Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Collaboration – the Future of Decision Making?


Perhaps every generation says this at least once, but I believe we're in the midst of a very interesting time. The world is getting more social everyday with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where we can find old friends, colleagues and even relatives online with a single click. We may even find new people to follow through social media tools' recommendations and can form relationships online and offline with them. Hundreds of millions of users are making decisions online all the time – who to follow, what content seems interesting, what topics to promote.

Our social media feeds make it obvious who to engage with about a particular topic – a friend may post frequently about sports and you can go to him with thoughts or questions – but that type of insight is not widely available at the place where we spent most of our time: work. We lack intelligence when it comes to the enterprise decision making process. It follows that we should apply the same principles of social media in our corporate environments to identify which colleague can help us make decisions. Applying social media functions that allow users to rate, tag, and comment about corporate content is the answer. Enterprises gain insight into the most used reports and dashboards at the company, report authors get instant feedback and enhancement requests from users, and users gain from the existing expertise of colleagues.

This idea has led to a new category of business intelligence software that Gartner describes as Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) and Collaborative BI. Gartner considers such platforms an emerging trend to fill the gap in decision support for tactical and strategic decisions most often made by knowledge workers.

“By 2013, 15% of BI and analytic applications will combine BI, collaboration and social software in decision-making environments.” – Gartner Group

BI vendors are following this path, creating matching solutions that serve as an interface to your wealth of corporate data. Is the market ready to deploy these solutions? Technically yes, but the primary challenge to Collaborative BI adoption is not technology, since that already exists. The challenge is cultural. Initial adoption of Collaborative BI tools has been limited to workgroups with specific requirements but limited enterprise integration. The rollout to a broader community will likely require more persuasion, but most especially user demand. Since this type of BI software aims to reach all users within an organization – beyond the small subset of power users who normally access BI content – it may be a case of potential users simply not understanding that they too can access this content to aid their decision making process.

The good news is that improved decision making is by far the #1 driver of BI investments in 2012 and beyond. Although companies have made significant investments in BI in the past, collaboration support has been the missing component, often resulting in poor outcomes.

Let's shed some light on the main criteria you should look for in Collaborative BI solutions:

  • A simple search function that returns results rapidly and therefore speeds up the decision making process. Often users know what they are looking for and just need a way to determine if there is ready-to-use analysis available or if they need to start from scratch.
  • Inclusion of BI content from multiple vendors and systems. This means that users should be able to find arcplan reports and dashboards, for example, along with content from other BI platforms that may be in use. Results that include SharePoint, email, and other IT systems will enhance the system, making it more useful and increasing adoption.
  • Ability for users to tag and integrate any information used to make decisions. This may include BI content from the web, like reports. Collaborative BI needs to allow user contributions that add value.
  • Support for social networking capabilities (rating, tagging, commenting) and user profiles. User profiles should be able to populate from existing systems, speeding up the deployment of the solution.
  • Ability for users to create their own individual analyses and instantly share them with colleagues. Access to 'raw' data will lure in power users, giving them an easy way to share their insight instantly with all users.

Consider these features when looking into Collaborative BI solutions and you're guaranteed to benefit from the insight of your knowledge workers. Give them an outlet to access information, provide feedback, and contribute content and watch the quality and speed of employees’ decisions increase. It’s clear that collaboration is the future of BI – and that future is now.


arcplan Engage Collaborative BIAt arcplan, we initiated the development on arcplan Engage, our Collaborative BI solution, in 2009 and today provide a solution that facilitates the interaction around BI content created in arcplan and other 3rd party systems.

Have questions for us or suggestions for enterprises looking to deploy this type of solution in 2012? Leave a comment!


Tiemo Winterkamp

About Tiemo Winterkamp

I'm the Senior VP of Global Marketing at arcplan and work out of our Langenfeld, Germany office. I've worked in Business Intelligence and data warehousing since 1994. You can connect with me on LinkedIn.
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