Revamping Business Intelligence? Don't Leave Users in the Cold

Here's advice on how and why to survey end users. Learn the truth about applications in your enterprise, and you'll have a fighting chance with BI.

Want to make sure you're making the right BI investments? Ask your users, says David Hatch, research director at research consultancy Aberdeen Group. IT management spends way too much time researching the latest technologies and virtually no time asking users what they want, he says.

Hatch has come to this conclusion after initial research for a survey of about 500 companies on issues surrounding business intelligence technologies and initiatives. Aberdeen found that about 26 percent of survey respondents rate "undertaking a proof-of-concept or request for proposal with software vendors" as a top strategic action to reduce total cost of ownership of BI technologies. On the other hand, only two percent of survey respondents view "reducing the cost of end-user training" as a top strategic action.

These figures point to a disconnect between strategic thinking at the senior management level, and the real-world usage and adoption trends among the end-users whose needs are meant to be addressed, says Hatch. "If I have learned one thing in my research, it's that too many projects are mired in failure or poor performance because of a lack of adoption, use, comprehension and buy-in from the end users that were meant to be 'empowered' in the first place."

That's why he recommends periodically conducting an informal, anonymous e-mail survey that asks the following five questions of all employees, and definitely surveying before a significant BI revamp:

  1. Of the applications listed below, are there any that you simply do not use at all?
  2. Which of these applications are most useful to you? Why?
  3. Which application is so critical that you simply couldn't survive without it?
  4. Which cause you the most problems?
  5. What new business application or capability, currently not accessible to you, would instantly make your job easier and improve your performance?

"By surveying along these lines, IT can accomplish more than just gathering useful data& they can exude a sense of empowerment and begin to build the foundation for buy-in among end-users that is crucial to the success of any information initiative," Hatch says.

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