Companies that strive to grow and thrive rely on the insight gleaned from their business intelligence system. But when international growth is on the agenda, some businesses forget to prime their BI system for that change. At arcplan there are plenty of experts in this area since so many of our customers are multi-national companies, so we put together this list of items to prepare your international BI deployment for success. With Gartner's 2012 global survey of CIOs revealing that business intelligence/analytics is their top-ranked technology priority this year, this list is more important than ever to guarantee that your BI system serves users worldwide.
1) Multi-Language Support
BI systems that will be used by employees in more than one country must be multilingual. While users in the U.S. see English or Spanish, users in Germany must have the option to display the system in German. Even better, the system should be able to identify a user's language via the operating system settings and display their native language automatically. This first point is critical to the success of your system worldwide. If a business intelligence solution hinders useage due to something as simple as language support, it will never take off. Some configuration may be required, but this extra effort will always be worth it.
2) Multi-Currency Support
Any BI system deployed globally must be able to handle multiple currencies and should default to the users' local currency. In Mexico, users should see all values displayed as pesos; in Canada, users should see values in Canadian dollars – always with the option to convert to U.S. dollars, euros, or any other currency the company uses. Paramount here is also the ability for the BI solution to display local decimal style, i.e. commas vs. periods. In the U.S., decimals are notated with periods (2.45), whereas most of Europe uses decimal commas (2,45). Your business intelligence should comply automatically.
3) Point-of-View Settings
Global BI systems should be configured to respect users' point-of-view (POV), meaning if an analyst is from France, all of her filters should default to France when she logs in. However, if the CEO of the same company is located in Belgium, perhaps he does not want his filters set to display only Belgium, but instead all of Europe. Changing this setting should be easy for users and administrators. If a user's permissions allow her to see reports for all European countries but her dashboard defaults to "Albania" every time because the countries are listed alphabetically, changing this daily can become annoying and lead to resentment. Sometimes it is the little things – like POV "favorites" – that can make or break system usage.
4) Performance Considerations
Global business intelligence systems need to perform consistently around the world for them to be adopted. One arcplan client headquartered in Seattle, WA has planners 6,500 miles away in Hong Kong and arcplan has to provide consistently high performance across this divide or we risk frustrating and disappointing users. Reports taking 20 minutes load can be due to a variety of factors ranging from network issues – which can be mitigated by choosing a reliable ISP and proactively monitoring potential connectivity issues – to the geographic proximity of the data – since data can only be transferred so quickly over long distances. The IT department or BI Competency Center should set users' expectations, giving them a baseline performance (i.e. reports take 2 minutes to load) so they avoid phone calls from impatient users who think the system is underperforming.
While ensuring system performance seems like an obvious to-do, it is often the small things that make global BI deployments successful – like enabling users to print the same reports on A4 paper or letter-sized paper depending on their location. Prime your global BI system for success and users around the world are sure to respond with higher adoption rates.