Every year, the pace of business quickens as people's expectations about responsiveness rise. In a world where 24x7 connectedness through mobile devices, instant messaging and other technologies has become common and acceptable, people are more informed about events, activities and relationships. Technology not only provides this capability but also serves as a powerful agent to challenge conventional processes and effect change. However, technology without useful application or meaningful requirements is not likely to provide any benefit or value. Relating this to business intelligence (BI), its acceptance by organizations reflects the technology's potential to provide value where it is sorely needed. Over the last several years, BI has earned a top spot on CIOs' priority lists. The greatest challenge with this technology is its effective use and harnessing the efficiencies it can create.

At its basic functionality, BI automates manual processes of extracting, integrating and delivering information for monitoring, analysis, reporting and decision-making purposes. While efficiencies are created as manual processes are automated, this assumes that BI is used appropriately. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Aside from not using BI applications correctly, individuals can be resistant to change or slow to accept BI solutions. Three primary areas are worth investigating in order to determine whether individuals in your organization are using BI correctly and to its fullest extent to create efficiencies in support of goals and objectives.

Usage of BI

The first area to investigate is usage. Are individuals in your organization using the BI solution? If they are not using it, you must determine why. There could be several reasons for this. The leading cause:  no incentive. People will not use the BI solution if there is no motivation or incentive for them to use it. From their perspective, why should they change their proven approach to an information access routine for the BI solution? Benefits of the solution must be clear, and a reasonable incentive for usage must be provided - along with a penalty for not using it. Another issue is lack of adequate training. Assuming that there are motivating factors for usage, were individuals provided adequate training or education?  These are essential for increasing usage because BI applications are not necessarily intuitive. Lastly, there may be issues with the design and implementation of the BI solution. You should determine whether it provides individuals with the functionality and information that they need. Without meaningful capabilities and relevant information, why would anyone use BI? Consider surveying your user community to confirm that the BI solution fits their needs.

Application of BI

Assuming that individuals in your organization are using the BI solution, the next question to ask is, how are they using it? At one organization, we identified a group of individuals who were using the BI solution but were not applying it correctly. They were using the BI solution to extract data sets from the data warehouse and then using a spreadsheet application to create charts and graphs and to calculate key performance indicators. These were placed into a presentation application for purposes of disseminating the information to others throughout the organization. This process took approximately one week to perform each month. This process could be performed in a matter of minutes instead of days. Just because people are using the BI solution does not mean that they are appropriately applying its functionality.

Effectiveness of BI

Assuming that individuals are appropriately using the functionality of the BI solution, the next question to ask is, what are they doing differently now that they have it? For business analysts who formerly spent a great amount of time obtaining and manipulating data, BI solutions can "free up" time that they can use for analyzing and interpreting the information. This means they are either doing a better job or accomplishing more work in the same amount of time. What are individuals doing with the efficiencies that are created by the BI solution within your organization?

Similar to those individuals who have changed the way they communicate with each other, organizations that have effectively deployed BI applications have experienced profound changes. The intended impact of BI is to automate manual processes of obtaining, integrating and delivering information. Automating or enhancing the manner in which tasks or activities are performed creates efficiencies. While BI provides these capabilities, it is left to individuals to effectively utilize this technology in order to realize the efficiencies that may be provided. However, cultural changes also occur due to greater access to information, thereby creating greater transparency. Individuals become more accountable for their activities and actions. Has your organization created efficiencies through the effective usage of BI? 

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