Collaborative BI enables employees at every level to make meaningful decisions for their areas of responsibility, backed by easily-accessible information and analyses. With 15% of BI deployments containing collaborative elements by 2013 according to Gartner, it's time to start evaluating the kind of Collaborative BI solution that will work for your enterprise. To help, we've defined the top 5 criteria you should consider:
1. Integration of disparate systems
Integration of varying systems is a challenge for most businesses, but one that can be overcome with the right Collaborative BI solution. Enterprises often have several different stand-alone solutions for BI in place as well as other decision-relevant – often unstructured – content that is disconnected from BI systems. Your Collaborative BI solution should act as a bridge between these disparate systems, connecting them with a simple search function that delivers results from multiple BI vendors, third-party systems like SharePoint or e-mail, documents, articles, and user-contributed content. It should also allow users to open and use any report, analysis, or document within the Collaborative BI interface so that switching between tools is unnecessary.
2. Flexibility & personalization
Collaborative BI systems must allow users to perform a variety of actions, from contributing content to bookmarking to knowledge sharing. The ability for users to submit content to enrich the Collaborative BI system is paramount for system affinity and adoption. Who better to contribute content than users themselves – those who are making everyday business decisions with their available data? Users must be able to upload relevant information and reports from external sources (Salesforce.com for example) as well as bookmark items as favorites. In our own Collaborative BI solution, arcplan Engage, users have BI Walls where they can pin frequently-viewed reports or snippets of dashboards. In this way, each user can configure their own personal Collaborative BI environment.
3. Availability on any device
Availability goes hand-in-hand with mobility, which is a key requirement for nearly every system in use at enterprises today. Why should Collaborative BI be any different? Employees make decisions in and out of the office, so your Collaborative BI system should be available on any mobile device to ensure high adoption. Scalability is a valid concern here, so the ability to make only individual portions of the system available on mobile should be an option. For example, a user's bookmarked reports and "favorited" dashboards could be the extent of the mobile solution.
4. Ease of use
BI solutions that are too difficult to use will not have staying power. With Collaborative BI being about improved access to information for business users, the system needs to be both attractive and easy to use with little to no training. This means that functions should be obvious and expected, like rating a report with stars or leaving a comment on a report similar to doing so on a friend's Facebook wall. The less time users spend trying to figure out how to use the solution, the more time they can spend engaging with it and enriching it.
5. True collaboration
Collaboration means "working together to achieve a goal." Your Collaborative BI system must enable true collaboration and valuable back-and-forth interaction or it will quickly become useless. Collaboration goes beyond simply sharing information; the idea is that users benefit from the experience of the whole organization, regardless of position or department, so user interaction becomes paramount. To intensify the possibilities for co-working, "gamification" (the application of game mechanics to enhance non-game applications) should be a core concept of your Collaborative BI solution. Its goal is to encourage people to adopt the system by making it more engaging. Must-haves include tagging, commenting, rating, and annotating reports, asking for enhancements, pointing to helpful documents, etc. – combined with gaining points, rank, and reputation. In the near future, such tools and processes from the world of gaming will become very beneficial to enterprise collaboration.
Think we got the criteria right? Do you have other suggestions to add to our list?
arcplan Engage, our Collaborative BI solution, facilitates interaction and decision-making around content from arcplan, other BI vendors, and IT systems you already have in place like SharePoint and e-mail. Watch this brief video to learn more or send us an email for more information!