Three Ways to Enable Human-Centered BI

BrandPost By Brad Jackson, James Kim, Jared Dodson
Oct 25, 2021
IT Leadership

Data-driven decision-making has hit its stride, and analytics is no longer just for data analysts. Human-centered business intelligence can enhance business outcomes.

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Credit: iStock

The business landscape is becoming increasingly data-driven, but information alone isn’t what organizations need. A growing number of businesses are maturing their analytics capabilities by making data useful and actionable—putting the power of data into the hands of “non-data” people. This democratization of data, however, can challenge users, who struggle finding the time and wherewithal to operate new solutions, while also throwing down a gauntlet for business leaders who now have to solve for a proliferation of dashboards and departmental data siloes. With departments data rich but insights poor, many organizations need a fresher approach.

PK approaches these challenges through human-centered BI. Developed to address some of the biggest challenges in a data project, human-centered BI puts people at the center of the analytics experience. It is data analysis capability built for those who need to capture data frequently, but who are not data analysts by trade. We fuse modern analytics architecture and human-centered design principles—intuitive design that enables easier workflows—with business strategy and analytics initiatives, so data becomes not only more accessible across the enterprise but also more instrumental in generating outcomes. Give the power of decision-making to the people and turn data into action with these three steps to unlock the potential of human-centered BI.

Design actionable data tools, not dashboards

To create actionable data, you need more than charts and graphs—you want interactive tools that tell a story and result in action. This could mean self-service analytics tools for accounting designed to generate, and self-document, internal and regulatory reporting, or executive-level retail tools that give the C-suite clarity into the business’s health and determine customers’ probable next steps through predictive modeling.

Putting it into action: We leveraged human-centered design principles for a partner planning tool for Microsoftthat went beyond displaying data to also show distributor sales and current inventory levels of products. By digging deep into how teams would use the information, we discovered that Microsoft wanted to use the tool to plan when to buy certain SKUs with distributors throughout a period of time. From this information, we developed a low-code application to create an inventory plan for a distributor at the beginning of the period and manage it through the quarter based on demand and inventory.

Discover interdependencies

To operationalize data tools, you must focus on leading KPIs. This requires understanding of the interdependencies behind the systems, business processes, and people that rely on and contribute to the data.

Ask yourself: What is the desired outcome? What are the precursors to that outcome—for both you and the customer? You must also examine how end users behave and what other data they rely on to take those actions. As you peel back the layers, you will discover an integrated system of processes, tool usage, and data creation.

Putting it into action: We created data tools that give employees of one of the world’s largest truck manufacturers direct visibility into the actions they can take within an integrated value chain. These tools also allow the manufacturer to orchestrate workflow and handoffs, a capability it previously lacked. The level of visibility into each step of the process and collaboration required, positioned the manufacturer to target a $10M contribution to the bottom line.

Use human-centered design principles

Robust, interactive experiences allow everyone, from analysts to executives, to quickly uncover actionable insights. Building these experiences using human-centered design—design that shows not just what is possible, but what is needed to enable easier workflows—requires deep empathy for the experiences of your stakeholders and the outcomes they’re seeking. Connecting at a human level with your employees, partners and customers helps to identify and solve the underlying business problem.

Putting it into action: By rapid prototyping interactive data visualizations with functionality that goes deeper than basic dashboards, followed by user feedback, we helped Union Pacific’s employees to easily access real-time data for analysis whenever needed. Through a test and learn process, we were able to better understand users and the purpose of their information. The resulting cloud-based tool we built connects event data to other systems, including data warehouses and search indexes for accurate, up-to-date information at executives’ fingertips. Our iterative design process—talk to users, sketch, get feedback and iterate—represents human-centered design principles that ensured we create practical, successful experiences.

Human-centered BI enables organizations to evolve from dashboards to tools that empower people to solve challenges and drive value. Data-driven decision-making has hit its stride, and analytics is no longer just for data analysts. Organizations need to make data accessible to everyone, but to do so effectively they’ll need more than graphs and dashboards. Start with better understanding the needs of your people, and that will open the door to effective problem-solving.

Learn how human-centered BI can transform your organization at