Business intelligence collaborationHoward Dresner, noted BI industry analyst, recently hosted a “tweetchat” among his followers in which they discussed “why some organizations haven’t adopted collaborative BI technologies and why some adopted it but failed to achieve the anticipated value.” Howard posed the following question about slow adoption of Collaborative BI to his Twitter followers:

If (Collaborative BI) is so effective, why aren’t organizations jumping on the collaborative bandwagon and why have some not seen the anticipated ROI?

The discussion identified possible reasons ranging from the immaturity of the technology to the cultural gap between established BI practitioners and the younger, social media savvy, “share-all” generation of employees entering the workforce.

If adoption of Collaborative BI is lukewarm, then perhaps it is because BI vendors are failing to solve a pressing customer need – namely, how to move beyond simple sharing of insights to collaboratively acting upon those insights to derive business value.

Most BI vendors seem to be focused on simply adding annotation and social media sharing tools to BI displays. “Hey, look at this trend I just noticed in my dashboard.” One of the hospitals using our BI solution is convinced that the excitement around collaborative annotation and co-authoring of BI reports is misdirected. Its dashboards already alert decision makers to changes in key performance indicators. The real need for coordination rests in the action plan that grows out of the findings in the KPI dashboard.

  • What ideas, goals, projects and tasks must we undertake as a team to capitalize upon or correct what we have discovered in our analysis?
  • What shared assets – notes, documents, reports, etc. – can the team use?
  • How can we align our daily activities to our goals?
  • How can we establish accountability, track progress and measure success?

The insights gained from BI tools are wasted if they remain separate from the discussions, meetings and activities that fall out of those insights. This hospital wants to follow BI objects in the context of its collective day-to-day work to improve the KPIs it is measuring. It wants to document the action plan it has initiated as a result of new BI insights and track its performance.

In fact, two take-aways from Dresner’s Wisdom of Crowds® Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study 2013 support this shift in emphasis from collaborating on the insight to collaborating on the action.

  1. The top mechanisms for collaborating with Business Intelligence information and insights in 2013 still primarily include email, face-to-face meetings and telephone calls (page 9). This shows a more rudimentary need for collaborative tools to harvest and archive these discussions so that the insight can be applied where needed. Enterprise collaborative frameworks such as Microsoft SharePoint may be in place, but they have not cracked the code as to how to best maintain a useful thread of interactions and discussions that will move teams further along the insight to action continuum.
  2. In Table 1 – User Priorities versus Vendor Capabilities: Collaborative BI Capabilities (page 34), we note a disconnect between the user’s desire to “follow” BI objects – the ability to see change/update notifications for metrics over time – and the vendor’s priority for delivering such options. Following BI objects is ranked as the second-highest priority user requirement by survey takers, but at the very bottom of the list for BI vendor capabilities.

User priorities versus vendor capabilitiesIf these users took time to elaborate on why “following” feels important, we surmise they likely fear losing track of their BI discoveries in their rush to execution. Perhaps they are saying, “Give us a way to collaborate on the actions AND a way to measure our success against the insights that inspired our plans.”

If it feels like the Collaborative BI wheels currently in motion are not gripping the workplace, perhaps it is because BI vendors are not applying collaborative solutions to the most critical problems. Let’s give our customers collaborative solutions that help them track their BI insights as they form action plans and measure results and see if that sort of Collaborative BI gets more traction.