May 6, 2010 – Knowledge workers are experiencing shortfalls in performance when using business intelligence tools, according to a report from Forrester Research. The study was commissioned by search technology provider Endeca               .

BI adoption continues to soar – increasing 19 percent since 2008, with 30 percent of survey respondents planning to expand or upgrade their BI software. But with the increasing volume and complexity of data, the software is struggling to keep up with shifting demands that include real-time decision-making, according to the report.

“In general there is no question that traditional BI approaches to architecture and tools are very often falling short,” says Boris Evelson, principal analyst for Forrester Research. “Even when you do everything by the book and everything according to the best practices, you still end up with an inflexible environment.”

In a study of 226 business and IT professionals, 45 percent of respondents said that BI applications are difficult to learn and navigate, and cited multiple inadequacies.

According to the report, tools need are not keeping up with discrete demands: the blurring line between producers and consumers of information; the extensive amount of time knowledge workers spend seeking out information rather than analyzing it; the shortfalls of canned reports; and businesses’ need for increasingly user-friendly technology.

These challenges leave decision-makers with a backlog of requests for information, according to Forrester analysts. Fifty-one percent of respondents reported that BI requests stack-up in their organizations, and 66 percent cited too many requests as the primary cause for the backlog.

Significant numbers (60 percent) of knowledge workers fill dual roles today, serving as both information producer and consumer, according to the report. BI tools and applications need to respond to this trend by providing ways for knowledge workers to fulfill information requirements through self-service.

Evelson sums this up in two requirements. BI tools need to be agile to meet the constantly, almost hourly, changing requirements and they need to be user-friendly beyond a point-and-click interface.

“For the average business user, even a point-and-click interface is not enough. All of our studies show that it is not the nirvana of intuitiveness,” says Evelson. “This is about simplicity, with BI tools that have a search-like user interface and require very little training.”

Along with user friendliness, the report concludes that BI tools need to be useful beyond providing canned reports. More often than not, unstructured, free-form exploration and analysis is required to answer a real-time business questions. On average, survey respondents indicated that 51 percent of BI requirements can be fulfilled by a structured production report, but 49 percent of the cases require free-form exploration and analysis.

Overall, the majority of knowledge workers (62 percent) said they would prefer to have the right tool for the right job as opposed to a one-size-fits-all application.

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