Digital behavioral patterns from our personal lives are infiltrating the workplace. Tablet devices, social networks and cloud-based applications are now commonplace business tools, and not just because social functionality is another business fad riding the enterprise trend wave of today.

When applied to business decision-making, social capabilities have a proven impact on business efficiency and growth. That’s why organizations are increasingly looking to collaborative business intelligence to achieve a newfound competitive advantage. Collaborative BI is leading the way to a new collective decision-making environment, allowing for greater efficiency, mobility and collaboration.

Social Functionality for Improved Decision-Making

With the emergence of Web 2.0, online shopping and social networking sites, workers have become accustomed to searching for products and commenting and rating them; they want the same capabilities within their own business. Enabling users to access, interact with and provide feedback on reports and dashboards will result in better content for all users, improved decisions and shortened time-to-decision. Collaboration makes information personal to users—information that can sometimes be overwhelming and exhaustive.

Organizations have a plethora of existing reports that might be beneficial to users if they knew of their existence and where to find them. Applying a modern function, like search, to a company’s existing BI heritage can help mangers drill down and find the exact data they need to make a critical decision.

The people that make up today’s workforce are also able to read and comprehend new information visually. For example, tag clouds, which utilize weighted visual design, become a popular indicator of value and can display metadata about an item that has been democratically voted on. Collaborative BI leverages this social habit to help the visual learner make informed decisions quickly.

What’s Driving Collaborative BI Adoption?

Despite a lot of reported success with BI implementations, the adoption rate has remained flat, at 25 percent of potential users, according to a recent study by the BI Scorecard. BI can make a significant impact at an organization;  collaborative BI, designed for the other 75 percent of potential users, can offer an engaging interface that takes advantage of preexisting behavior and provides search functionality and widgets that users have come to expect in modern applications.

According to the February 2011 benchmark report from The Aberdeen Group, “Real Time Collaboration: Innovate Your Business and Increase Revenue,” the top three collaboration pressures facing businesses today include enhancing partner-supplier communication, improving innovation and creating a cohesive business strategy on a global and enterprise-wide scale. As companies become more geographically dispersed and the mobile workforce grows, the need for knowledge sharing and collaboration, and its potential benefit, is magnified. In an increasingly “flat” world, stronger collaboration becomes paramount to the success of an organization.

Self-service enablement is also driving the need for collaborative BI. Knowledge workers want to easily access and analyze data without having to use complex tools or rely on IT. These non-power users also need insight into corporate data. Businesses recognize that BI needs to be pervasive, engaging and collaborative in order to facilitate end user decision-making and help their organization improve performance.

In a collaborative environment, the power is in the end users' hands. They expect data to be available on all of their devices, from desktop PCs to tablets to smartphones. They want their most frequently needed reports accessible via widgets. They want BI that takes unstructured data into account and makes it searchable. They want to collaborate and provide feedback about reports in an attractive interface that is designed around how they work. Ultimately, users need the ability to subscribe to BI in a self-service manner.

Another significant driver of collaborative BI is the substantial cost savings. By integrating widely known and accepted Web 2.0 functions into their BI applications, enterprises can extend the BI users within the company by more than 50 percent in a very short time without incurring additional training costs. As BI becomes more widely used in an organization, business decisions can be made more quickly. Faster, more informed business decisions often translates to a competitive advantage and differentiated service offerings in the market.

What Lies Ahead?

Ultimately, collaborative BI tools increase the business value of BI deployments. The delivery of functional, intuitive, easy-to-use solutions to the workforce, similar to that of the social media tools we use in our personal lives, increases the chances that BI will become more engaging and indispensable for the workforce.

BI promises to improve decision-making based on facts and better business performance. As BI matures, there are more and more potential users who should have access to existing analyses and the ability to contribute to a company’s knowledge base. Decisions are made at all levels of an organization, and companies are beginning to realize that knowledge needs to be shared in order to succeed. Moving forward, we will see collaborative BI get a foothold at organizations, with companies looking to extend their user base beyond a small group of power users.

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