption rates, there are a couple of factors that are contributing to this malaise.

In companies where executives and business users aren’t using advanced BI visualization tools, the IT organization has been slow in making the transition from BI gatekeeper to BI enabler. In other cases, some business users have grown accustomed to having pre-built reports land on their desks or sent to them via email instead of using BI tools to analyze business data on their own, according to the BI Scorecard report.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this type of BI procrastination is that executives become passive users of business intelligence. Instead of using visual BI tools to identify emerging trends that can be acted on to strengthen customer loyalty or business results, pre-selected insights are highlighted and spoon-fed to executives.

As a result, corporate leaders are only presented with partial views of the components and factors that are shaping customer behaviors, market shifts, and other business conditions. Whether intentional or unintentional, BI reports that are crafted for a set of readers contain a level of bias as far as the information that is highlighted – and what is left out.

One effective approach for gaining executive and end user buy-in with self-service BI tools is by demonstrating how the tools can be used and the kinds of insights and empowerment they can help generate. Of course, making this case can be a bit tricky.

“It can sometimes be difficult to convince senior management that much can be improved on, after all no one likes the idea that the current reporting environment is deficient in some way, the implication being that there might have been some not so great decisions made on the basis of it,” Rob Mossop notes in a recent post for JISC Emerging Practices.

That’s why a “show and tell” can be extremely effective in engaging senior management with visual BI tools. Or as Mossop says, “The strength of well-constructed and well-visualized BI reports is the immediacy of the data being represented, and in the context of any demo you give the reports being displayed should always be ‘here and now’ and entirely relevant to your audience.”

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