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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog


Ease-of-Use Key to Consumerization of BI

ease of use BI software1 300x225 Ease of Use Key to Consumerization of BIConventional BI, it seems, has a New Year’s resolution problem. As with eating better and working out more, everyone agrees that BI is a great idea, and resolves to put it to work. But the resolutions don’t last past January, or even past the first week.

According to Gartner Research, even when organizations have standard BI platforms of choice, only 28% of the potential users of these tools are actually employing them. Gartner identifies three main reasons for this non-use: they are hard to use, slow-running, or they don’t produce relevant results.

The second and third points are internal. Sluggish tools can (in principle) be made to work faster, and a tool that doesn’t do its job is of no use to anyone. But “hard to use” is all in the user’s perception. Engineers are tempted to scoff at it – but users don’t. And users matter, after all.

Things are getting better for BI users – and potential users – in part because of what has been dubbed the consumerization of BI.


Consumerization is a slightly tricky concept with a couple of differing – but related – usages. Often it refers to technologies or products designed for the consumer market that have “come to work” and found a place in the enterprise environment. Smartphones (and their cousins, such as the iPad) are the outstanding examples. People who have them want to use them on the job, and since these people include top executives, IT has little choice but to go along.

BI solutions do not fall into this category. As the name suggests, BI is intended in the first place for business use – though this has not kept users from finding off-hours applications, such as managing fantasy football teams.

The consumerization of BI refers to something different: the strong desire of users for tools that are like consumer products – meaning, above all, that they are easy to use.

Which brings us back to that notorious manual. In the IT world, and computer geekdom in general, being willing to consult the manual is a point of pride. But in the wider world, most people avoid manuals like the plague.

Look Ma – No Manual!

Understanding this is one big reason why Apple has gone from has-been to powerhouse. One of the biggest selling points of the various iGadgets is that you can just pick one up and use it. Another extremely familiar product – Google search – illustrates consumerization in both senses of the term. It was designed mainly for general use, but has become one of the most powerful business tools out there. But more to the point it is easy to use. As noted by ITWire, no one has to read a manual to know how to Google something. Power users gained their Google-fu not by delving into the technology but by experience and “feel.”

Effective BI solutions have the same quality. Users shouldn’t have to consult the manual to know how to use the tools. If they do need the manual, most won’t become regular users at all. This goes even more for collaborative BI, which breaks down if any member of the team can’t figure how to use the toolkit.

Is your organization’s BI solution sitting unused because no one wants to struggle with the manual? Today’s TUCON 2011 conference will demo easy-to-use analytics tools that provide self-service, speed and a more consumer-oriented experience. You can follow the conference hashtag TUCON or subscribe to this blog to stay informed.

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