iPad Creates Unexpected BI Demand, Workers Involved with BI Yield Tangible Results

The consumerization of IT has started to create some interesting opportunities that will open the doors to more pervasive use of business intelligence in enterprises. Our paper on the subject (Strategic Planning for the Entire Organization) points out accurately that:

“The alchemy of business intelligence, agile strategic planning, and mobile computing have combined to produce a seriously compelling value proposition for businesses and most important – everyone in the organization.”

Ann All recently published similar feelings about the democratization of BI in a timely piece entitled “Creating a Business Intelligence Culture”. In it she wastes no time indicting the IT community:

“Companies are limiting the potential usefulness of BI by making it available only to specialists, who create reports from centralized data and make those reports available only to select decision makers.”

imageThis, as Ann would likely agree, is flawed thinking.

Several companies featured in a recent Computerworld article are seeing tangible results from getting more users involved with BI. The story indicates that at 1-800-Flowers.com, users with access to real-time sales data created a quicker checkout process for fast-selling items, and likely reduced costs and increased customer satisfaction. Bobby Nix, director of BI and analytics at consumer services company Allconnect, noted a 26 percent sales increase in 2011’s first quarter to staff access to business intelligence data. The cause — it helped sales associates focus on the best sales opportunities. And the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden realized a 30.7 percent per-capita increase in food and beverage sales from October 2010 through the first quarter of 2011 that the director of park operations attributes to availability of BI data deeper in the organization.

A reluctance by IT groups in general to embrace the democratization of BI, underscores a general attitude in the IT community concerning the definition of BI. IT groups have a traditional view that BI must include a hefty dose of analytical processing, a task reserved only for “analysts” capable of making sense out of data. However, there are really two hemispheres of BI – one concerned with big data, analytics, and strategic objectives. The other BI hemisphere – the one used by companies in the Computerworld article — is kinder, gentler, and focused on performance indicators, micro-strategies, and delivering information that improves operational decision-making. This is a more tactical tilt to BI and in some regards, it suggests that there’s an ongoing evolution of how IT and employees view the separation of strategic and tactical information.

iPhone Kicked the Door Open, iPad Kicked Down the Entire Wall

iPhone started a micro-revolution in businesses by enabling access to data more easily and in visual contexts that were more useful than any mobile devices before it. It set the stage for an information-starved workforce that quickly realized a consumer product could provide fundamental information access benefits.

On the heels of iPhone use in the enterprise, iPad has created an unexpected demand for BI in the second hemisphere. Employees needn’t be classified as “mobile workers” to benefit from mobility and pervasive access to business intelligence. And BI vendors have been quick to validate these new mobility requirements.

Deep down in the enterprise, there’s a movement that is tactifying the domain of BI which was previously isolated to strategic planning activities. Businesses – mostly mid-level managers responsible for operational performance – are reshaping the fabric of BI and the core definition of this term. Balanced Scorecard for iPad is one such tool that has embraced this movement.

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