Bringing Users on Board with BI


I seem to strike a collective nerve nearly every time I write about user adoption of business intelligence. For instance, I got some great reader comments on this post from May in which I cited research from the Business Application Research Center that put the BI adoption rate at about 7 percent. Users are "not happy" with BI solutions, said Nigel Pendse, author of the report.


A "general feeling that the technology and information will provide the answer at a touch of a button" is a problem, wrote reader Simon Mortimore. He wrote:

... The reality is that BI just mechanizes the information delivery to support decision making, if the decision models do not exist then you just have an efficient information hole. One of the key tasks when I implement BI solutions is an end user business skills assessment and the appropriate training when required. ...

Last month, I shared some fantastic suggestions for boosting BI user adoption from Gartner.


So I was happy to see a SearchCIO.com article focusing on some of the ideas that magazine publisher Meredith Corp. used to manage adoption of a new platform following its move from an outsourced to an in-house BI solution. Meredith Corp. followed several of Gartner's suggestions, including its recommendation to consider products from both mainstream vendors like IBM/Cognos and SAP/Business Objects and best-of-breed providers like SAS and MicroStrategy.


It settled on a platform from MicroStrategy, largely because it offered desktop and Web client versions. Most of the company's employees use the Web client version, which works in all the browsers the company supports, while the more advanced desktop product is reserved for "super users."


Jose Lora, a BI solutions architect, lauded the user-friendliness of the Web interface. In an effort not to shock users accustomed to static, PDF-based reports, Lora's BI team decided to offer users simple reports that mimicked those reports, an approach Lora said minimized early resistance to the new platform.


When the BI team noticed that many users were simply exporting data from those reports to Excel spreadsheets for more detailed analysis, it recruited "super users," trained them on MicroStrategy's more advanced features, and encouraged them to share their new knowledge with coworkers. (I like this approach even better than Gartner's suggestion of getting a strong executive sponsor to promote the importance of the kind of transparency not found with spreadsheets. Most folks I know are quicker to listen to coworkers than to execs when it comes to ways of improving their regular work routines.)


Did this work? Well, the proof is in the numbers. About 95 percent of the company's BI reports are created by users.