The benefits of business intelligence solutions are undeniable. In fact, Gartner recently predicted that the value of the BI market would increase 7.3% to be worth $138 billion this year alone, led by the growth in demand for modern BI and analytics tools. Clearly, companies recognise that BI tools are key when it comes to informinghigh-level decision making, by providing the means to gain a deeper and more accurate insight into complex, often hidden enterprise data.
While this may be true, BI has long been considered the sole domain of data specialists. Thanks to the proliferation of data, the job of analysing what this information means – and just how businesses should respond to it–has typically been allocated largely to the statisticians. But we are finally seeing businesses working together effectively to mine more value out of their data and make BI a truly collaborative process.
We need to reclassify collaboration
The idea of collaborative working in business is hardly new, and we have come a long way since the early days of Lotus Notes. Despite the fact that platforms such as this have claimed to be a game changer in the world of collaboration, unfortunately, theyhaven’t made it a realityWhile consumer-facing social media has made the idea of ‘sharing’a mainstream concept, on an enterprise level, we are still lagging behind.
Too often we see businesses take a one-to-many approach when it comes to BI. But the fact remains that publishing an infographic on a website or emailing round a PDF shouldn’t be classified as collaboration – it’s like running a webinar where the participants are on mute,or addressing a room of people who can only ask questions at the end of the presentation. A few people may be able to clarify some of the points, but theseideas are unlikely to develop into tangible, actionable insight.
Why are we stalling on collaboration?
One reason for this has been a corporate nervousness about sharing information. Too many people, particularly those involved in the governance of BI systems, have essentially been “anti-collaboration” in the interests of data protection and have placed restrictions on information sharing and effectively rendering collaboration tools useless. Ironically, this has made the situation worse by encouraging users to find ‘work-arounds,’ which all too frequently involve that highly non-collaborative and vulnerable communication channel; email.
In an email conversation with Patrick Spedding, our own managing director of BI R&D, Boris Evelson of Forrester Research pointed out how far this attitude has damaged collaboration; “We increasingly hear from our clients that BI silos are now proliferating. Basically, these platforms are now becoming the new spreadsheets.”
Hope is on the horizon
Thankfully, attitudes are beginning to change, helped by a combination of advanced enterprise social platforms such as IBM Connections and modern BI tools that are cloud-ready, mobile-enabled and self-service. Virtualisation technology means that analysis no longer needs to take place within a single gigantic data repository. Instead, data from a number of sources can be held “virtually” and analysed using these new tools, many of which have made reduced the need for sophisticated analysis skillswhen it comes to humans processing and utilising raw data. The benefit is that individuals across the business can share their own knowledge and experience, adding to the analysis process and immeasurably improving the end decision-making.
‘Social’ should mean more for businesses
Gradually, business is learning that “social” means much more than cat videos and emoticons, and that the term can also be applied to a group of business people taking an idea and running with it.The future of collaborative BI must evolve to this “many-to-many” model. In technical terms, for BI to move away from being the exclusive domain of the statisticians, it requires the co-authoring of BI content, as well as co-consumption, annotation, discussion, sharing and editing. The basis of innovation is being able to build upon the work of others, contributing to the ‘body of knowledge’. In other words, collaborating.
Big ideas, but better
Recent research from Aragon Research suggests that, by the end of 2017, 75% of business will be harnessing mobile collaboration, helping to provide real-time analytics for all and embracing agility in the workforce.It follows that we can expect to see far greater innovation in business as a result. Spedding likes to quote Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw on the subject, who sums it up as follows:“…if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”Or possibly just one big idea, but better.